The Last Heart Attack – A Groundbreaking CNN Report by Dr. Sanjay Gupta
Once they start eating this way,
you’ll make yourself heart attack-proof.
We know that if people are eating this way,
they are not going to have a heart attack.
Not only could we be past our last heart attack,
but the vast majority of people,
even my age,
could actually reverse a lot of their blockage.
Everywhere you look, it seems a heart attack is just waiting to happen.
If you haven’t had a heart attack yourself,
you likely know someone who has.
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.
The Last Heart Attack: Dr. Sanjay Gupta Reports.
I was lucky I didn’t die of a heart attack.
Former President Clinton, like too many people,
And for years, he ignored warning signs from his heart.
But in 2004, during an exhausting book tour,
there was something different.
I had a real tightness in my chest when I was getting off the airplane.
They hustled me down to Columbia Presbyterian
and they confirmed the determination that I had serious blockage
and needed the surgeries.
The 58-year-old Clinton needed to have his chest opened,
his heart stopped,
and surgery performed.
On Labor Day, in 2004, Mr. Clinton had four blood vessels bypassed.
Former President Clinton’s open heart surgery is succssful.
If it happened to him, could it happen to you?
What about me?
I’m a pretty typical guy in his early 40s with a family history of heart disease.
So I decided to go on a mission to never have a heart attack.
When people talk about trying to end heart attacks in the world or in America at least,
one of the ways to do that is to take a look inside the heart,
see what’s happening before someone ever has a problem.
And that’s what we’re going to do here today.
You’re actually going to look for what in my heart?
Yes. For calcium which is part of the atherosclerotic process,
the plaques in the heart.
And if you are heading for a heart attack in 5, 10, 20 years,
you will already have plaque. It’s a lifelong process.
The Coronary Calcium Scan.
That’s the test I’m having done.
We can now find clues before heart trouble gets dangerous,
even before the first symptoms.
As president, Bill Clinton never got any of the advanced imaging,
like the Coronary Calcium Scan or the ultrasound of his carotid.
Those are tests that are now more readily available to everyone.
Did you ever wonder how seemingly healthy people can have a heart attack?
This may surprise you.
Most heart attacks happen in people with no symptoms.
In people whose arteries are less than 50% blocked.
Your body needs cholesterol.
Actually makes it.
It is in the lining of every cell in your body.
The liver sends out LDL cholesterol
and when everything works right, the good, HDL, scavenges excess LDL
and brings it back to the liver.
You also get cholesterol in foods,
things like meat, French fries, eggs, butter, desserts, ice cream.
Your cholesterol number is a good measure of what’s in the blood.
But here’s the problem:
it doesn’t tell if you it is building up in the walls of your blood vessels,
It’s the plaque that causes heart attacks.
Here’s what does matter:
the size of your LDL, or bad cholesterol particles.
Larger LDL particles don’t pose much of a threat
because they pass through the blood vessels without sticking.
It’s the smaller LDL particles
that are more likely to lodge in the walls of blood vessels
and cause a buildup of plaque.
That’s why Dr. Agatston wants a blood sample.
He wants to find out if I have a lot of small LDL particles,
a sign that I could be prone to building up plaque
no matter what my overall cholesterol number is.
Spend just a few minutes with Bill Clinton and you’ll see he’s a changed man.
For starters, he’s a lot thinner than he was as president.
Dr. Dean Ornish has studied and written about diet and heart disease for decades.
Mrs. Clinton asked me if I would work with the chefs who cook for the first family
and then began working with President Clinton directly
as one of his consulting physicians.
The president did like unhealthy foods
and we were able to put soy burgers
in the White House, for example,
and have him get foods
that were delicious and nutritious.
But President Clinton’s heart troubles were not over.
When the devastating earthquake struck Haiti in 2010,
President Clinton flew to Port-au-Prince to support the relief efforts.
I spent time with him and saw that he looked tired, not himself.
Former President Clinton gets stents for blocked artery.
The doctor said it was a mechanical failure of the bypass
and he need stents to open the blocked artery.
The goal of the treatment, and I think it will be achieved,
is for President Clinton to resume his very active lifestyle.
This was not a result of
either his lifestyle or his diet, which have been excellent.
But Dr. Dean Ornish didn’t see it that way.
So I wrote him a letter. I said,
“you know, the friends that mean the most to me
“are friends that tell me what I need to hear,
“not necessarily what I want to hear.
“And you need to know that your genes are not your fate, that…
“and I say this not to blame you but to empower you,
“and I’m happy to work with you
“to whatever extent you want to move forward in that way.”
And we met a few days later and he said he was ready to do it.
This time around, he decided to get much more strict in his approach.
No more meat.
No more eggs.
No more dairy.
Almost no oil.
The mantra is: eat nothing that has a mother or a face.
You talked about the fact that you love to eat.
I mean, this is… -You know,
I like the stuff I eat.
I like the vegetables, the fruits, the beans…
the stuff I eat now, I like.
I like it.
Do you call yourself a vegan now then?
Well, I suppose I am if I don’t eat dairy or meat or fish, you know?
And you’re doing this for your health?
Yes. -Is that why you’re doing it? – Absolutely.
Clinton’s dietary guides, Dean Ornish and this guy,
Caldwell Esselstyn, at the Cleveland Clinic.
Every month, the 77-year-old Esselstyn holds a day-long seminar,
attracting doctors and heart patients from across the country.
