How a Heart Attack Saved My Life

By Dennis Heinz

How a Heart Attack Saved My Life

After all these years the “Diet of the Moment” still exists and plenty of people make money from it. Dieting is no way to lose weight! This article is not about dieting. It is rather, my story and what I found out after three months of daily investigative research and conducting my due diligence after having a heart attack back in January.

At 62, I had suffered a massive heart attack. I was told that 30% of people that get this type of attack die. I got a second chance! After four days in the hospital I came home and began researching why and how this happened to me. The “how” is pretty straight forward. My artery was clogged with fatty plaque. The “why” is a little more complicated or is it?

All my reading kept bringing me back to nutrition. I had led a life of eating whatever I wanted, although I did try to limit my intake of processed meats and some fats. I was not what you call a big veggie guy. Coincidentally I had watched a documentary called Forks Over Knives about three weeks before my attack.

Oh and then there was the sweet tooth with the pastries, muffins, 32 oz. cola drinks, fruity juices, and cereals, etc.
What is referred to as a Western Diet is heavy on meat as a protein source, also heavy on dairy products and the endless array of processed foods that abound in any grocery store aisle. Those store aisles are filled with sugar, salt, fats and chemicals that I cannot even pronounce. All those convenience “instant” foods were my diet! As my research continued it soon became clear that all that convenient salt, sugar and fats I had eaten over 55 years had done their damage.

Here’s the deal

Years of eating fatty, salty, sugary foods will make your white blood cells “sticky” as well as other components in your blood. These cells and others then get stuck on the inside lining of your veins and arteries. Once a white blood cell gets attached it starts to eat away at the lining of your veins and other white cells join in for the destruction although they think they are fixing a problem, after all, that is their primary job (to attack infections in your body). Eventually you get a “blister of pus” which continues to grow like a pimple. One of two things “WILL” happen: the pus will build until it ruptures and bleeds, your blood will attempt to coagulate and make a scab which then causes the blockage and you have a heart attack. Alternately, this pus buildup will nearly fill your vein, blood vessel or artery and then along comes another piece of fatty plaque. That gets stuck and blocks the vein and again, you have a heart attack, because blood flow has been interrupted. I experienced the latter. If there is fatty plaque buildup in one vein there is bound to be fatty plaque buildup in others (in varying degrees).

Now what do I do?

Changing my lifestyle, eating and exercise habits would be in order. YA THINK!? The more I researched the more sense it made to eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains along with 30 minutes of exercise a day. My exercise is a mere 30 minute walk 5x a week. So I did just that the day I was released from the hospital.

I eat a regular diet of Cream of Wheat or Malt-O-Meal with berries for breakfast, usually some fruit and hummus (hummus is very filling) with vegetables and some kind of low/no salt, baked rice chips for lunch. Sometimes I have a veggie sandwich on 9 grain bread. I love tomato sandwiches! For dinner, my standard is green, red and yellow peppers, celery, onions, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and kale stir fried for about 12 minutes. I use garlic, lemon pepper, onion powder white pepper and some lemon juice for seasoning, served over brown rice or quinoa then some fruit. My wife also makes some great soups and Asian dishes that are delicious and heavy on veggies and low or no salt.

After 100 days I had lost 30 lbs. and LOWERED my total cholesterol from 156 mg/dL to 70 with a HDL of 28 and a LDL of 26. I feel fuller; eat less, sleep well and snore infinitely less compared to before the heart attack. I do not snack as I used to. 500 calories of veggies, fruits and nuts fills me up more than a steak and potato meal, and I stay fuller longer.

Although I received great care in the hospital, I have had to educate myself by reading the books Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., MD and The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas Campbell, MD. I highly recommend you read these two books! I also searched the internet for as much on plant-based diets as I could find.

The medical community is good at repairing the body; they are not so good at educating their patients. I must also say that perhaps 90% of patients do not ask enough questions. Educate yourself. Knowledge will extend your personal “shelf life”!

author-dennis-heinzDennis Heinz was raised in a “traditional German family” where there was an emphasis on meat and dairy consumption. The kitchen was incomplete without a bacon grease container on the stove. Now, a professional chef, he is retired from Radio Broadcast Management. Dennis lives with his wife in the woods of Washington State. Currently he is Executive Director for the area food bank and works in conjunction with the National Park Service as Executive Director for a Youth Camp. He has embraced the Whole Food, Plant-Based (WFPB) lifestyle and is a graduate of the Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate.