Invitation to the Zipper Club

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It has been almost six years since my quadruple bypass surgery.  However, not a day goes by I am not reminded of it.  Physically, I feel great but always aware of day to day aches and pains.  Sometimes my chest hurts, sometimes my left arm hurts, sometimes I have flutters and I wonder if its related to my disease or just normal occurrences that happen to everyone.

I learned a lot about myself in the year directly following my surgery.  I formulated a plan, a course of action to reverse the disease.  I wrote a book, outlining the plan, and blogged religiously for several years.  However, the effort seemed to gather no momentum.  Wholefed.org had an enthusiastic following but the platform was limited.

Recently I came across MightyBell.  A platform dedicated to building communities.  Empowering “Identity Networks” with tools generally reserved for big budget, computer savvy individuals.  Gina Bianchini, founder of MB, is on a mission to change that!  My friend, Sara Lucas, is hosting BeyondType1 on MightyBell and her growth is staggering.  More importantly, her members are interacting in a way not possible before. The mobile app is robust and is validating the this medium as the future.

I want us to build the first fully interactive community for those of us who have had or will have Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery.  The procedure is tough and the recovery is tougher. 600,000 Americans will have the surgery this year and as of yet, we are not socially connected.  Like it or not, we will always have an association with the surgery.

Please visit ZipperClub and share.  I invite you to be a founding member!

Your friend,

Ian

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? left or right the to future the Is

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A few weeks ago  I was researching a project and I needed an image of a stick man walking to the left.  As I searched Google images – “stick man walking” – 85 of 100 images portrayed Stickman walking to the right.  (Interesting, “stick woman walking” only produced one image of an actual “stick woman” so I will stick with stick man for this observation).

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Google Images – “stick man walking” 85% moving left to right

Why to the right?  Are we in some way pre-wired to draw Stickman walking right?  I asked a couple groups of people to draw Stickman walking.  With a few exceptions Stickman was moving from left to right across the page.

Making a leap to a bigger question, one with more meat on the bones; I then asked some friends to draw Stickman walking towards the future.  With a few exceptions, and a few “who gives a shit” (you know who you are) – again a vast majority of responses had Stickman heading right.

Interesting.  Do we think of the future as the right hand side of a piece of paper. Ella, my ever pragmatic niece, pointed out that timelines move left to right and naturally we mentally follow that template when thinking about time.  So on paper it seems, history is always to the left and the future is to the right.

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Granted my research was done in U.S., I decided to focus on the exceptions.  An Israeli friend commented he would have Stickman moving left towards future.  Hebrew writing moves right to left.  Maybe it was simply the writing direction our language uses?  A Lebanese friend, (also right to left in arabic), responded without hesitation to my question – Stickman would be walking east, because that is where the sun rises and that is the future.  East or aus-to means the dawn or towards the sunrise.

Now things were starting to get interesting.  A compass has East on the right side.

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East on the right

East on the right, towards the rising sun bringing us the new day, the future.

Great that solves it.  Stickman walks East because the sun rises in the East and in most religions the rising sunrise represents the future.  Guess it has nothing to do with which way you choose to write words on a piece of paper.

But… I think of the future to the west.  Go west young man.  As my day passes I sense time moving towards sunset.  So I asked myself a fundamental question, which way was the Earth rotating as I sit right now?  Do you know which direction you are rotating through space at 1,000 mph?  Did you think that you were moving at all?   I actually felt a little dizzy pondering this.  I live in California and I “felt” I was moving towards the sunset every day.  It is unsettling to think I was moving in another direction.

Well, it is not uncommon to have the sensation the sun moves through the sky as we stand still.  Although we have understood the earth is not the center of the universe for quite some time, I don’t think a lot of us think about it much.  For a long time some people felt perfectly comfortable thinking about the world as flat.

Fantasy map of a flat earth

Fantasy map of a flat earth — Image by © Antar Dayal/Illustration Works/Corbis

So what’s the takeaway, is there a reason to contemplate this at all?  I think so.

Stickman is actually very close minded in his – only one direction to the future mentality.

We live in a global theatre now.  We are connected as a species and interact outside of our locales with people from all corners of the world.  It is important to understand cultural assumptions.  But it is equally important to think about these assumptions and pull them apart.  At some point in history, the first timeline could have moved right to left.  And maybe somewhere in our distant past, as mankind began to understand the heavens decided the night represented the future and sunset was the beginning of a new day.

For now, I will think  about my left to right bias, and observe the potential effects it has on my ability to interpret the world with an open attitude.

