Dr. P. Slides to Good Health
Most people would not question a surgeon for scheduling a triple bypass surgery when tests showed the dire need for this surgical procedure. "My heart's right main artery was 100% blocked and the two left arteries were 90% and 85% obstructed," says Dr. Neal Pinckney who not only refused the surgery, but he also embarked on a lifestyle change that has sustained him for the last 17 years.
For Dr. Pinckney this was not a typical case of "doctor heal thyself" because he holds his doctorate in clinical and educational psychology. As it tuned out later, Pinckney did heal himself by radically changing his lifestyle.
Before he visited the cardiologist, Pinckney was taking two statins to lower his cholesterol from a high of 372. "Your blood pressure is alarming," said one of his doctors.
"You will die--this is life or death!"
The "aha moment" for him came when he picked up a copy of Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease. "It became my primer for survival, and it remains my guide to this day," he says.
This septuagenarian, now approaching his 75th birthday, rigidly follows a plant-based diet with less than 10% calories from fat. For someone on death's doorstep years ago, he now leads an active life minus the 50 pounds he has shed in the process. His blood pressure now usually is 110/60 while his cholesterol is normally 116 without taking any medication. His pulse rate is normally about 49. He accomplishes this with his diet, exercise, and one aspirin daily.
Pinckney is a conscientious reader of nutrition labels and automatically rejects foods that exceed his limit of 10% of calories from fat. His lifestyle change means consuming no animal foods, fried items, or added oils in his program. One month after starting his lifestyle change program, Pinckney returned to his cardiologist to explain the program he was following. The doctor had read Ornish and told him, "I don't buy it. I don't think you'll survive on a twigs and bark diet."
Just walk up these three flights of stairs
As part of this lifestyle change process he has developed a number of recipes he shares on his website (kumu.org). Anyone accessing kumu.org will be introduced to Pinckney's Healing Heart Foundation where he provides information on how to "reverse and prevent heart disease through lifestyle." Included here are 250 pages of information, recipes, and resources.
Pinckney was encouraged to write his book when people kept asking him for handouts he distributed in his support groups. After sending his manuscript to 50 publishers and receiving a pile of rejections, he decided to self-publish his work. The first printing of 1000 sold out in three weeks. The second printing of 3000 and the third printing sold out quickly. A second edition was later published nationally by the same company that produces the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.
"Lifelong allergies disappear"
The second part of the website is the "Heart Disease and Lifestyle Discussion Group," a bulletin board for people with questions and comments about heart-healthy lifestyle changes.
Visitors to Honolulu will find themselves accompanying Pinckney on a brisk four-mile walk each morning because walking is one aspect of his life-saving program. Since he is a Dean Ornish disciple, he finds time for an activity Ornish highly recommends--a daily meditation period.
Following his brisk four-mile morning walk, Pinckney sits down for a typical breakfast: two slices of high-fiber whole wheat bread with homemade jam, fresh fruit, and a cup of "instant toffee" (a spoonful of black-strap molasses in hot water).
For lunch he might reach into the freezer for one of his frozen homemade specialties like Gaspacho Granada, Crème of Lentil Soup, Sloppy Joes, or Mock Tuna Salad.
Dinner might be Jiffy Jambalaya, Savory Lentil Loaf, Green Enchilada Casserole, or CousCous Provencal.
Desserts without dairy products or eggs
Although he carefully monitors what he ingests, he, surprisingly, does eat out on occasions. Before visiting a restaurant, he will contact the staff to inquire whether they can meet his dietary requests. He has found a willingness in some restaurants to accommodate his needs.
In an era where there is so much concern about healthcare, Neal Pinckney has provided an outstanding example of someone taking charge for his own well-being by exercising personal responsibility. He has clearly demonstrated that lifestyle change can have a pronounced effect on the reversal of chronic conditions, especially heart disease. It's time for the medical profession to rid itself of the negative "twigs and barks diet" attitude about a vegan diet and educate themselves and their patients on personal changes that are effective tools in fighting chronic diseases. Pinckney is living proof that his vegan low-fat regimen can work miracles.