This past weekend, Pete and I attended a conference March 12th at the Cleveland Clinic: “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease for Women.” My daughter Caroline, home for spring break, went along with us! I’m so glad she did.
The Cleveland Clinic is known for its heart care and wins top ranking in the nation in U.S. News & World Report’s “2015-16 Best Hospitals.”
The event was organized by Jane Esselstyn and her staff from Health Care is Self Care, whose mission is to “educate and empower individuals, families, corporations, and institutions with knowledge and know-how to live a plant-based life free of medication, full of activity and with plates of fantastic food.”
The conference offered a full plate of speakers, mostly doctors, who educated us about the causes of heart disease (and related diseases such as stroke, cancer and dementia).
As you know, we are interested in preventing and reversing heart disease because of our own experience with it.
Underscoring everything was the idea that, while inherited genetic risk factors can play a role in a person’s cardiovascular (and overall) health, what we eat has a powerful influence on whether those genetic risks express themselves or not. In other words, I hear from people all the time, “Heart disease runs in my family.” Many people throw up hands, give up control and submit to surgery and medication, not knowing what else to do. What people don’t realize is that what we share with our families in addition to genetics are traditions and eating habits. We may not have total control, of course, but we have a lot of it.
The hopeful message here? Get yourself into the kitchen and cook up some whole food!
Over the conference course, we heard from cardiologist Robert Ostfeld, MD; Jane Esselstyn, RN; Anne Bingham, MD, OBGYN; and pediatrician Michael Macknin, MD.
Jane and her mother Ann Esselstyn, both of whom have eaten a plant-based diet for over 30 years, led a cooking demonstration so we could see exactly how the Esselstyn family eats.
The keynote speaker, of course, was Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., MD, one of the principals in the Forks Over Knives documentary you may be familiar with. Dr. Esselstyn’s research demonstrating reversal of heart disease in severely ill people is documented in his book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.
Dr.Esselstyn directs the cardiovascular prevention and reversal program at The Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. The 82-year-old and his wife are medication-free and lead healthy, active lives.
The Esselsyns have four children and ten grandchildren. Two of their “kids,” Jane, mentioned earlier, and Rip, author of The Engine 2 Diet books are both shown below. Both Jane and Rip were top swimmers and later triathletes, proving that vegans–gasp–can be talented athletes!
Rip, a three-time All-American swimmer at the University of Texas at Austin and later a premier world-class triathlete is especially vocal about athletics and plant-based diet, though athletic ability does not begin or end with those two Esselsyn family members. The whole family tree includes a list of high achievers, including several talented swimmers. (Dr. Esselsyn started it all in 1956 when he pulled the No. 6 oar as a member of the victorious U.S. rowing team. He is an Olympic gold medalist.)
I guess the highlight for me was meeting and chatting with Ann Esselstyn at lunch. Lucky for you, I have a highly flattering photo as evidence:
Of course, lunch was plant based: kale salad, black beans and rice served with mango and cranberry salsas. It was delicious and marked the first plant-based lunch I ever ate at any conference. For once, we did not feel like freakish outcasts for eating only plants 🙂 It was nice!
OK, that’s all. I hope to write more extensively about things we learned.
In the meantime, I’ll show you that while we were in Cleveland, we visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where we saw Taylor Swift’s dress, lots of other famous costuming as for Jimi Hendrix, but also photos, music…
…Lady Gaga’s (preserved) meat dress,
and Michael Jackson’s glove!
We also visited the Cleveland Museum of Art, which I loved. What a beautiful building! Here are pictures of pictures:
OK now, go eat plants. Help your heart!