“There are two kinds of cardiologists: vegans and those who haven’t read the data.”
Dr. Kim Williams
Heart health is serious business.
Serious as a heart attack, as the saying goes, given that currently 1 out of every 3 people in America die from cardiovascular disease (CVD) – our #1 killer.
According to the American College of Cardiology, CVD currently accounts for approximately 800,000 deaths in US. Among Americans, an average of one person dies from CVD every 40 seconds. Right now more than 90 million Americans carry a diagnosis of CVD. And over 45% of non-Hispanic blacks in the United States live with heart disease.
But this isn’t just an American problem. On a global level, CVD is the single largest cause of death in developed countries and accounts for 31% of all mortalities.
If you take a moment to ponder these staggering statistics, you quickly realize just how vast the epidemic of heart disease has become.
And yet there is hope. Because this disease that’s debilitating and killing millions annually is entirely avoidable. It’s completely preventable. And it’s even reversible.
The solution begins with personal responsibility. It’s about what you put in your mouth. It encapsulates your lifestyle choices. And it extends to erecting systemic changes in our health care model to prioritize prevention over symptomatic treatment.
To walk us through these important issues I sat down with former American College of Cardiology president Kim Williams, M.D. — one of the most inspiring, intelligent and pioneering leaders in the growing movement to modernize how we think about, treat, avoid, and prevent our most onerous threat to human health.
A graduate of the University of Chicago and the Pritzker School of Medicine, Dr. Williams currently serves as Chief of the Division of Cardiology at Rush University Medical Center, and is board certified in Internal Medicine, Cardiovascular Diseases, Nuclear Medicine, Nuclear Cardiology and Cardiovascular Computed Tomography. In addition to his tenure as President of the American College of Cardiology (2015-16), Dr. Williams has also served as the President of the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology and Chairman of the Board of the Association of Black Cardiologists.
Tangential fun fact? Dr. Williams was also a teen chess champion before becoming Illinois’ No. 3 singles tennis player at 15 years old with no previous background in the sport. Faced with a choice between pursuing professional tennis or medicine, he chose medicine.
Back in 2003, Dr. Williams became concerned that his LDL cholesterol — the kind associated with an increased risk of heart disease — was too high. After some research into the positive benefits of adopting a plant-based diet, he decided to give it a shot. It worked, bringing his LDL down to normal levels. He then began prescribing his nutritional protocol to his patients. That worked too.
Then an interesting thing happened. Dr. Williams became president of the American College of Cardiology, a 49,000-member medical society that is the professional home base for the entire cardiology profession. This gave him a broad platform of authority to advance awareness and the legitimacy of a plant-based diet as both a treatment and preventive protocol for heart disease.
Today we unpack his story and probe the science, economics and politics behind nutrition and cardiovascular health on the road to avoiding, combating and ultimately overcoming America’s #1 killer. Specific topics covered include:
- the politics of industry influence on available information and clinical studies & its implications on education and public awareness;
- the primary contributing factors behind CVD, including a discussion on heme iron, cholesterol, saturated fat and sugar;
- the systemic changes, public programs and personal education we need to better guide the public towards healthier choices;
- how to avoid an unhealthy plant-based diet;
- the benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet on heart health; and
- The hows and whys behind Dr. Williams’ choice to adopt a plant-based lifestyle himself almost 15 years ago
This is a powerful and potentially life saving conversation. I hope you enjoy it. But more than that, I hope it impacts you to make better daily decisions concerning your health and well-being.
Peace + Plants,
Let’s get clean water to those in need
WE DID IT! From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who contributed to my charity: water birthday fundraising campaign. Together we have far exceeded my goal of raising $51,000. As of the date of this post, we have raised over $59,000 to bring clean water projects to those in need. To put this in proper perspective, that means that about 2,000 people will soon have access to clean water for the very first time, not counting future generations. In other words, you have literally breathed hope and life into communities, transforming their lives forever, which is about the coolest thing I can imagine. I couldn’t have done it without each and every one of you, so again I thank you, Scott Harrison thanks you, charity: water thanks you and everyone who will soon benefit from your generosity thanks you. The campaign will remain open through the end of this quarter, so if you would still like to contribute, you can. And there is good reason to — because right now 663 million people still live without clean water. To learn more and donate, visit: my.charitywater.org/richroll
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- Connect with Dr. Williams: RUSH Website | Twitter
- JACC: Healthy Plant-Based Diet What Does it Really Mean? by Kim Allan Williams Sr. and Hena Patel
- RUSH University Medical Center: Going Vegan: Why – and how to – adopt a plant-based diet by Jeffrey Soble, MD
- The New York Times: Advice From a Vegan Cardiologist by Anahad O’Connor
- Chicago Tribune: Top cardiologist touts vegan diet to patients by Julie Deardorff
- MD Magazine: Vegan Diet: It’s Powerful Medicine Kim Williams, MD, says in Q&A by Megan Daily
- Medpage Today: 10 Questions: Kim Williams, MD by Crystal Phend
- UCHICAGO Magazine: Heal Thyself by Jason Kelly
- Independent UK: Researchers ask ‘Is meat killing us?’ and their answer sounds like yes by Ian Johnston
- Forks Over Knives: Why the President of the American College of Cardiology Wants Heart Disease Patients to Eat Vegan Diets by Naomi Imatome-Yun
- Everyday Health: Why I Went Vegan for a Healthier Heart Keeping hearts healthy — including his own — is all in a day’s work for this cardiologist by Jennifer J. Brown, PhD
- Care 2: Another Cardiology Chief Goes Vegan. Convinced Yet? By Susan Bird
- Vegetarian News and Views: Cardiologist: Put us out of business, by going vegan!
- HuffPost: New BMJ Study May Fuel Confusion Over ‘Bad’ Fats by Dr. Neal Barnard
- ScienceDaily: High animal protein intake associated with higher, plant protein with lower mortality rate
- The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: Heart Health: Kim Williams MD
- Video: WVIA: Dr. Kim Williams: Taking the Die Out of Diet
- YouTube: Dr Kim Williams: exposes the true cause of Heart Disease | John McDougall MD
- YouTube: Dr Kim Williams talks about being the first VEGAN President of the American College of Cardiology | John McDougall MD
- Film: What The Health
- Film: Eating You Alive
- Film: Forks Over Knives*
Notable People Discussed
- Dr. Scott Stoll: Board certified specialist in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
- Dean Ornish: physician and founder of Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California
- Dan Buettner: National Geographic Fellow, Blue Zones founder, NY Times bestselling author of The Blue Zones Solution* and (2x) podcast guest
- Dr. Neal Barnard: American doctor, author, founding president of PCRM and podcast guest
- Joel Kahn M.D.: healthy heart MD. University professor, author, public speaker and (2x) podcast guest
- Dr. Robert Ostfeld: Plant-based cardiologist, Director of Preventive Cardiology at Montefiore NYC and podcast guest
- Dr. Michelle McMacken: plant-based primary care physician and podcast guest
- Julieanna Hever: “The Plant-Based Dietitian“, author, speaker, health and fitness expert, lifestyle coach and podcast guest
- Jonathan Fields: award-winning author, media-producer, entrepreneur and (2x) podcast guest
- David Jenkins: Professor in the department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto, Canada
- Dr. Salim Yusuf: president of the World Heart Federation, a world-renowned cardiologist and epidemiologist
- Dr. Tazewell Banks: physician, educator and pioneer
- Regina Benjamin MD: 18th US Surgeon General, Wellness and Prevention Advocate, Family Physician
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