Preventing Heart Attacks One Book At a Time

John Tanner uses a novel method to teach others a lesson that nearly cost him his life

John Tanner uses a novel method to teach others a lesson that nearly cost him his life

John Tanner Gives Away Vegan Nutrition Books In a Quest To Save Lives

John Tanner almost died on October 11, 2009. The 52 year old, cleared by his doctor as healthy, was running near his home, as he had done every morning for five years. Abruptly, without warning, he went into full cardiac arrest. With quick help from his neighbors, firemen, and medical professionals, John beat the 3% survival odds. In fact, in a couple of weeks, his cardiologist told him he could go back to his life “the way it was.”

John questioned this comforting directive, reasoning that his life “the way it was” had caused the heart attack and did not promise a long or healthy future. He began asking people what they knew about the causes of heart disease, and a friend suggested he read a magazine article by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.

John knew he was closing in on the information he needed to prevent future heart stoppages, and quickly went on to read books by Drs. Esselstyn and T. Colin Campbell; and from there connect online, through books, and in person with the leaders of whole foods, plant-based nutrition research. I met John at A Healthy Taste of South Bay Conference, and eagerly learned more about his story.

I asked John how hard it was to move from his former diet to a whole foods, plant-based diet. “I grew up in northern Minnesota, then we moved to Iowa. I was on a standard meat-and-potatoes diet. My Mom

Do you think something that costs this much can save your life? John does, and he is willing to share what that is

Do you think something that costs this much can save your life? John does, and he is willing to share what that is

told me vegetables were good for me, but she also gave me milk every day from our own cow, telling me it would make be strong. After my heart attack, I was motivated to change because I had just almost died. I lost several days of my life with no memory due to lack of oxygen to my brain. Giving up meat was easy; cheese was harder but I stopped eating dairy without too much problem. I still struggle daily with sweets – processed foods with lots of sugar and chocolate. Most of the time I can walk by it, but when my family keeps Oreos in the house, sometimes I’ll devour half a package. Ideally, my diet is a whole foods, plant-based diet with no oils and minimizing sugar and salt. I also steer away from nuts and other higher fat plants.”

John went on to share with me how his health has improved since he changed his diet. His risk factors are down: for example his cholesterol went from 188 pre-heart-attack to 144 now, with no meds. His glucose went from 111 to 104.

In the choice of pills or whole foods, John comes down solidly with the food. He has seen many health improvements since discontinuing meds

In the choice of pills or whole foods, John comes down solidly with the food. He has seen many health improvements since discontinuing meds

John did not feel better right away, however, when he changed his diet because he was on five medications after his heart attack. “I felt better as I got off the meds one by one,” John told me. “After I got off the blood thinners, I stopped bruising easily and watching my blood ooze out if I got a small cut. After I stopped taking blood pressure meds, I no longer felt woozy when I stood up. Finally, I got free of statins, against my doctor’s advice. When I stopped taking statins, my muscles no longer hurt when I exercised my 20 minutes a day. My cardiologist still does not support my choice to be medication-free, although he sees that it works. He does not tell his other patients about plant-based diets.”

John is a person who get things done. He started his first company with some fellow graduate students while earning his Ph.D. in Computer Science at Caltech, then after graduation started his own company Tanner Research, which just turned 25. Now John is devoting more and more of his energy to educating everyone he can on the life-saving benefits of a whole foods, plant-based diet through his nonprofit NuSci. When I asked John about NuSci’s mission, he answered without hesitation “To save lives through

John is intensely grateful to the team that saved his life. But he is far from eager to see the inside of an ambulance again, and wants you to be spared that experience as well

John is intensely grateful to the team that saved his life. But he is far from eager to see the inside of an ambulance again, and wants you to be spared that experience as well

education. One and half million Americans a year die needlessly because of diet choices. I want to help prevent as many deaths as I can.”

NuSci has an educational website and John gives presentations, but his novel tactic that grabbed my attention is to give away nutrition books and Forks Over Knives DVDs. At first he would just hand out books to anyone who would accept them, but then found out most were never read. So now he gives out coupons for free items at veg events, some doctors’ offices, and other likely spots. Since recipients have to go to a website to select and order their book or DVD, the ones who complete this process are the people most motivated to read what they get and use the information. This enables John to use limited dollars most effectively.

I asked John how he came up with this strategy. “When I first began understanding the benefits of a whole foods, plant-based diet, I was sharing all this information with my family, friends, and employees. Then I wanted to scale it up. I realized if someone had given me a book a year before my heart attack, it could have saved my life. Is my life worth $15 or $20? Of course! Is everyone else’s? Yes! I want to give away as many books as I can afford to,” John shared with me.

John Tanner is an inspiration. Read, educate yourself, and then share the knowledge. Save a life, starting with your own and spreading outwards.

You can learn more at www.nusci.org. And you can contact John Tanner at www.nusci.org/contact.

If you enjoyed this post, you may want to read about two plant-based physicians who are also spreading the word on preventing heart disease through diet.

Intrigued? Now you can use our Whole Foods Blog Finder to target informative, fun postings on whole foods, plant-based diets. Quick information at no cost!

Blog posting by Janice Stanger, Ph.D. Janice authored The Perfect Formula Diet: How to Lose Weight and Get Healthy Now With Six Kinds of Whole Foods. The book describes a whole foods, plant-based diet that supports heart health and a high energy life.

 

 

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2 Responses to “Preventing Heart Attacks One Book At a Time”

  1. Wow! What a great story! Thanks for sharing John’s story Janice. The world needs more caring individuals like John. I wish his physicians would genuinely acknowledge his path to better health using evidenced-based science of health and nutrition. They could help so many more of their patients by doing so.

  2. Shelley says:

    Wonderful. I love it when people give back. John Tanner is to be admired. And so are you! Love your blog!