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Dr. Rajiv Misquitta Healed His Heart With a Vegan Diet

Dr. Rajiv Misquitta Healed His Heart With a Vegan Diet

When Dr. Rajiv Misquitta experienced his first heart attack he had just turned forty and said his life was going extremely well. His medical practice was thriving, he had two young sons, and he had just been elected to the board of a prestigious national group of physicians. But despite being a doctor charged with helping other people achieve wellness Dr. Misquitta says that,

“Nutrition and lifestyle were not really on my radar.” 

He was driving to work one cold November morning when he suddenly experienced chest pain and shortness of breath. Dr. Misquitta says that vivid memories of his father’s heart attack at age 49 flashed through his mind as he stepped on the gas to make it to the parking lot of the hospital where he worked a few miles away. Misquitta says he barely made it through the doors of the ER without fainting. He recalls,

“I turned to my emergency medicine physician colleague and said the words you never want to hear ‘I think I’m having a heart attack.'”

Eating animal products causes deposits of fat to accumulate and clog your arteries and blood vessels. (Graphic: Healing With Plants)
When Dr. Misquitta saw the EKG it was clear to him that he was having a heart attack but his blood tests confirmed his suspicion. He was rushed to the operating room where two stents were places in his coronary arteries. He recalls,

“As I lay in the recovery room with a sandbag on my leg to stem any bleeding, I was struck with worry about what the future held for me. I had just shattered my youthful illusion of being indestructible.”

At first Dr. Misquitta switched to the diet recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA) which excludes most meat except fish and olive oil, but his heart disease continued to progress. Four months later after experiencing chest pains while exercising he was rushed to the emergency room where he was told he would need bypass surgery. He writes,

“This was a horrifying thought as I had scrubbed on these procedures as a medical student. I had once again switched roles from being a physician to a patient, and I felt powerless in the wake of this terrifying disease.”

After undergoing bypass surgery Dr. Misquitta was determined to become even stronger and prevent a heart scare from every happening again. He knew that modern heart medications and surgeries were treatments of the symptoms, not the cause, of heart disease. These drugs and procedures at best would delay heart disease from advancing, but he wanted a cure. It was his desire to heal his heart that led to discovering the research of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. Dr. Misquitta writes,

“Fortunately, I stumbled upon the peer reviewed research, published by Drs. Dean Ornish and Caldwell Esselstyn, which showed intensive lifestyle changes can halt and even reverse heart disease.  I made a drastic change to my diet, following their recommendations, and gave up animal products and switched to a low fat whole-foods, plant-based diet. I also turned my attention towards finding ways of dealing with the increasing stressful demands of modern life.”

In his quest for healing Dr. Misquitta even became a certified personal trainer and yoga teacher. His lifestyle and diet changes worked – he lost 25 pounds and says he never felt better. He also made it his mission to help others make positive changes in their lifestyle. Dr. Misquitta and his wife published the book Healthy Heart, Healthy Planet which helps people switch to a low-fat plant-based diet and provides simple recipes. Dr. Misquitta now educates patients on how diet and lifestyle impact their health. He writes,

“I began to advocate a whole food plant-based diet to my patients. And for those who were able to follow it, the changes were dramatic. Their medicines were reduced and in some cases their chronic illness such as diabetes and sleep apnea were even reversed.”

Dr. Misquitta didn’t stop there, he also became a plant-based chef to better understand taste and flavor of healthy foods. He realized the complexity of making a change in behavior and has been experimenting with plant-based kitckstarts, plant-based health educators, and other innovative lifestyle interventions.  He is now principal investigator of a clinical trial called H.A.L.T. (or Health Achieved Through Lifestyle Transformation) that works with heart disease and diabetes patients to facilitate a lifestyle transformation. The interventions include a whole foods plant-based diet, stress reduction, and exercise. Dr. Misquitta says the innovative programs are having early promising results:

“Our preliminary results show a reduction in weight, HbA1c, cholesterol and systolic blood pressure. It is truly gratifying to witness the transformation on the lives of our patients. We have since developed a plant-based pre-diabetes program that is also beginning to show good results in its early phase.”

The new programs spearheaded by Dr. Misquitta have prompted creation of the first department of Lifestyle Medicine at the South Sacramento Kaiser Permanente Medical Center.
Nine years after his heart attack and heart operations Dr. Misquitta says he exercises 6 days a week and feels better than ever. The doctor has a new outlook on life saying,

“The true epiphany for me was the realization that the foundational pillars of our health aren’t in high tech procedures or fancy drugs, but in what we eat, how much we exercise, how we deal with stress, our sleep habits, and our connection with others. As a nation, we cannot afford to continue building more hospitals, performing more surgeries and dispensing more medication. We will need to stop the rising tide of chronic illness that plagues our nation at the source.”

Watch Dr. Rajiv Misquitta talk about heart health on the local news channel. ###

February is Heart Health Month in America. Heart Disease is the leading cause of preventable deaths today. Many people have regained their heart health simply by eating more plants and at Healing With Plants we are spreading the good news! Stay tuned for more inspiring stories from real people who have cured heart disease with diet. Healing With Plants is a holistic health education website empowering people to heal themselves at home, with plants.

Cath Misquitta, Plant-based diet to reduce heart disease, lose weight, and preserve the environment
KCRA.com, "Kaiser Permanente Doctor Chats About Heart..."
The Plantrician Project, Rajiv Misquitta


Reya Steele Andrews

Reya (Steele) Andrews is a holistic health writer, educator, and publisher at Healing With Plants. Reya is a certified Holistic Nutritionist (AFPA), is certified in Plant-based Nutrition, and teaches nutrition science and healthy food preparation. Find her book, The Frugivore Diet, on Amazon.

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