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This might look very odd to some people.

IRW

We Need to Turn Around & Step Forward

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Throughout history, we can identify moments that occur that can only be attributed to a paradigm shift in public opinion. They generally precede government policy. These moments are generally brief but are the harbinger of huge changes in culture and eventually policy.

We are in the midst of a monumental shift in the perception of nutrition and the global benefits that can come from this change. At the core of the change is people want to live well; but they also want to leave something behind for subsequent generations.

The current state of affairs for Americans is abysmal. We are sick. We are the fattest society on Earth.  Eighty percent of our chronic diseases – heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and cancer – can be directly attributed to obesity. More than 35 percent of the adult population and nearly 17 percent of children qualify as obese (Federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, and the Journal of the American Medical Association; January 17, 2012).

We have spent billions of dollars on drugs, surgery and health care. Current estimates put U.S. healthcare spending at approximately 16 percent of Gross Domestic Production. That’s $2.4 trillion. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services expects that the health share of GDP will continue its historical upward trend, reaching 19.5 percent of GDP by 2017.

We have created trillion-dollar industries supported solely by our sickness … and to what avail? What have we accomplished? We are getting nowhere closer to healing anything. In fact, the sicker we get, the bigger the institutions that thrive on our sickness become. It’s a classic Catch-22 situation.

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The Standard American Pill Plan

I recently did a study of the Standard & Poor’s 500. The S&P 500 is comprised of the 500 largest American companies and represents 75 percent of the U.S. equity market.

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I identified the largest companies in the U.S. that have a majority of their revenue reliant on: Food/Beverages, Drugs, Health Care, Consumer and Insurance.

The problem for this market is that it is unsustainable. The obesity market is literally “eating” the hand that feeds it. You cannot profit indefinitely by killing off your customers. Meanwhile, we continue to assault our environment in a fashion that is accelerating beyond a point of no return.

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I made an interesting observation while reading an essay written by Brian Treanor, from Loyola Marymount University. “Blame it on capitalism, the single pursuit of maximizing profit and unrestrained growth as first principles, pursues technology and development with short-term gains in mind and with little if any substantive concern for the long-term impact on the environment and human well-being.”

The nutrition movement and the green movement are on similar paths and both share similar characteristics.

We cannot escape by forging on, resolutely and regardless, driven by the unmitigated inertia of our outworn habits, until we have forced ourselves over the brink in the ‘giant step for mankind’ nobody needs. When you have reached the edge of an abyss, the only progressive move you can make is to step backward … – Rees

The solution for a lot of the world’s problems may be to turn around and take a forward step.” — Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia Founder)

There exists an inflection point where the chart turns. It is the point, as a nation, when we face the abyss and turn away … and take a step forward; a step toward our personal well-being and the health of the earth. “This is not a return to the past, but a step toward a different future.”  (Brower, Sierra Club)

Mark Bittman recently commented in the New York Times: “Five years ago, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization published a report called, ‘Livestock’s Long Shadow,’ which maintained that 18 percent of greenhouse gases were attributable to the raising of animals for food. The number was startling. A couple of years later, however, it was suggested that the number was too small. Two environmental specialists for the World Bank, Robert Goodland (the bank’s former lead environmental adviser) and Jeff Anhang, claimed, in an article in ‘World Watch,’ that the number was more like 51 percent. It’s been suggested that the number is extreme, but the men stand by it, as Mr. Goodland wrote to me this week: ‘All that greenhouse gas isn’t emitted directly by animals.’ But according to the most widely used rules of counting greenhouse gases, indirect emissions should be counted when they are large and when something can be done to mitigate or reduce them.”

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Good for you, good for the planet

 

The solution is to promote a society that is not dependent on animal protein. This is the moment where two parallel causes can unite. By moving to a plant-based diet, we can step away from the abyss. By eliminating our need for animal protein, we are drastically reducing our carbon footprint. It takes a considerable amount of energy to raise animals for nutrition. The turn and step forward is our new approach toward your own well-being, a life that is well lived and nutritionally sound.

In one simple act, we can embrace two life-changing causes – one cause for you, one cause for everyone.

A few years ago, I was surrounded by my wife’s family. She had lost 30 pounds in less than six months of starting a plant-based lifestyle. My brother-in-law and mother-in-law lost 50 pounds between them. I had lost 35 pounds in the same period. I observed that we were missing an entire person worth of fat at the table. We were not feeding 115 pounds of excess weight. That’s 730,000 calories a year of unused energy. Apply that 20 percent weight loss across 300 million people. … Imagine the reductions in energy needs. Forget about electric cars and solar panels, about “drill, drill, drill;” forget about it all.