Like Sharon Kintz, a retired private investigator from Canton, Ohio.
Kintz had a heart attack six months earlier
after a coronary artery became completely blocked.
What Kintz did next may surprise you.
She turned the surgeon down cold, said “no” to open heart surgery
and decided to take a chance,
using food as medicine.
Like President Clinton, Kintz has given up the foods she loves
like butter and cheese.
She’s betting her life on Dr. Esselstyn’s diet.
She had a heart attack. – Yeah, I know.
-You know Sharon? -Oh yeah.
Doctors recommended she have an intervention.
She’s not doing it.
Is there a downside? Could she be putting herself at risk?
I think that’s an excellent question.
And hundreds of patients, data now going back
over 20 years
and this most recent study, about a decade,
once they start eating this way, you’ll make yourself heart attack-proof.
We know that if people are eating this way, they are not gonna have a heart attack.
Esselstyn has won some allies, like Dr. Terry Mason,
Chief medical officer at Cook County hospitals in Chicago
and the city’s former public health commissioner.
We’ve eaten ourselves into a problem
and we can eat ourselves out of it.
Esselstyn thinks heart disease is completely preventable,
no matter what sort of family history you have,
simply by eating right.
During his research, he came upon a stunning fact.
Some cultures around the world, like people living in Central Africa,
Papua New Guinea highlanders,
and Tarahumara Indians in Mexico,
have virtually no heart disease!
So what can we learn from them?
You have some easy to remember adages
about how people can decide what they should or should not eat.
We know what they shouldn’t eat.
That is oil, dairy, meat, fish and chicken.
What do we want them to eat?
We want them to eat all those whole grains
for their cereal, bread and pasta.
Beans, vegetables – yellow, red, green – and fruit.
Now what particular vegetables do we want them to have?
Bok choy, Swiss chard, kale, collards,
collard greens, beet greens, mustard greens, turnip greens,
Napa cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cilantro,
parsley, spinach and arugula and asparagus.
And I’m out of breath!
President Clinton’s diet – no meat, no dairy, almost no oil,
got me thinking, how different what he’s eating now
as compared to what he used to eat and what most of us still eat.
Make a habit of high-fat, high-cholesterol meals like this
and you can physically see the beginnings of heart disease.
I was curious about the science
behind Dr. Esselstyn’s claims.
So, I dug up some of these peer-reviewed journals.
They are small,
just a handful of patients,
but the results are pretty impressive.
In one study here, patients on the Esselstyn’s diet
and cholesterol lowering medication
had no heart attacks,
had no coronary events of any sort
after five years.
And three quarters of these patients actually saw their blockages get smaller.
You’re not talking about just reducing your chance of heart disease,
you’re talking about potentially reversing heart disease.
The late wisdom is that once you develop these plaques,
they’re there, you’re stuck with them.
Try not to let them get worse.
Is that faulty thinking?
I think it’s absolutely faulty thinking.
Here’s a picture Esselstyn likes to show of a heart patient
with a blocked coronary artery,
and here’s that same patient
after going on a plant-based diet.
You see the way the blockage has almost disappeared?
Sharon Kintz survived a heart attack a year ago
after a coronary artery became completely blocked.
Now she’s counting on the Esselstyn diet to keep her from having another.
“Thankfully, your heart muscle function is normal.”
Kim’s cardiologist, Dr. Adnan Zaidi, says:
so far, so good, with the diet.
It is a difficult sell,
but those who get onto it
have benefited from it, without a question.
Kintz is a true believer.
So is former President Bill Clinton.
they have a lot of high-powered company.
All of these CEOs and former CEOs
are either vegetarians or vegans.
Would you call yourself healthy now?
Well, I think I’m healthier than I was.
You know, I lost 27 pounds.
All my blood tests are good.
All my vital signs are good
and I feel good.
And I actually have,
believe it or not, more energy.
I seem to need less sleep.
Once you begin making these changes,
most people find they feel so much better
it refrains the reason
for making these changes
from fear of dying to joy of living.
And joy is what’s sustainable.
A year into her diet, a year after her heart attack,
Kintz says she feels great.
Simply walking tired her out 12 months ago.
So what about me?
I have a family history.
Am I heart attack-proof?
Time to find out, time to see what fate has to offer me.
We had some good news
when we did the imaging. -Right.
You had no plaque in your coronary arteries
on the calcium score. -Right.
Someone made a comment to me that this is sort of a
four year guarantee
that I don’t have a heart attack. Would you agree with that? -Yes.
More good news. Looking at my LDL, the bad cholesterol,
Dr. Agatston tells me they are mostly large particles,
the kind that don’t build up as plaque in the blood vessels.
If diet and exercise can make someone like me low risk for a heart attack,
even with a strong family history, well, that’s encouraging.
I don’t think there’s any question that
not only could we be past our last heart attack,
but the vast majority of people, even my age,
could actually reverse a lot of their blockage.
Heart disease could be as rare as malaria today
if we simply put into practice
what we already know.
It’s possible to keep everybody
from having a heart attack
with knowledge, with information.
Now the question becomes
“are people going to do this?”
I hope I have given you food for thought today.
And if all this makes you want to overhaul your diet,
especially if you are a heart patient,
you should talk to your doctor.
Look, we’ve got a long way to go in this country.
But I hope you’ll join me, so together
we can work toward the last heart attack.
I’m Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Thanks for watching.