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Your Heart Health Is in Your Hands (and on Your Plate!):

New Book Empowers Patients to Reverse Heart Disease Naturally

Heart disease may be a known killer, but you don’t have to become its victim. A new book by interventional cardiologist Heather Shenkman offers a natural approach to treating and even reversing heart disease through a plant-based diet, exercise, and other healing lifestyle changes.

Los Angeles, CA (January 2018)—When you have heart disease, your whole life suffers. Not only do you have to deal with pills, doctor’s appointments, tests, and scary procedures, you may feel helpless to do anything but wait for your next heart attack. Meanwhile, those facing debilitating conditions like diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and obesity face the threat of heart disease in the future. That’s no way to live, says Dr. Heather Shenkman, an interventional cardiologist who truly practices what she preaches. She offers a better alternative to the standard protocols most heart patients resign themselves to follow.

Her message? With moderate lifestyle changes, you can prevent future heart attacks, reverse cardiovascular disease, and improve your overall quality of life.

“Heart disease doesn’t have to be a death sentence,” says Dr. Shenkman, author of the new book The Vegan Heart Doctor’s Guide to Reversing Heart Disease, Losing Weight, and Reclaiming Your Life (Tofu Triathlete Publishing, 2018, ISBN: 978-0-999-76761-0, $21.95). “While there are many things I can do to help patients feel better and live longer, many people do not realize that their own actions and habits are the keys to their success as cardiac patients. I’ve seen firsthand the remarkable turnaround you can make by harnessing the healing powers of diet, exercise, and other beneficial lifestyle changes. With the help of their doctor, patients can take hold of their heart health, unlock their healing potential, and get a second chance at a better life.” NOTE: SEE ATTACHED TIPSHEET ON HOW TO BE A GREAT PATIENT.

Dr. Shenkman says our sedentary ways, fast food, animal products, junk food, alcohol, smoking, and everyday stress make the battle against heart disease all that more challenging. Her book is a wake-up call for anyone suffering from or at risk for heart disease. In it she prescribes her unconventional approach to achieving better heart health by adopting a plant-based diet, getting fit, and seeking a more balanced life to promote healing and health.

Dr. Shenkman doesn’t just talk the talk when it comes to living a healthy, preventative lifestyle. She walks the walk herself. (Actually, she runs, bikes, and swims.) Dr. Shenkman is an endurance athlete who regularly participates in marathons, triathlons, and has twice competed in the challenging Ironman race. Even more impressive, she fuels her busy and active life with an entirely plant-based diet.

“While you certainly don’t need to start doing triathlons in order to be healthy, it should encourage you to know that no matter where you’re starting from, you can improve your fitness,” says Dr. Shenkman. “And food-wise, choosing a plant-based diet can lower your risk of coronary artery disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, osteoarthritis, and several types of cancer. In fact, populations who follow predominantly plant-based diets live longer than most.”

In addition to recommending diet and fitness changes, Dr. Shenkman takes a whole-hearted approach to improving her patients’ heart health by urging them to structure their lives in ways that promote healing. This means managing chronic stress, anxiety, and developing supportive relationships. Together, these changes support a healthy heart and body.

One more thing: Many people suffering from or at risk for heart disease may be overweight. Dr. Shenkman says that losing weight is a happy side effect of making the following heart-healthy changes, but maintains that weight loss is not the main focus.

“Getting thin is not your primary goal in taking back your health,” says Dr. Shenkman. “Instead the goal is to heal your heart and put you out of the danger zone for heart disease.”

Are you ready to improve your heart health and regain control over your life? Keep reading to learn Dr. Shenkman’s protocol for healing from heart disease naturally.

Step I: Develop a Sustainable Exercise Routine

According to Dr. Shenkman, cardiovascular exercise is the recommended workout for exercising the heart muscle. Developing a safe and sustainable cardio routine is a crucial component of treating heart disease. Here’s how to get started.