I want to share a little secret. It is very simple and the skeptics among us will doubt its effectiveness based on its simplicity. Eat plants and step away from the abyss.

A Priest, A Surgeon & A Plant-Based Guy Walk Into a Hospital

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Have you heard this one?

After my bypass surgery in 2011, at the age of 40, I can spot the “walking dead” a mile away.  I can see all the signs that took me so long to recognize myself.  Red faces, swollen necks, short breaths, pot bellys, cleft ear lobes and denial.

My normal routine is walking past a local bar, on my way to Bikram Yoga.  One of these “walking dead” is a gentleman that works in my building.   We spoke from time to time, post my surgery, and he always turned the conversation to how well he was feeling.  Yet every time I saw him he looked terrible.  This particular time he was at the bar and came out to comment on my yoga mat.  “Are you a full on hippie now?  Wasn’t it enough being a vayyyygan…?”

Fast forward three months, his secretary notified me that he just underwent quadruple bypass surgery.  I decided to pay him a visit from Karma.

I was excited at the opportunity to speak with him and deep down, dare I say this; happy it happened?  Not in a vindictive way, more excited at the potential for him to validate my own transformation and find his own path to well-being.

I brought him a copy of The China Study and Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease and my wife’s business card. She has her plant-based diet certification from Dr. T. Colin Campbell (author of the China Study) and consults regularly.

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I was kinda like an ambulance chaser. I imagined myself rooming the ICU in search of heart disease sufferers.

There exists a very small window of opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. Approaching someone six days after bypass surgery is one of those moments, talk about a captive audience, he wasn’t going anywhere!

I'm listening...

I’m listening…

I think it is a moment missed by most doctors. It occurs at the time when you are most vulnerable but also when you are the most open to new ideas. I spent six days in the hospital after my surgery and not once was I approached about changing my nutrition. No one spoke to me about the causes of neither my disease nor my ability to reverse it. As a matter of fact, each meal consisted of milk, meat & eggs; the same food that clogged my arteries.  No one spoke to me about reversing the disease.

Back to my visit.

As I was preparing to say goodbye the heart surgeon walked in and was about to go over the discharge procedure. I mentioned I was the welcome wagon for the “zipper club” and showed him my scar as a sort of identification tag. He briefly diverted his gaze for a quick smile but was staring at the China Study book I had brought in. I was about to comment but I thought twice about drawing more of his attention to it. I wasn’t confident his opinion would be positive. It has been my experience that doctors don’t give much credence to nutrition as a means to fix problems. I believe it is a direct result of dealing with patients. Compliance is incredibly low even prescribing one pill a day, much less changing every piece of food a patient eats.  Anyway, surgeons fix things; they are not in the business of prevention.

So I made my exit from the patient and surgeon. As I walked down the hall a priest came out of an adjacent room, he had just given last rites and I could see the family was in distress.

It was not until later that day that I realized the irony of the situation.

Wait for it…drum roll…

The Surgeon will fix your immediate problem.

The Priest will send you to heaven.

The Plant-Based Guy can save you.

 

A Fragile String Can Cross a Chasm

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Twin Towers, New York City

Twin Towers, New York City

September 11, 2001.

At 8:46am it would have been possible to rig a wire from One World Trade to Two World Trade.

At 8:47am it would not have been.

The picture above portrays a plane flying past the World Trade Center at the exact moment a man fulfills his destiny, the irony is overwhelming.

This picture was taken 26 years prior to September 11, 2001 and it is a chilling harbinger of the events to come. The year was 1974, when Philippe Petit decided to unite the Twin Towers with an expression of human willpower. He strung a wire from the top of the two towers and walked across.

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Philippe’s destiny was determined as the Towers where being dreamt of by Minoru Yamasaki, the architect. Two completely different men. One in pursuit of reaching the heavens and one in pursuit of connecting them.

So as Minoru’s destiny moves him to building the Twin Towers, another destiny conspires to destroy them; Osama Bin Laden.

As if the grandiose of the Twin Towers could only attract the most grandiose of people, the super-egos and the iconoclasts; with ambitions that eclipse life itself.

Philippe remarked, as he took his first step, that he felt death was very near. Yet he had no choice but to step forward. It is saddening, the accuracy of his insight on that day; not to realize that 26 years later, 200 people would stare down the exact same view and make the same decision to step forward, without a wire. They also felt death was near.

