It all started with my grandma. I was just a kid when the doctors sent my grandma home in a wheelchair to die. Diagnosed with end-stage heart disease, she had already had so many bypass operations that the surgeons essentially ran out of plumbing. Confined to a wheelchair, crushing chest pain; her doctors told her there was nothing else they could do. Her life was over at age sixty-five.
But then she heard about Nathan Pritikin, one of our early lifestyle medicine pioneers, and what happened next was documented in Pritikin’s biography. It talks about Frances Greger, my grandma. It was a live-in program where everyone was placed on a plant-based diet, and then started on a graded exercise regimen. They wheeled her in, and she walked out. Within a few weeks, she was walking 10 miles a day—and went on to live another 31 years, until age 96, to continue to enjoy her six grandchildren, including me. Her miraculous recovery not only inspired one of those grandkids to pursue a career in medicine, but granted her enough healthy years to see him graduate from medical school. So, it’s really all thanks to her.
During medical training, I was shocked to find out that this whole body of evidence on reversing chronic disease with lifestyle changes—opening up arteries without drugs, without surgery—was being largely ignored by mainstream medicine. Wait a second, if effectively the cure to our #1 killer could get lost down some rabbit hole and ignored, what else might be buried in the medical literature that could help my patients? I made it my life’s mission to find out. That’s what led me to start NutritionFacts.org, and that’s what led me to write the book How Not to Die.