Four hundred thousand people die every year from heart disease. That's four hundred thousand people a year dying from a disease that the president of the American College of Cardiology, Dr. Kim Williams has said need not exist. That's right, heart disease need not exist. I had dinner with a leading cardiac surgeon from Cleveland Clinic last year who told me the same thing. Heart disease is preventable and as Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, also of the Cleveland Clinic, has shown, heart disease is reversible.
And that's just one disease we're talking about. Other doctors and scientists have shown us through significant research that the preponderance of evidence in scientific studies is now showing that major diseases can be eliminated and reversed simply by following a whole foods, plant-based way of eating. While there will always be conflicting studies (the food industry has big research dollars) and confounding issues (how people eat is hard to study in isolation because there are so many other factors that can also affect results), the fact, as I see it, is that the preponderance of evidence points to a whole foods, plant-based diet being the healthiest diet on earth.
Dr. Michael Greger in his book How Not to Die makes the point that if terrorists were killing us at the rate of four hundred thousand Americans every year, we would do something about it. It would be all over the news, and the President would commission the best minds available to find a way to solve the problem. And yet, we think nothing of the fact that unnecessary diseases are killing us at rates even much more than that. Why are we so blatantly nonchalant about the real things that are killing us and so terrified of the things like terrorism that aren't in fact killing us in large numbers? We need to wake up to what our real threats are.
It's true that we're all going to die, but it doesn't need to be our own fault (as Dr. Williams has said). We can live longer, feel healthier, enjoy life more and not die from miserable deaths hooked up to IV units and hassled by nurses interrupting our sleep every two hours. In other words, we can LIVE. We don't have to be sick.
And we can have more money to enjoy life with. Just think of all the money spent on medical bills now. There's doctor co-pays and deductibles and prescription drugs and health insurance to name a few. How much more money would you and I have if our health insurance premiums were cut by 80%? Do you think that's impossible? I don't. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn has said that 80% of medicine is unnecessary. So, what if we cut out that 80% of unnecessary medical costs? Suddenly, insurance companies would find themselves paying out 80% less. In a perfect market-driven economy, that would bring our premiums down by 80%. So, let's pretend that we live in a perfect market-driven economy. A $1,000 a month insurance premium would go down to $200 a month, giving a family and extra $800 a month.
Do you think you could find a good use for an extra $800 a month? I know I could. So, couple that with how much better you feel and how much more energy you have from eating a WFPB diet and we're suddenly talking some real progress here. And that's not even going into the fact that current agricultural practices around the world are contributing over half of the greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, according to the movie Cowspiracy and the World Health Organization. That's not even counting the fact that Governor Jerry Brown has said that California's water crisis could be solved if people would switch to a plant-based diet.
We'll never live in a utopia, but if everybody we're to eat plant-based, we could come awfully close to a utopia. Isn't it time for us as Americans to wake up? Isn't it time for us to realize that the threat of terrorism pales in comparison to the threat of being murdered by our food?
I think it is. How we eat, in my opinion, should be the number one political topic of our day. I think that because how we eat affects our health, it affects our costs, it affects the U.S. budget and our taxes, it affects our environment, it affects global warming, it affects our attitudes, it affects our ethics and it might even affect our crime rates. And yet, for the most part, the current slate of candidates is not even touching that topic. I'm not even sure that the current slate of candidates gets it. There are a couple who do, and I'm supportive of one of those candidates. But our political candidates need to wake up. And they won't wake up until we wake up.
So, let's make 2016 the year of awakening. If it's not important to us, let's at least make it important for our children and grandchildren. Their futures really are in jeopardy.