Overall it was a fabulous, life-saving, telecast -- but...
While watching the show from near Boston during Hurricane Irene, my first thought was that both Irene and the "Sanjay Special" had fallen short of meeting expectations. Thankfully in the case of Irene -- Regretably in the case of the CNN Special. In retrospect; however, there are many wonderful things about that show and I am thrilled that CNN and Dr. Gupta brought it to us. I guess I was just expecting more.
"I've got a secret to share. With what we know right now, we could see the last heart attack in America. I've been investigating this for over a year; I've got lessons to share -- things you need to know -- things your doctor may not tell you."
So let's begin with the things that I really liked about this show:
- The fact that a major news organization actually produced a show like this and shared this kind of life-saving information with the public for the first time.
- Lots of air time for heart disease-reversing physicians Dr. Dean Ornish of UCSF and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn of The Cleveland Clinic.
- President Bill Clinton doing a great job of telling his story in a sincere, credible manner. In so doing, he may have been able to convince millions of people that it might be possible for them to do the same thing.
- This show has opened the door, started the dialog, and added more credibility, legitimacy and authenticity to the powerful "plant-based solution" to the health-care dilemma in the Western world.
- The fact that heart disease starts many years before your first symptom was made clear, stating that "most people who have heart attacks, have no symptoms."
- Providing a "Heart Disease 101" primer -- clearly showing what heart disease is and raising the overall awareness of this deadly disease that never need exist in the first place.
- Dr. Esselstyn's patient who demonstrated how easy it was to find a heart-healthy meal in Times Square. And we all know, if you can find a healthy meal at Times Square, you can find one anywhere....almost like the old Frank Sinatra song.
- Stating the origin of the show -- Dr. Sanjay Gupta (a young man with no symptoms) deciding to "go on a mission to never have a heart attack."
So what was the takeaway for the average viewer? How did "confusion" stack up against "clarity" in this show? First the good news. Fortunately, there are many thoughtful people out there who will take it upon themselves to learn more about this powerful, non-invasive way to reverse their heart disease. They will do some research on the internet; they will purchase books by Ornish, Esselstyn, Campbell and others; and some of them will decide to take charge of their own health.
Now for the bad news. For every viewer who decides to take the above steps, there will be an estimated ten viewers who will schedule their "coronary calcium scan" as recommended by Dr. Arthur Agatston, the inventor of the procedure. Now, I am not saying that is a bad thing. I am just saying that it would better to just skip the scan and go directly to the simple diet-style that has been proven to prevent and/or reverse heart disease in almost 100% of the people who adopt it.
But I know that most people still think that Esselstyn's diet-style is too extreme and would prefer to have the scan and listen to the dietary advice of a cardiologist who eats like they do.
Now here's where the "confusion" enters the picture -- Dr. Agatston is also the author of the many South Beach Diet books -- and like the Atkins Diet, his books condone the routine use of fish, cheese, meat, and oil in their recommended meal plans. That advice is completely contrary to what Dr. Ornish and Dr. Esselstyn recommend -- a diet-style that derives 100% of its calories from plant-based foods. So what's a person to do?
The confusion is that the program seemed to imply that the "plant-based" alternative is for sick people -- like Bill Clinton or the Esselstyn patient in Times Square. It also seemed to imply that everyone needed to have the scan in order to determine what action they should take. So who are you going to trust, the portly cardiologist who is recommending that everyone contact their doctor and have the "coronary calcium scan" or the lean and healthy-looking 77-year old doctor from the Cleveland Clinic who has reversed heart disease in nearly 100% of his patients?
And what about insurance coverage? After last night's show, many people will be calling their doctor this week to talk about having that scan and also finding out whether or not it will be covered by their insurance. They will likely find that the scan will be covered but that Dr. Esselstyn's plant-based disease-reversal program at the Cleveland Clinic will not be. Now, if you naturally assume that your insurance carrier wants you to be healthy, think again after reading this earlier post. Do insurance companies “really” want us to be healthy?
The Bottom Line. As listed above, last night's show did many good things, but in the near term it will drive our health care costs even higher -- as more people sign up for the expensive "coronary calcium scan." And like our $50 billion business of screening for colon cancer, the screening itself does absolutely nothing to prevent or reverse either disease. For that, we all must change our diet and return to the natural diet for our species -- whole, plant-based foods.
The scan will just identify your level of disease; then your cardiologist will recommend the procedure or drug that is right for you. If you should ask him/her about Dr. Esselstyn's plant-based alternative, you will likely be told (wrongfully) that "the dietary approach is rather extreme and that most people are not able to stick with it." Could we expect anything else from a cardiologist who has no training in nutrition and will lose a patient (and a lot of money) if he recommends the dietary alternative?
In closing, I would just like to say how thrilled I am that both Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. Ornish (featured in this CNN special) have endorsed our book...which will be launched in just 30 days. If you'd like to order that book on Amazon, click here. Finally, for help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4-Leaf page. From the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.
—J. Morris Hicks…blogging daily at HealthyEatingHealthyWorld.com