Lifestyle Medicine Symposium: Redefining Health Care

I was able to attend the 2017 Lifestyle Medicine Symposium, led by cardiologist Dr. Brian Asbill, in Asheville, North Carolina. As a nurse who cares deeply about wellness, it was an incredible experience attending a hospital based symposium dedicated to lifestyle medicine with an emphasis on a plant based diet, exercise, and mindfulness.  Speakers included Dr. Michael Greger and Nick Buettner (Minnesota native) of The Blue Zones (if you’ve never heard of The Blue Zones, check out this podcast).  Dr. Asbill has been a cardiologist practicing for 16 years in Asheville. Experience taught him that surgery and medications did little beyond adding a bit more time before a patient would need another operation or more medication. One day, a patient gave him a copy of The China Study (I highly recommend this book! Check it on Audible here). Soon after, Dr. Asbill began treating patients with lifestyle recommendations including a plant based diet. He saw drastic improvements without the nasty side effects.

Because of the powerful transformation he witnessed, Dr. Asbill plans to transition from Cardiology to Lifestyle Medicine. Among the attendees at the symposium were a few of Dr. Asbill’s patients. I had the fortune to meet one, a middle age man who underwent 5 bypass surgeries and could barely make it up a flight of stairs without becoming short of breath. After years of the same advice from his doctors, he sought a second opinion which led him to Dr. Asbill. Treated with a plant based diet he is now an ultra-marathon runner and the loudest, proudest advocate for plant-based living. How cool! To go from a life of taking medications, worrying about another heart attack or needing a 6th surgery - to living carefree, without medications, without fear, and having a full and active life. He gets to live longer and better thanks to a plant based diet.  

Diseases of the heart have outpaced cancer as our top killer in the United States, cancer comes in at #2. Evidence shows our diet heavily reliant on animal products and lack of exercise are to blame. How empowering to learn that we can take our health destiny into our own hands by adopting a plant based diet and going for a few walks every day! Adopting a plant based diet may seem drastic to you, but I’d ask what seems more extreme - cracking your chest open for heart surgery - or eliminating animal products from your diet? In doing so you’ll be opening yourself to the bounty of foods available - beans, fruits, greens, veggies, potatoes, seeds, nuts, oats, etc! Dr. Asbill spent years in medical school and many more as a practicing cardiologist, then one day he charted a different course. One that not only saves lives, but also adds life to ones years! The progress of medicine can be a double edged sword. It has given us the ability to injure ourselves 3 times a day (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and then managing the damage with medication and surgery. We’re not living longer, but dying longer. Like the transformation we’ve seen in ourselves, friends, and family who’ve taken their health into their own hands through a plant based diet, you can do the same! I promise you won’t feel deprived - if anything I feel overwhelmed by the delicious bounty I have the fortune to choose from every day! Foods that are delicious, satisfying and nutritious. Foods that fill my days with energy and allow me to live more fully. Like Dr. Greger says, if eliminating our top killers is the least a plant based diet can do, shouldn’t it be the default diet until proven otherwise? For me this is an obvious yes and in the meantime I plan to fill my days with adventure and spreading this amazing news! If you’ve been on the fence, just do it. It’s the best decision I’ve ever made.