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Preventing Illness with a Plant-Based Diet

By Patrick O’Connor.

This story originally appeared in EMPOWER, the Canadian Heart Function (CHF) Alliance Network Patient-Focused newsletter.

My name is Pat O’Connor, and I am writing this to save lives.

In 2007 at age 55, I had a quadruple bypass followed by three stents in 2009. I passed the stress test before the surgery and before the stents. I was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, macular degeneration[KL1] , and psoriasis. After the stents, I had angina for three years requiring a nitro patch, nitro spray and two naps a day.

I knew I was going downhill fast and had to do something different. My quality of life was suffering.

A nursing friend who had worked in the office of the head of cardiology at UBC gave me a copy of the documentary, Forks Over Knives. The film and book were based on the China Study sponsored by Oxford University, Cornell University, and the Chinese government which found that chronic diseases are strongly correlated with animal consumption. The more animals consumed, the more chronic disease.

Given my lifestyle, I knew then what I had to do to improve my health.

I became a vegan 11 years ago and quickly noticed many positive changes to my health. My scans over the last 3 years have shown significant improvement in my heart health, including almost no evidence of heart disease.

In Canada, we are facing a health crisis because we primarily operate as an acute care system that treats symptoms rather than focusing on the prevention of health issues. We need to promote health by training our health professionals and Canadians generally that it is not necessarily their genetics causing poor health outcomes, but their poor understanding of nutrition and lifestyle.

Overall, there is a major gap in our healthcare system which focuses on treatment rather than prevention; more progress needs to be made toward preventive medicine. I also encourage a holistic approach to heart health through a healthcare team that includes folks such as a nutritionist and naturopath, in addition to traditional healthcare workers.

We need to change what is on our plates for personal and planetary health.

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