How many people do you know that have heart disease?

Probably a great many more than you think.

Think of how many people you know over thirty; then multiply that number by 90%. You see, most people in the United States over the age of thirty already have heart disease, although most of them have never experienced the first symptom. And far too often that first symptom is a deadly heart attack.

That’s what happened to Mike—a good friend of mine in Stonington, CT, a few weeks ago. He was 71, an avid skier, sailor, exercised regularly and was apparently in very good health. While expecting to enjoy many more years of travel, leisure, volunteer work and great times with friends and family—his life was snatched away in an instant. It is the memory of Mike that inspired me to write this post today. Maybe his story will help to save others; he would like that.

This photo illustrates the way I will remember my good friend—enjoying time on the water with me and my oldest grandson, Collin. Unfortunately for Mike’s grandchildren, they will not be able to sail with their grandfather ever again. Because Mike died of heart disease on April 5, 2013.

In the summer of 2009, my oldest grandson, Collin (7), stayed with me for a week while he was here for “sailing camp” at the SHYC foundation. In his thoughtful and generous manner (as always), Mike asked Collin (at breakfast) if he’d like to take a motorboat ride that afternoon. Naturally, he responded in a gleeful affirmative. A few hours later, as the fog lifted, the three of us enjoyed a spirited tour of Stonington Harbor---with young Collin at the helm.

My friend Mike in 2009. That summer, my oldest grandson, Collin (7), stayed with me for a week while he was in town for “sailing camp.” In his thoughtful and generous manner (as always), Mike asked Collin (at breakfast) if he’d like to take a motorboat ride that afternoon. Naturally, he responded in a gleeful affirmative. A few hours later, as the fog lifted, the three of us enjoyed a spirited tour of Stonington Harbor—with young Collin at the helm.

So did Mike know that he had heart disease? I doubt it, although I know that he visited a number of physicians regularly and he may have been taking cholesterol lowering drugs. But no one dies from high cholesterol. Cholesterol is just a bio-marker.

People die from heart disease—a build-up of plaque in the arteries. Even if Lipitor may keep total cholesterol below 200, it does nothing to address the causation of the disease and it does nothing to remove the deadly plaque that has built up from a lifetime of eating the artery-clogging Standard American Diet (The S.A.D.).

Caldwell Esselstyn, MD. Director of Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and Reversal at the Wellness Institute of the Cleveland Clinic.

Caldwell Esselstyn, MD. Director of Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and Reversal at the Wellness Institute of the Cleveland Clinic.

Heart disease at age 30? What’s up with that? I first learned about it from Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., when he told the story of American soldiers who died fighting in Korea back in the early fifties. Autopsies at the time revealed that 80% of those young men had advanced coronary artery disease.

But guess what? Their Asian counterparts (who ate a mostly whole foods, plant-based diet) had perfectly healthy arteries—not a trace of heart disease. We’re talking sixty years ago. We’re talking about the #1 killer in the United States and most of the Western world. So why is this news not being shared with the public?

The Story of Dr. Sprouts. When Dr. Esselstyn began reversing heart disease in ALL of his patients at the Cleveland Clinic back in the early eighties, guess what the cardiologists there started calling him? Dr. Sprouts. They ridiculed him because he had figured out a way to completely cure heart disease—by simply prescribing whole, plant-based foods like broccoli, oatmeal and Brussels sprouts.

So why are the cardiologists and other mainstream medical doctors not telling us this wonderful news today—over thirty years later? The short answer is MONEY. The longer answer includes a few more words: power, ego and control. If you want to learn the entire gory story about our dysfunctional health “care” system, order yourself a copy of Dr. Campbell’s new book, WHOLE. It starts shipping on May 7.

J. Morris Hicks turns the mike over to Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn

J. Morris Hicks turns the mike over to Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn

You might be wondering right now why J. Morris Hicks didn’t tell his friend Mike about preventing and reversing most chronic disease with nothing more than a whole foods, plant-based diet? Actually, in August of 2008, I arranged for Dr. Esselstyn to speak at our yacht club in Stonington. He spoke to a packed house and then we all enjoyed a health-promoting meal that had been designed by his wife Ann for the event.

But how many people took heed? Not many. Oh, some may have thought about what they were eating for a few days, but would soon forget about it when they next visited their own doctor. That’s because there’s about a 95% chance that their own doctor would be eating some version of the S.A.D. him/herself—meat, dairy, eggs and processed foods three meals a day, 365 days a year.

A truly sad situation. How many more unnecessary deaths will occur before our health care professionals start telling us the truth about the primary cause of chronic disease? How can you help accelerate the process?

The Bottom Line. Even though the news is out there quite a bit these days, people are not likely to “radically” change their diet-style until they get crystal clear advice from their own medical doctor. Even though President Clinton went public with his heart-healthy vegan diet in 2010 and even though CNN aired the powerful “Last Heart Attack” special with Dr. Sanjay Gupta in 2011—most people are not going to change their eating habits until they start hearing it from their doctors.

