J. Chad Teeters, MD
Chief of Cardiology at Highland Hospital, Rochester, NY
Dr. Teeters took our 6-week, 12-CME April-May 2016 nutrition course.
As of September 2016, he has lost 60 lbs!
Listen to him discuss it on the radio here.
I came to whole food, plant-based eating very much a skeptic. As a cardiologist, I had frequently heard about the benefits, but largely attributed this to an overly excessive and largely unsustainable lifestyle change that real patients, and myself, would be unlikely to follow. I grew up in the South and fathom myself to be somewhat of an aficionado of smoking meats and BBQ! Thus, my first goal was to do some literature review and prove the data was slanted or untrue…..to no avail! I then decided I had to at least try it for myself to see if it was even feasible and then to be able to provide firsthand account for patients when they ask. I have always had difficulty with maintaining my weight, and in recent years I had tried a multitude of diets. All were relatively successful but not sustainable and ultimately left me hungry and unsatisfied. One of the things that appealed to me about the WFPB lifestyle was that there was no calorie counting, food group selections or special meals to purchase. I also found the Internet, live/ online classes/support groups/ information sessions to be quite helpful and jumpstart the journey.
Now, just under 8 weeks into the journey, I can honestly say I’m a testament to this being a sustainable and healthy lifestyle change. I’ve lost 41 pounds in that 8 week time, and I feel as energetic as ever. I used to be able to get by with 5-6 hrs of sleep, but in recent years struggled if not getting 8 hrs. My blood pressure had been as high as 170 mmHg (systolic), and I am fairly certain I was at least borderline diabetic. My blood pressure is now 123 mmHg, I no longer get as many headaches, my adult acne has improved, and I no longer have heartburn (which had become a significant issue for me). I eat a completely whole food, plant-based diet without exception. I’m sleeping 5-6 hrs a night and this has allowed me to start exercising regularly again.
I now feel comfortable discussing this with patients and recommend this as a treatment for their health. I truly feel content, and I’ve even learned to use my smoker to smoke vegetables! I’ve thus gone from the ultimate skeptic to an unflinching advocate. I feel satiated with my meals and I’m enjoying trying new recipes and meals. I’m proud, if not completely shocked, to call myself a vegan!
Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)
May 2, 2016
This is a summary of my having an extreme case of Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD), and the steps taken to come to an acceptable outcome through diet and lifestyle changes.
DEVELOPMENT OF THE CONDITION:
Early in the first few months of 2013 I started to have leg pain in my right leg only. My experience in the past was to usually allow my body to heal on its own, so I ignored it for a long time thinking it would go away. The leg pain got a little worse, but was not that bad. Early in September, I was in NYC to visit my son and his family. I had to do a lot of walking, and I realized then that the condition had really gotten much worse. I could not walk more than a block without needing to rest for a few minutes. The pain had gotten very severe. I called my doctor back in Rochester and made an appointment for the day after I returned.
My doctor could not feel a pulse in my lower leg and he immediately called for a CAT scan, and to see a vascular specialist. Two days later it was clear that I had a complete blockage of the main artery feeding my lower R leg. The CAT scan showed no blood in that artery from near the groin to below the knee. There was a little flow below the knee from collateral paths that must have formed in years past. An ABI test (blood pressure at the Ankle vs at the upper arm) was only 0.35. Apparently, a blood clot had formed at the start of the Femoral artery at the groin; triggering the body to deposit plaque in an effort to remove the clot. The plaque continued past the clot and left major deposits in the artery all the way down to near the knee. The vascular specialist advised me that an amputation of either my foot or lower leg was possible.
At this time my life was hell. My right foot developed sores that needed constant attention. Just like with diabetes, a small infection could become very serious. As the nights got colder, I needed heating pads to keep my foot from getting cold. I made the head of my bed higher so that blood would flow more easily to my foot. I had become an invalid overnight.
