The Bronx Bombers – Crushing Heart Disease

On January 11, 2014, at the Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, NY, I witnessed a team in action, who like the New York Yankees, deserve the moniker “Bronx Bombers”. However, this team’s playing field is the classroom, not a baseball diamond. Cardiologist Robert Ostfeld and registered dietitian Lauren Graf have the same disdain for Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) as the Yankees have for the Boston Red Sox.

They conduct wellness classes as part of Montefiore’s Cardiac Wellness Program during which they instruct patients on the power of a Whole Food Plant Based lifestyle – the most effective intervention for preventing AND  treating CAD and other chronic diseases.

 Their confidence in defeating CAD is revealed by the title of the first presentation – “Crushing Heart Disease”.  I LOVE that title! The presentation wasn’t called “treating”, “preventing” or “managing” heart disease – the most appropriate verb was used – “crushing”.  Right off the bat  patients are provided hope that they have a powerful tool at their disposal to beat America’s number one killer.

The second slide of the presentation reveals that Dr. Ostfeld and Ms. Graf understand the wholistic nature of nutrition and health as they inform the audience that WFPB reverses chronic disease, not just CAD.  They also refer to T. Colin Campbell’s definition of Nutrition:

” the highly integrated, interactive, even symphonic effect produced by countless food chemicals that maintain health and prevent disease.”

I have no doubt that the information shared during the 4 hour program will powerfully improve the lives of anyone in the audience who decides to let Dr. Ostfeld and Ms. Graf help them transition to a WFPB diet.

Some highlights of the session:

  • Dr. Ostfeld shared a story about a 70 year old woman who was in a bad state.  She suffered terrible angina pain and shortness of breath just walking a few feet. She did not want to have the bypass surgery that was originally suggested. With Dr. Ostfeld’s help, she adopted a WFPB diet and in six weeks, she improved dramatically.  She told Dr. Ostfeld via a telephone call, that she was able to walk on a treadmill for 20 minutes with no pain!  A few weeks later Dr. Ostfeld learned that she had regressed and that she had agreed to have bypass surgery.  He was perplexed and couldn’t imagine what may have gone wrong.  It turns out that when the woman decided to follow a WFPB diet, one side of the family was all for it, whereas another side of the family was very much against it.  For six weeks, the woman had been living with family members who supported her diet.  After her conversation with Dr. Ostfeld, she moved in with family members who thought her diet was crazy and did not support it. She reverted back to her old eating habits and within a few weeks all of her symptoms returned.  This story immediately got the attention of the audience.
  • Quite a few slides used in Dr. Ostfeld’s presentation were familiar to me as he uses some slides that Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn has used in his presentations. Dr. Ostfeld received permission from Dr. Esselstyn to use these slides.  In fact, Montefiore’s Cardiac Wellness Program is highly endorsed by Dr. Esselstyn.  Dr. Ostfeld utilized these slides to explain the biological mechanisms that result in most heart attacks.
  • Both Dr. Ostfeld and Lauren Graf referred often to the works of the “Beatles of Nutrition” Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, T.Colin Campbell Ph D., Dr. John McDougall and Dr. Dean Ornish.
  • One of Dr. Ostfeld’s patients spoke to the group.  She believes that Dr. Ostfeld saved her life.  She lost 60 lbs while following a WFPB diet.  She stated that both times that she briefly strayed from the diet, she regained weight and all of her aches, pains and asthma symptoms returned. Her husband is also regaining his health by following a WFPB diet. She does not plan to deviate from her WFPB diet ever again.  She presented a check for $225 to Dr. Ostfeld as a donation to support the program. She made it clear to the group that the program was worth much more than $225.  Her story was heartwarming and inspiring.
  • I learned that patients are not charged for participating in the program. The program is dependent on donations.  Dr. Ostfeld does not receive payment for the time he spends in the program.  For him it is a labor of love.
  • A wonderful buffet lunch was provided that was enjoyed by all.  During lunch I overheard one male cardiac patient tell Dr. Ostfeld that his latest check-up was great.  His lipid profile had improved to the point that he was now off all of his statin medication.  He asked Dr. Ostfeld “Can you believe that they wanted to rip my chest open eight months ago?”
  • Lauren Graf provided numerous practical suggestions on helping people to transition to a plant based diet.  She handled every challenging question flawlessly and professionally. Lauren and Dr. Ostfeld never talk down to anyone and it’s clear that they care very much for the health of their patients.

I was able to briefly talk to Dr. Ostfeld prior to the session.  He has had Campbell, Esselstyn and Ornish speak to physicians at Montefiore. He also convinced decision makers at Montefiore to allow him to present a class on preventive cardiology to 2nd year medical residents.  He is doing his part in letting physicians know about the overwhelming evidence in favor of WFPB diets.

I commended Dr. Ostfeld on the important work he is doing as most physicians – even cardiologists – are either unaware of, or not open to, promoting WFPB diets. Dr. Ostfeld told me that one of his patients was literally laughed out of a cardiologist’s office when he mentioned that he was considering a WFPB diet to combat his CAD.  Stories like this one show that we have a long way to go before WFPB becomes a mainstream therapy for CAD.

But thanks to programs like Montefiore’s Cardiac Wellness Program, – progress is being made! I think even Red Sox and Mets fans can love these Bronx Bombers!


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