Dear Coach:  I’m in pretty good health (knock on wood) but my family history is loaded with heart disease and that’s always in the back of my mind.  When and why would it be necessary for healthy people to change their diet?  R.S.

Dear R.S:  It’s great that you currently enjoy good health! Sadly, though, the evidence doesn’t lie about the risks associated with our Standard American Diet (SAD), which typically results in some form of disease in all of us at some point.  You mention a family history of heart disease, for example, which is our number one killer and claims more American lives annually than all of our past wars combined. 

Plaque buildup (known as atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries) results from the buildup of fatty, cholesterol-rich gunk that builds up within the lining of the blood vessels. We now know that heart disease starts in childhood. Studies of accidental death victims between the ages of three and twenty-six found the beginning of atherosclerosis in nearly all children by the age of 10. 

And in 1953, researchers conducted 300 autopsies of American casualties of the Korean War, which revealed that 77% of soldiers – with an average age of around 22 – had already developed visible evidence of coronary atherosclerosis; some arteries were blocked by 90% or more (note that the study was over 60 years ago when cheese consumption was less than half of what it is now.) 

Full-blown plaques can develop by the time we reach our twenties and thirties, and by the time we reach our forties and fifties, heart disease can become a real problem.  It is, after all, the number one reason why we die.

This is why everyone should convert to a truly healthy diet, regardless of whether or not they currently have any health issues.  The good news is that with simple dietary changes at any age, heart disease can be prevented, halted and even reversed, regardless of family history.  

It’s never too late to begin consuming a diet which does not contribute to heart disease, but instead gives the body a chance to repair and heal itself.  By drastically reducing our intake of saturated fat, trans fats and dietary cholesterol, lifestyle doctors such as Caldwell Esselstyn, John McDougall, Nathan Pritikin, Dean Ornish and others have shown that patient’s heart disease can actually reverse through diet alone.  Whole food, plant based diets lower cholesterol just as effectively as statin drugs, but without the side effects and risks.  

Here’s more good news.  While it may not be heart disease that develops, other issues resulting from our western diet – such as hypertension, stroke, diabetes, diverticulitis, dementia, erectile dysfunction, obesity, gall stones, osteoporosis and certain cancers – also respond to the same dietary changes.  Don’t wait until you’re having problems – begin today to protect your health for the future.  It would be my pleasure to help you transition to healthy eating. 

If you have questions or would like to sign up for our newsletter or class information, please visit  (Sources: Dr. Michael Greger,; Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn,

Cyd Notter

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