Having PAD and the prospect of losing a limb was not what I wanted in life. I was prepared to do anything possible to overcome this problem. My wife had heard of Dr Esselstyn’s work with heart disease patients. By changing to a plant based diet, the buildup of plaque in the heart could be reversed, and the need for surgery was avoided. I picked up a copy of his book, “Forks Over Knives” and studied it from cover to cover. I reasoned if his system works to clear the arteries of the heart, it should help clear some of the plaque in my leg arteries.
ACTION # 1: I made the change to a plant based diet. Cold turkey. One day I was enjoying all forms of meat and fish, along with a love for a variety of cheese, ice cream and the rest of the typical ‘great’ American diet. The next day I was committed to follow the recommendations of Dr Esselstyn and started my plant based diet. Three years later I am still following that diet.
ACTION # 2: My doctors counseled me that the way to improve the pain in my leg was to exercise. Walking as long and as fast as I could would be painful. But pain was the mechanism that told the body to alleviate the pain by forming more collateral vessels around the blocked arteries. Every day I would go to the gym and work on my collaterals. At first I could only walk about 500 to 1000 steps before needing to sit down and recover. After about a month, I was able to walk 3000 to 6000 steps at a time. I wasn’t sure if my condition was getting better or if my tolerance to pain was improving, but I continued to push it. Another month passed and I graduated to a tread mill. Now I could set a known walking speed and measure how long I could walk without needing to stop from the pain. After 2 months, I was walking a mile in about 20 minutes. I continued to have incremental improvement for the next 3 months.
ACTION # 3: Try to resume some of the activities you did before the onset of the problem. For the last 3 months I was not able to play tennis, which I missed a lot. I had improved to the point I wanted to try playing, So with a few buddies that were willing to adopt some special rules around my disability, I was able to get back into the game, kinda.
In late December there was a marked improvement. I was on a treadmill when I could actually feel blood start to flow in my lower leg. Sort of like when you take a drink of cold water. You can feel it going down. Almost instantly, my symptoms improved. The sores on my foot started to heal. There was a layer of dead cracked skin on the bottom of my foot that was literally shed. Like a snake when it losses its outer skin as a new one grows from underneath.
A couple of weeks later I had another CAT scan. This showed, indeed there was a significant increase in blood flow. I was hopeful that the occlusion had opened up near the top of Femoral artery. On closer inspection it appeared the increase flow was the result of a major collateral path opening near the start of the Femoral artery. My ABI tests went from less than 0.4 to 0.7 or higher.
Two and a half years later: significantly better, but not 100%. My ABIs have not improved much past the 0.7 range. But I’m able to have an active life. I play doubles tennis 4 or 5 times a week without special rules. I run around almost as much as I used to, and play a competitive game. If a point has a long rally, I will get leg pain, but not too bad. I’ve learned to welcome the pain, as I know it’s good for improving my condition. Walking is still a problem. I can keep a pace of around 4 mph on level ground with a tolerable pain level. Going up or down hills slows me down. I’ve always enjoyed an active life style and I’m back enjoying biking, sailing and golf. I’m still on a vegan plant based diet. I view this as insurance to keep from increasing plaque in my arteries, and possibly helping to clear my arteries and having a full life.
Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD
Cleveland Clinic, Preventive Cardiology Consultant, Cleveland, OH
If implemented on a national scale, the CHIP program could improve the health status of people in North America more than all the efforts of modern technological medicine combined.
John McDougall, MD
Dr. McDougall’s Health and Medical Center, Santa Rosa, CA
I’ve been involved with CHIP programs and they do exactly what needs to be done. They take people who are struggling with disease or that want to prevent disease… and they teach them, they give them community, they give them support, they give them success… its just an amazing program… I would have to say he’s [Hans Diehl] done more, and this is not an exaggeration, he’s done more to help people from around the world in a practical manner than anybody I know through these CHIP programs… Everybody needs to be involved.
Building Contractor, Rush, NY
For twenty years, I relied on more than 10 prescription meds to help control heart disease and arthritis, and still had high cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure, heartburn, and inflammation. Through Rochester Lifestyle Medicine, I learned to enjoy a plant-based diet, exercise, and manage stress. Now my weight, heart-rate, blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol levels are all normal without taking meds. I feel great!