Set your workout goals. “You should be getting at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least five days per week, for a total of 150 minutes,” says Dr. Shenkman. “Try the ‘talk test’ to figure out if you are working out at a moderate level. Imagine someone is exercising next to you. You should be able to have a conversation with him or her while you work out, but it should not be easy to talk due to breathing harder.”

Buy yourself some decent workout clothes. No one wants to work out in old worn-out sneakers, old pajama bottoms, and a ratty t-shirt. There’s no reason to spend a fortune, but investing in workout clothes you’ll look forward to wearing will make you feel motivated and confident as you begin this new routine.

Fuel up. “Having a light snack before working out will give you the energy to get through your workout,” says Dr. Shenkman. “Before my morning workouts I will drink a homemade soy latte and eat a banana with almond butter.”

Hydrate. It’s also important to properly hydrate before, during, and after exercise. Drink water throughout the day and whenever you’re thirsty. And take a few water breaks while you exercise to ensure you don’t dehydrate.

Start off slow. You really do have to walk before you can run. Especially if you’re sedentary, ease into a gentle exercise routine and gradually build up your stamina before you jog, run, or participate in any strenuous activities. But at the same time, remember that the point of exercise is to work out your heart. So once you’ve gotten used to movement, increase your walking pace enough to get your blood pumping.

Schedule your workouts. Having trouble motivating yourself to get moving? Pencil in your workouts on your calendar. If you think of them as another item on your checklist, you’ll be less likely to take the day (or the week!) off from exercising.

Mix it up. Doing the same thing over and over can be boring, so if you get tired of only walking, mix up your fitness routine. Try a boot camp or cardio class, biking, or give swimming a try. And be sure to take advantage of nice spring and summer weather to exercise outdoors.

Get a buddy. “Working out doesn’t have to be a solitary chore,” says Dr. Shenkman. “Use your exercise time to be social, either in a group setting or with a friend. The energy of another person can motivate you and keep you accountable.”

Treat yourself. There’s nothing wrong with rewarding yourself for a workout well done. So set a reasonable yet challenging fitness goal to strive for, and when you reach it, reward yourself with something that will make you smile.

Step II: Embrace a Plant-Based Diet

Drastically changing your diet is a big but necessary step in treating heart disease. It requires adopting a new set of practices, learning intimidating new skills, and getting out of your dietary comfort zone. But it is a step that is worth taking and has the potential to change your life. Dr. Shenkman recommends (and follows) a whole-food, plant-based diet and insists that adopting this diet as your own is very doable and delicious. Keep reading for her tips to enjoyably transition to eating exclusively plant-based foods.

First, understand why eating plant-based food is medically necessary. “Plant-based diets provide huge benefits to the heart in particular,” says Dr. Shenkman. “Studies by Dean Ornish and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn show the dramatic improvements a plant-based diet can have on even advanced heart disease patients. Findings indicate that those who stick to this diet dramatically lower their chances of having a cardiovascular event.”

Assess what you already eat that is vegan. Chances are, you already eat a decent amount of plant-based foods (no, not just French fries either!). When you snack on carrots or celery sticks with hummus, you’re eating vegan. Same goes for peanut butter, summer salads, guacamole, and pasta with fresh marinara. Delicious vegan food is already on your radar. You just need to move these kinds of dishes a little closer to center stage.

Do a pantry purge. Go through your fridge and cabinets and pull out all food items that contain animal products. Also make an effort to get rid of excess processed foods as well. Fake meat products in particular—while great for transitioning—should be thought of as “sometimes” foods. Once you’ve cleared your pantry of off-limit items, stock your kitchen with whole foods: fresh and frozen veggies, fruit, plant-based milks, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, and organic soy-based products.

Focus on what you can eat. You’ll go crazy if you fixate on the old foods no longer available to you. So make a concerted effort not to spend too much thought on them. So when a craving for meat or dairy hits, ask yourself which plant-based meal might satisfy you instead.

Prep and cook in batches. “Spend a few minutes chopping and washing your vegetables after you buy them,” says Dr. Shenkman. “This makes planning meals a piece of cake. And if you have a busy week ahead, you can do some batch cooking. Batch cooking involves cooking many meals all at once, and it can greatly reduce your cooking responsibilities during the week. I like to batch cook on a Tuesday night when I get home from the farmers market and my veggies are fresh.”