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We don’t see these life altering events often; the unimaginable. We rarely see events that cause us to blink an eye. A man jumps from 120,000 feet or rides a 100 foot ocean wave, and it generates barely a pulse of interest.

felix-baumgartner-space-jump                          surf30n-3-web

Yet, within the same square footage on a block in south Manhattan we experience not one but two, once in a life time events. Why?

The Twin Towers stood tall, equally impressive and equally individual. Although they stood equally tall they opposed each other. As if they represented two different ideologies. Yet both were brought down simultaneously. Both ideologies suffered at the same time.

The only solution to the eternal struggle of mankind is to realize that we can only succeed together. United we stand, divided we fall”

Any issue can be represented by the Twin Towers. politics, gun control , abortion, immigration, gay, straight, right or wrong… Imagine the Twin Towers whenever you face opposing view points, and then imagine the destruction of both.

Philippe connected the two towers with his journey across the chasm and when his walk was complete both towers were symbolically stronger.

Philippe united the world with a fragile string and an unwavering ambition to cross a chasm.

When faced with the 1000ft chasm that separated him from his goal, he used a bow and arrow and launched his string 300ft to the other side. His string grew to a rope and then a wire and eventually the bond was strong enough to connect the opposing forces.

We should all strive to make those connections, to be the force that brings opposing forces together.

The wire is fragile yet the whole world wants to see its strength. The world yearns for a man walking across a wire, connecting two opposing forces.

We desperately need more events like Phillipe’s, events that unite us as a people. Our world consists of a never-ending deluge of negativity; events that are beyond imagination, beyond comprehension.

The human race needs to gravitate to the moments in life that can be sewn together; marriage, children, love. Find instances in your own life that are diametrically opposed and be the attraction that forms a unified weld.

Like the man on the wire we continue to march forward, unaware of the plane on its collision course with our lives.

We march forward because we are driven by our destinies, our ambitions. Some of us tip-toe forward with caution and some move forward with reckless abandonment, toying with the fragility of the wire.

Society tests our limitations, inches to the left or inches to the right, what cause can move us off our path.

Yet we inch forward towards our future.

The wire also represents how fragile life is and the constant reminder that it can be over in the blink of an eye.

Like the falling men and women below; they wished to live for one more minute. Value every minute as if it were your last. Not a living person on this planet can share their thoughts in those final moments. It is a place only those who have made the decision can share. It is not a suicide decision; it is a decision to live.

A leap to live on more moment...

A leap to live on more moment.

We all move forward towards our goals. Minoru, Bin Laden & Philippe. And as our goals are fulfilled another’s goals are only beginning to be imagined.

Live your life as if you were walking on a high wire and in your final moments, leap forward with the confidence and pride that you have lived life well.

Authors note: For a long time I have imagined the desperation of the individuals that were forced to jump and it always reduces me to tears. I have found some comfort in attempting to place myself in those shoes, and perhaps naively, hoping that my final leap would be a peaceful moment. I think of all of you that jumped that day often and can only hope that peace has found you. Ian

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IRW

We All Have Heart Disease

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Since my heart disease diagnosis in 2011 and subsequent quadruple bypass surgery at the age of 40, I have learned a few things.I had no plan and it ended in a hospital. I do not want to go back.

“The imaging tests left little room for doubt. They showed thickened heart muscles and increased muscle mass in the left ventricle — both signs of heart disease. But the troubling scans didn’t belong to ailing adults. They belonged to obese children, some as young as 8. This was surprising and alarming to us, said Linyuan Jing, the lead author behind new findings being presented this week at an American Heart Association gathering in Florida. At such a young age, [children have] already developed clear evidence of heart disease.”

In autopsy studies of our GI’s who died in the Vietnam and Korean wars almost 80% at an average age of 20 years, had disease that could be seen without a microscope. Forty years later in 1999, a study of young persons between the ages of 16-34 years who have died of accidents, homicides and suicides, finds the disease is now ubiquitous. (Source: Esselstyn)

Prevention is no longer a realistic approach in the battle against heart disease. We must consider a different angle of attack.

We all have heart disease.

The number one reason we are not winning the battle against heart disease?  We are focused on prevention.  We need to reverse it, not prevent it.

By simply focusing on reversing heart disease versus preventing it a plethora of great things happen.

