In the course of my career as a cardiologist, pitching a plant-based diet to patients has become easier over time.
It's easier now that plant-based diets are more mainstream. From movies like Forks Over Knives, What the Health, or Cowspiracy, people are learning about the health benefits of plant based eating. And, as there are more vegans, there are then more vegan options in grocery stores and restaurants, making a plant-based diet seem more attainable.
But I think that over time I've also become a better, more comfortable advocate for plant-based eating.
The most effective time to make the pitch for plant-based eating is at the hospital, at the time of a health crisis like a heart attack. After all, diet is a major reason why people have heart attacks.
Sometimes the conversation actually happens while the patient is on the cardiac cath lab table, having just received a coronary stent. Other times it may happen in the patient's room the next day, or maybe in the office on the first follow-up visit. We talk about his or her current diet, what might be good in it, and what might not be so good. Next, I explain, "The best diet for the heart is a plant-based diet, as it has been demonstrated to reverse plaque in the arteries. Would you like to try that type of eating here in the hospital?" I'll also recommend watching Forks Over Knives, if the patient and his or her family has access to a mobile device at the hospital.
I've found great success with this approach. With one patient, I came back to his room to find a copy of Michael Greger's How Not To Die on his bedside table, thanks to enthusiastic family members. Many patients even convince their entire immediate family to start eating plant-based as well.
I have a large number of plant-based patients, some who sought me out because I am a vegan cardiologist, and others whom I've convinced of the benefits of plant-based eating. And I stand by this statement -- in over 11 years of practice as a cardiologist, not a single plant-based patient under my care has gone on to have another heart attack, need another stent, or need a bypass surgery.