Allow for setbacks. You’re going to make some mistakes from time to time, and that’s okay,” says Dr. Shenkman. “Making any drastic dietary changes is a process, and it’s unreasonable to expect perfection when you’re starting out. Recommit each time you slip-up and be sure to keep some easy-to-prepare ingredients on hand for when you’re tempted to slip off course.”

Step III: Take a Whole-Hearted and Balanced Approach to Life

There’s a well-accepted connection between excess stress, anxiety, depression, and heart disease. While there needs to be more study on the subject, it’s fairly clear that unmanaged stress creates physiological changes that can contribute to heart disease. What’s more, the unhealthy way people attempt to handle this stress—smoking, overeating, avoiding exercise, etc.—exacerbates the problem. Dr. Shenkman believes maintaining a healthy life balance is the solution to handling stress and dealing with harmful emotions. The following tips will help you master the art of living each day with purpose, gratitude, and zest.

Create a healthy work/life blend. Too much stress can make you sick, and unfortunately the workplace is a primary source of intense, ongoing stress for many people. That’s why it’s imperative to play hard in addition to working hard. You need to give yourself permission to blow off steam in a healthy and productive manner (which is one reason why it’s so universally rewarding and even relaxing to go for a run or hit the gym after work!). Also: Make sure you make time for relaxation and play. If you don’t have a hobby or set of interests outside of the office, make it your priority to find something to help you unwind.

Commit to adequate sleep and rest. “The amount of sleep a person needs varies from individual to individual,” says Dr. Shenkman. “I personally function best when I have about 7-8 hours of sleep, but others may need smaller or greater amounts to feel rested and refreshed. However much you need, make sleep a priority.”

Build strong relationships. Our human need for connection is important and constant. Isolation and loneliness are both hard on the heart. You need loving relationships with other living beings, and there are plenty of ways to forge these connections. You can nurture caring relationships with friends, family members, coworkers, or romantic partners. But don’t assume that having a lot of superficial connections count. They don’t. It’s nice to have lots of acquaintances, but these less substantial relationships won’t feed you the same way deeper connections do. And by the way, strong relationships can even include pets.

Have a game plan for when you spiral into a “negativity pit.” Dr. Shenkman emphasizes the importance of breaking negative thought patterns to promote better health. But for those inevitable times when you feel yourself falling into fear, anger, or despair, have a quick plan ready to stop you from spiraling further.

“Maybe take a five-minute walk or step into a quiet room and breathe deeply for a few minutes until you feel more in control,” says Dr. Shenkman. “The point is to be accountable for your mood and outlook by stopping negative beliefs, feelings, and attitudes in their tracks. This helps you reset the pattern and choose a healthier response instead.”

“If you’ve resigned yourself to living your life within the limitations of your current health, it’s time to change your mindset right now,” concludes Shenkman. “Heart disease is a serious health challenge, but you can fight back by making important lifestyle changes that are totally worth the effort. You are totally worth the effort. Start making healthier choices now, and you will feel better, live longer, and better enjoy your life.”


About the Author:

Heather Shenkman, MD, FACC, is the author of The Vegan Heart Doctor’s Guide to Reversing Heart Disease, Losing Weight, and Reclaiming Your Life (Tofu Triathlete Publishing, 2018, ISBN: 978-0-999-76761-0, $21.95). She is an interventional cardiologist in practice in the Los Angeles area. She is a proponent of lowering her patients’ risk of heart disease through healthy lifestyle changes, including a plant-based diet and regular exercise. An avid athlete, Dr. Shenkman has completed over a hundred races of various distances. For more information, please visit www.drheathershenkman.com.

 

About the Book:

The Vegan Heart Doctor’s Guide to Reversing Heart Disease, Losing Weight, and Reclaiming Your Life (Tofu Triathlete Publishing, 2018, ISBN: 978-0-999-76761-0, $21.95) is available on Amazon.com.