Town Supervisor, Pavilion, NY
On April 14, 2015 while doing what I regarded as only very moderate exercise my defibrillator discharged – 4 times. I ended up back in Strong hospital where I received a newer and better battery pack, more leads into my heart and a coil placed in back of the heart – all to shock me more efficiently next time and part of the life-extending measures taken since my 1998 heart attack. I went home after numerous lectures by doctors who did not appear to be old enough to shave. My ejection fraction was down to 20, and I had a less than optimistic outlook.
In August, against my better judgment and the judgment of all of my family and friends, I determined I should run for public office one more time. The reasons are not important; the decision to run was. In preparation for the September primary, I went out to install a campaign sign. By the time I got that single sign in the ground – not normally much of a task – I was ‘whipped’. Panting, shaky, and out of breath, I was questioning my own sanity.
A couple of weeks later on September 9, 2015 my wife, Sandi, who has always given me more support than I could ask for, approached me with a copy of a book entitled Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell B Esselstyn, MD. Sandi has been a vegetarian for some time, but I was a committed carnivore. She said, “Take a look at this and see what you think.” Ah! The master of the soft-sell! I read it from cover to cover and decided it sounded like maybe it could help. On September 11, 2015 she asked me what I thought and I replied that I thought it was worth a try. We agreed to try it until the end of the year and see how it went.
Along comes the general election in November, and I went out to put up a few signs. The next thing I knew, I had placed at least 20 signs with no ill effects. I knew then that we were onto something worthwhile.
About this time I saw an article in the D & C about the lifestyle course being offered by the University of Rochester. We talked about it and signed up that day. We were too late. The first group was filled, so we figured on being in the next group.
As luck would have it, we began receiving information about “Lunch with Docs,” RAVS, and other plant-based eating groups. Somehow the gods of the bloodstream smiled upon us and we found out about Ted and Carol Barnett’s 6-week lecture series at Rochester General. We signed up and were captivated, educated, informed and really inspired by both Barnetts. Near the end of their program, we were feeling a bit let down that the Thursday night meetings were ending. But once again the gods of good eating smiled upon us and Ted Barnett told the class about his upcoming CHIP program.
We were most anxious to sign up and as the saying goes, “the rest is history.” CHIP has proven to be invaluable in educating and reinforcing the benefits of a whole-foods, plant-based, active lifestyle.
I have seen considerable progress right from the beginning. I have slowly but steadily lost 20 plus pounds with no great sacrifices, no counting calories and no weighing or measuring portions. At some point I realized I have not used Tums or Alka-Seltzer in months. I used to take it 3-5 times a week. I now enjoy spicy food again with no disastrous effects. I sleep much better and am not continually tired. Sandi reports my snoring and sleep apnea are gone. I can go up stairs without stopping to catch my breath. Walking is no longer an effort. The physical improvements, while impressive to me, are really the least of the changes. In spite of myself, I find that I enjoy listening to music again – too loud at times. I’ve even been known to smile again and my gallows humor has returned – a good thing? Although it is impossible to quantify, I am sure that my mental acuity is sharper.
I lost my left foot to a traumatic injury in 2002 and have always had considerable pain in my residual limb – sometimes severe. I can report no serious issues with it since at least the first of the year. Perhaps the circulation in the remaining limb has improved to the point of eliminating much of the nerve pain? I hope so!
Sandi has been all-in from day one and is incredibly supportive. We both have delighted in our effortless weight-loss and have enjoyed experimenting with cooking and eating in a totally new way using plant-based, whole-food, oil-free recipes from a number of the cookbooks which Carol introduced to our class – especially the Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook and Forks Over Knives. Neither of us experienced a serious cold this winter – surely a first! Life is much better for both of us, and we hope that our friends and family will note the positive changes in us and be open to a change in lifestyle for themselves.
Our original three month commitment has lengthened to nearly seven months with no end in sight. We have not found the diet changes to be onerous, but the support of well-informed like-minded people helps tremendously. For those who are not lucky enough to have a committed spouse with them, I strongly suggest recruiting a close friend to “walk the walk” with them. It makes it so much more fun and we all know that greatly increases the odds for success.