WEST BLOOMFIELD — The diameter of a human artery is about the size of a No. 2 pencil’s, according to Dr. Joel Kahn, a preventative and interventional cardiologist at Beaumont Hospital. Paul Chatlin, a life-long West Bloomfield resident and telecommunication consultant, was accustomed to a Western dietary pattern, eating red meat, sugary desserts and high-fat foods. But little did he know, the foods he was eating were clogging the narrow arteries in his body. At the young age of 56, Chatlin was one of the approximately 300,000 Americans who need bypass heart surgery due to heart disease, which is the No. 1 killer in America. Heart disease occurs when the arteries can no longer supply blood to the heart. Every 30 seconds, one person experiences a heart attack, Kahn said. Traveling alone, Chatlin ventured to the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, where he learned of his heart disease May 10, 2013. “When I went there, I had a heart catheter performed, and that’s when they discovered I had a blocked artery and two mostly blocked arteries,” Chatlin said. Chatlin had to make an immediate choice between triple and quadruple bypass surgery, as well as possibly facing more surgery 10-15 years down the line. As Chatlin was lying on a gurney, waiting to go under the knife, his cardiologist offered an alternative to bypass surgery — a drastic and strict diet change. “They are a lot more successful with the surgery than they’ve ever been, but when you have more invasive surgery, people are not the same. Things change,” Chatlin said. “I didn’t want to have surgery if I could help it.” Chatlin opted out of quadruple bypass surgery and instead drove home and cleaned out his pantry. After donating about 95 percent of the food in his kitchen to charity, Chatlin switched his entire diet to plant-based nutrition. For the past eight months, Chatlin has learned how to cook meals with fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Plant-based nutrition is similar to veganism; however, Chatlin cannot consume oil or peanuts, and he is limited to water and soy milk. Also excluded from his diet are avocados, dairy and meat. “I’m on the hardcore stuff because I have a heart problem,” Chatlin said. Since May, Chatlin has decreased his weight by 45 pounds and lowered his cholesterol from 298 milligrams per deciliter to 132 mg/dL. The standard range for total cholesterol is 120-200 mg/dL. “The actual heartache, which I felt three months prior to May, went away in about two weeks,” Chatlin said. “My heart stopped hurting. That’s amazing, isn’t it?” The science behind plant-based nutrition comes from Dr. Dean Ornish and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., advocates behind preventing and reversing heart disease through nutrition, Kahn said. “Can you sustain all bodily functions with a well-balanced, plant-based diet? Absolutely,” Kahn said. “With a couple of selective vitamin supplements, there’s no reason not to go that way.” The average person eats a 40 percent fatty diet, but Ornish and Esselstyn’s diets are 10 percent or less fat. Kahn said he has recommended Ornish’s books to his heart patients or referred them to Esselstyn at the Cleveland Clinic. “When you think about it, the science behind the fact that food is a healing medicine … was shown first in the heart disease world … but it is now extended,” Kahn said, explaining that studies now show that if the body is fed enough colorful and organic foods, genes can be altered. Kahn is also a 100 percent plant-based eater. “I don’t always eat a low-fat diet, but I don’t think there’s anything good to olive oil and canola oil. They’re just the best of the evils,” Kahn said. “The power is in the hands of people to add quality and quantity in their life.” In an effort to increase awareness about preventing and reversing heart disease through plant-based nutrition, Chatlin and Kahn have joined forces to form a heart disease and plant nutrition support group. Chatlin’s diagnosis was an eye-opening experience, he said. The reason he is starting a support group is to educate heart disease patients who either have not had surgery and those who have had the surgery but want to change their lifestyle, Chatlin added. “It’s a vegan equivalent of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). There’s something about the power of the group,” Kahn said. “It’s easy to fall off the bandwagon of any lifestyle change.” Included in the support meetings will be discussions about different recipes, areas of struggle and restaurant ideas. Currently, the team has about seven people interested in the support group, but they said they would like 20 names for the monthly meetings. “It should be shouted from the treetops that this diet is out there,” Kahn said. “It scared ... me when they told me I needed quadruple bypass surgery, and it scared me enough that I had to make the change,” Chatlin said. For more information about the heart disease support group and plant-based nutrition, contact Paul Chatlin at email@example.com.
By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published January 29, 2014