Former president Clinton getting heart-healthy on vegan diet?

Although he once lived on cheeseburgers, former president Bill Clinton now lives on a vegan diet, and is reaping the health benefits.

It has been obvious to onlookers that former president Bill Clinton has lost weight since he left the White House. He has, in fact, lost more than 20 pounds since that time, and credits a lifestyle that few would have believed possible for the cheeseburger-loving president: Bill Clinton became a vegan.

In a recent interview with CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Clinton indicated that he considered himself lucky that he did not die of a heart attack before changing his eating habits. In 2004, Clinton felt a tightness in his chest, which resulted in a quadruple bypass surgery to restore blood flow to his heart. And, just last year, Clinton had to have two stents inserted into his heart to open one of the veins from his earlier bypass. Dr. Dean Ornish, who had worked with the White House chefs, at first lady Hillary Clinton’s request, to create a healthier diet for the president, spoke with the president following the second procedure.

"I shared with him that because of his genetics, moderate changes in diet and lifestyle weren't enough to keep his disease from progressing,” Ornish said, CNN reported. “However, our research showed that more intensive changes change actually reverse progression of heart disease in most people.

"I told him, 'The friends that mean the most to me are the ones that tell me what I need to hear, not necessarily what I want to hear. And you need to know your genes are not your fate. And I say this not to blame you but to empower you. And I'm happy to work with you to whatever extent you want,'" Ornish recalled to CNN. They met a few days later, he said.

Clinton then decided to make profound changes in the way he eats.

Clinton has a family history of heart disease, making weight less of a concern than his genetics. Still, exercise and a new diet became a real focus for the former president. He began to realize that the extra cholesterol that he was consuming, despite cutting down on the total caloric intake of his daily diet, was adding to his heart problems. Now, he says he eats no meat, dairy, eggs and almost no oil. He told Dr. Gupta that he likes the veggies, fruits and beans that make up the bulk of his diet, and that he is trying to avoid doing any further damage to his blood vessels. He indicated that not only are his tests good, but that he feels good and has more energy.

Currently, he is trying to get to his goal weight of 185—a weight he has not been since he was 13.

Additionally, the Clinton Foundation is working with the American Heart Association, to help schools promote exercise and serve healthier lunches. Hopefully, Clinton told Dr. Gupta, this will keep children of today from experiencing the same heart troubles he has had to deal with as an adult.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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