  • We can diagnose everyone.  No longer will the first symptoms – heart attack, angina, high blood pressure, high cholesterol – be the first time a sufferer learns of their disease.
  • Reversing heart disease versus preventing it, moves the plan from defense to attack.  No one ever moves forward on defense.  Offense is the place to be when it comes to heart disease.

Here’s my plan.

Reverse My Heart Disease (RMHD), is a three step action plan designed to reverse the progression of heart disease at any age.

Step 1. Diagnosis

Heart disease is diagnosed via; EKG, Echocardiogram, Stress Test, Carotid & Intimal Thickness Test, CT Scan, Angiogram & Cardiac Catheterization.

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Typical non-dimensional image

The data generated from these tests is presented numerically, using graphs or x-ray like images.  RMHD moves beyond, numerical data / graphs and presents heart disease in a completely novel way.  It will use the latest advancements in data visualization tools to create 3D graphic rich animations of the disease (eg. Computed Tomography Angiogram).

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We can’t fix it, if we can’t see it.

By presenting the disease visually, we make it real.  By aggregating the data over the course of a lifetime we will be able to visually milestone the disease from onset to reversal.

Step 2Treatment

The RMHD plan will specifically outline treatment for the reversal of heart disease.  It will incorporate an aggressive assault on the obvious causative factors – lifestyle and genetics – using medicine therapy in conjunction with nutrition and lifestyle changes. There is a growing base of studies validating the reversal of heart disease.  Plant-based nutrition offers the most exciting results as the damage to the endothelium is reversed.  Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Colin Campbell & Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn all doing exceptional work here and the RMHD plan looks to engage those doctors and build on their progress.

Step 3.  Recovery

Imagine being able to see more – knowing what your body looks like inside – then watching in real time the progress you make as you reverse the disease.

The RMHD plan will visually show the reversal of the disease.  We will use the same data visualization tools in the diagnosis phase to provide measurable achievements in the recovery phase.  Compliance rates will drastically improve with the addition of an incentive based plan.  The plan will also use an array of test to show improvement.  We will regularly test inflammation, cholesterol and carotid arteries.  All of these tests will aggregate to the central visualization model.

Why is this approach different?

The assumption is heart disease is preventable.  However, as I pointed out earlier, the data suggests otherwise.  By the time we are adolescents, we have heart disease.  The limiting factor to the progression of the disease is treatment.  We all have heart disease.  By including everyone, we move to an offensive position.

525,000 Americans a year have their first heart attack.  Over 1/3 have normal cholesterol numbers.  The standard approach today misses 33% of heart attack sufferers!  50% of these people will die.  

Too many people are waiting far too long to address the disease and the medical industry has no opportunity to reverse the disease prior to the episode (heart attack, angina, high BP, high cholesterol, etc.).  The RMHD plan will provide the health care practitioner a template to discuss and diagnosis heart disease early in its progression.  It will also outline a comprehensive plan versus relying solely on statin of blood pressure therapy to mask underlying causative factors.

More than one million Americans will be diagnosed with heart disease this year (heart attack, stent intervention or bypass surgery) and generally enter this phase with no plan other than medicine.  The RMHD will provide this group a structured approach to reverse the disease; moving away from the standard practice of providing minimal data to sufferers.  Other than checkups, this group of post-diagnosis patients has no formal plan of action offering an improvement in their condition.  Without any formal goals, and no way to visually engage these patients, compliance to recommended treatments is low.

Summary

It is frustrating to see how many people are affected by heart disease.  In most cases, heart disease is reversible.  We have made enormous strides in the early diagnosis of cancer, diabetes and other diseases but heart disease seems to languish.  Presumably because it is lifestyle related… I contend there is no comprehensive plan of action being presented.

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I recently submitted this plan to an open application at One Brave Idea.  I was inspired to think about my “brave idea” to end heart disease.  The project is funded, $75M, and invited anyone to participate.  Dr. Andy Conrad  at Verily (Google), the American Heart Association and Astra Zeneca spearheaded the idea and funding.  I hope whoever is awarded the team leader position, they will incorporate a macro approach – including the “best of the best” into an action plan.

About Me

On March 23, 2011, I had quadruple bypass surgery at the age of 40.  It was singularly the most influential event in my life and in hindsight I would not change a thing.  I am glad it happened.  It took a life threatening situation to become the person I am today.  My passion is helping people understand the situation they are in, and offer a plan of attack to reverse the course.  I write a blog, visited by over 100,000 people at WholeFed.org.  I also wrote a book; Instead of Flowers.

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My encounter with a killer.  Sorry for image, but let’s put a face on this disease.

 

 

Ian Welch