Mike would probably still be alive today if he’d been getting “Dr. Esselstyn” type of advice from the five or six doctors who comprised his health “care” team. What can you do to help spread the word? What can you do to help your doctor discover the powerful disease-reversing truths that were discovered over a half-century ago? Here’s what you can do: Prevent Reverse

  1. Ask your doctor to watch “The Last Heart Attack.” If he/she hasn’t seen it when you go for your next visit, get a new doctor until you find one that will listen. You want a doctor who will learn to promote health—even though it doesn’t pay as well as “managing disease.” “The Last Heart Attack” CNN
  2. Give a copy of Dr. Esselstyn’s book to your doctorClick here to purchase Prevent/Reverse on Amazon. Again, if he/she doesn’t read it and discuss it with you, get a new doctor.
  3. Send this blogpost to all of your friends and ask them to see if they can get their doctors to watch “The Last Heart Attack” and read Dr. Esselstyn’s book.

Aside from the millions of unnecessary deaths in the United States each year, the cost of “managing disease” is bankrupting our nation. It’s also beginning to impact our defense spending and jeopardizing our national security. Not only that, the way we eat is the leading cause of global warming, it is grossly unsustainable and would require over two planet Earths to feed all seven billion of us if everyone ate the way we do in America. 

Finally, do all of the above for the future “Mikes” out there who are totally unaware of the disease that is quietly going about putting their heart out of business.

Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from

Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Survey. It takes less than five minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to

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J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4Leaf page or some great recipes at Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen.

Got a question? Let me hear from you at Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.

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—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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7 Responses to How many people do you know that have heart disease?

  1. Rich Revell says:

    Well done Jim… I thought this blog was extremely well written… Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. Bernadine T. Shea says:

    Jim, Thank you for sharing this sad story and using the information to teach others a lesson. You do a great job in trying to get the message out! Hopefully more people will start to listen and implement change in their lives. Some how I’m not sure this will happen anytime soon……..
    It is so frustrating and disturbing! Thank you again for all that you do! Bernadine

  3. Great post, Jim. I re-posted it on the “New Atkins” con thread:

    I encourage your readers to go there and sign in to their Amazon account, then vote “adds to the discussion.” There are nine+ rabid Atkins/Paleo mean-spirited characters that hang out there and vote NO on D.M.’s and my posts. I generally ignore them and use the site as a place to post/link materials by the “Healthy Lifestyle” experts that find the WFPB nutrition as best for all reasons!

  4. km says:

    My condolences to you & his family.

    You never know what impact your words & this experience may have on his circle of loved ones. A primary motivation for me to become a vegetarian and later vegan was due to watching my grandmother suffer from a stroke when I was a young child. She spent the last 10 years of her life confined to a wheel chair partially paralyzed. I couldn’t believe it when I found out that the stroke was caused by diet. My parents didn’t hear the message & change our diet, but I did when I went to college & was able to make my own food choices at 18. Hopefully his family & friends will take away the same lesson that I did. So sorry for your loss.

  5. Robert Thatcher says:

    So sorry to hear about your friend, and thanks for sharing this story. Your blog posts are such a support here in the deep south where there’s not quite as much openness to a plant-based eating. It’s the birthplace of Krystal, Little Debbie and Coke – and now Tennessee is 47th in the country in overall health. It’s hard to stand by and watch this happen…when you know what’s causing it. I’ve been plant-based for three years and have yet to have one “convert,” even when I show that my cholesterol is down from 320 to 150. But the tide is turning. A few of my friends are now veg-curious, and like it when I forward blog posts like this. It was the experience of watching someone I loved die too soon that converted me. It was that experience and, a few days later, a timely PBS special featuring Dr. Neal Barnard. He said try it for 30 days. I did and never looked back. I don’t like being preachy…or “one of those vegans.” But I must speak up when I see friends touting paleo…or another fad diet. Any tips for how to effectively share the plant based message with friends?

  6. Sal Liggieri says:

    The good doctors say that our SAD and health care is going to bankrupt the nation. Most Americans won’t change so when will this bankruptcy happen?

  7. Joanne Irwin says:

    Sorry to hear of your friend’s untimely death. I can certainly relate to your sadness and frustration when people you care about turn a deaf ear to life saving health. I know! I’m living with that someone, and it’s maddening, but everyone has choices. In our Florida community with 380 units, I showed Forks Over Knives two weeks ago. 14 people attended! 14!!!!! 14 out of a few hundred, most of whom are overweight and obese, and struggling with a myriad of health issues. Many came up to metro say they WISHED they could have viewed the documentary, but excuses took precedence. Yet, the 14 attending we’re meant to be there, and goddess willing, the info will help them achieve their desired health changes and goals. The good news is that word is spreading, and moreand more people are taking notice.
    Good story………in early March a woman attended a Food for Life class I facilitated at a local Church. The day before the class she saw her doctor in Ft. Myers, who’s vegan and lifestyle internist. His recommendation…….eat plant based. She told me that she came to my class at a friend’s suggestion, but not fully knowing what class was about. After class, she signed up for the April series. She’s now lost 20 pounds effortlessly and her cholesterol is In normal range. These are the success stories that keep me going, and touch the lives of many skeptics.
    Good to see you blogging again, Jim. You’re making a difference in many lives. Be well!

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