When but a young fetus, I watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. I'll never forget the rippling horizontal lines of greys on a small television set showcasing a grainy techno-ghost bouncing around the lunar surface like the Pillsbury Dough Boy on acid.
Still, it was awe inspiring trying to wrap one's cerebrum around the significance of what was then happening in real-time. No screenwriter could have written the script any better. The "Spam in a Can" team on Apollo and the team on the ground supporting them were all true heroes in every sense of the word. People throw up the term "epic" haphazardly a lot in media these days, but that first landing on the moon literally defined the word "epic."
How sad and angry I was a few days ago to find out that Neil just had a "cardiac bypass operation." That's the sanitized syntax used to describe a quadruple bypass in which the patient is put on a heart-lung machine, chest cut open, blood vessels removed from a pig or the patient, and re-attached surgically to reconnect proper blood flow through the heart, chest sinkhole sown up, heart put back in the body's blood loop, and the comatose human hopefully revived. The doctors called this procedure on/for/in/on Armstrong a "success."
Oh really? That just means he survived the operation alive. Overall, it's a delaying tactic folks, as not only is there the risk of many after-surgery physical or mental complications (including dropping several I.Q. points because of taking the heart off-line), the "procedure" doesn't "cure" anything. The underlying causes of having four of your arteries to your heart blocked have not been eliminated. This surgery just keeps the human alive a little longer as long as he can tolerate (and accept) the quality of life experienced afterwards. Usually leads up to early death, or a heart transplant, then a slightly later death.
"In most people who have heart bypass surgery, the grafts stay open and work well for many years...This surgery does not prevent the coronary artery blockage from coming back." [Source]
Putting this in a larger perspective: around 500,000 bypass surgeries are performed in the United States each year, each costing anywhere from $50,000 to well above $100,000 each. That's $50 billion a year. Not an insignificant amount of health expenditures.
Ironic for me was that I had been watching "Forks Over Knives" online [here] when I happened to get word of Armstrong's surgery. I'd just watched world-class surgeon and clinician Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn talk about bypass surgery not being any solution, the cost of the operation(s), and how many unfortunate people will go through the onerous and misguided (my words) attempts to slow the progression to the inevitable death, totally ignorant of a real and tested alternative: a no-added oil/fat plant-based diet.
You see, if Neil had followed a no-added oil plant-based diet, the odds are extremely high that he wouldn't have had to have the surgery, that even if there were severe symptoms indicating, Dr. Esselstyn's 20+ years of peer-reviewed research (and to a similar degree, Dr. Ornish's) have shown heart disease can be reversed, and in theory, prevented. Esselstyn has successfully treated over 250 patients. Armstrong might easily have been (or be) one of them.
Heart Disease is the #1 killer of people in our country as well as the world. Some 800,000 people in the United States died of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in 2008, according to the recent 2012 study by the American Heart Association. Every 39 seconds, someone in this country has a stroke. Some fifty percent of those who have heart attacks showed NO symptoms beforehand that they had a physiological problem indicating that they were potentially in serious trouble.
As a nation, we are spending incredible numbers of billions of dollars NOT trying to cure heart disease, but slow it down. Yet, it's been established that through changes in diet and lifestyle, heart disease can be reversed, something the surgeons and cardiac specialists have not been able to do.
How sad. I remember John F. Kennedy challenging this Nation to the goal of putting a man (well, person) on the Moon by the end of the decade. There was this collective thrill and spirit amongst the populace, even through the turbulent late 1960s, that we can do this, and that we will. It wasn't a question of "would we," but "when." We'd find a way, it was important. That goal, that challenge worthy of a Nation's attention and resources was met, and it took a special vision of and trust in human tenacity, spirit, and resourcefulness, that it could and would be met.
So, why haven't we done the same thing regarding cardiovascular heart disease? We've spent billions defending ourselves against illusionary terrorist attacks, yet so little in fighting an enemy we know fully well how to defeat.
"Neil's pioneering spirit will surely serve him well in this challenging time, and the entire NASA Family is holding the Armstrong family in our thoughts and prayers..." [NASA Administrator]
In my opinion, his pioneering spirit would serve the entire world much better in these challenging times if he were to adopt Dr. Esselstyn's lifestyle recommendations as has former President Bill Clinton, and help set an example of what must be done on a larger scale if we as a population are to survive this unnecessary epidemic. He could encourage a "new vision" of health predicated upon a truly healthy dietary lifestyle, one that would contribute to not only reversing Heart Disease, but Type II Diabetes, Obesity, Alzheimer's Disease, and a host of other degenerative disorders that are primarily lifestyle-based. There could be a new national goal of getting really really serious about dealing with this needless biological degradation of our health on a national level.
Why not a full-on collective and honest effort on the part of government, institutions, and our general populace, to beat down these paper tigers, these avoidable "food borne illnesses" as many believe they are, with realistic and proven approaches to true health? A heartfelt and honest National Health Dialogue might take place as to what needs to be done. We could marshall our best talent and resources with the goal of untangling the financial, political, and corporate gordian knots that are killing us in increasing numbers.
We are capable of collectively striving towards and achieving a true "giant dietary leap for mankind." How sad it would be to have reached so high as a society only to trip over our own dietary myopia, ignorance, and political apathy, and die like lemmings jumping off a known clift.
Let's tell the politicos running for office this year that although Medicare, the Deficit, and Taxes are serious issues, our Health is the most important. What do they propose to do to help further our ability to life longer and healthier lives, and eliminate these Paper Tigers? How will they help us eliminate these lifestyle diseases instead of continuing to get money from Corporate Lobbyists to look the other way? When will they take into account the incredible financial burden our nutritionally dysfunctional ways is imposing on Health Care and engage in the real debates regarding government expenditures?
Social media is much more powerful than is generally recognized, and it's time to put those resources to a greater good then following some media manufactured pop icon.
Vote with your dollar, your voice, your Facebook Wall, your tweets, your texting, and demand realistic discussions of the situation, what must be done, and actions to see it happen. We can all be heroes and manifest the real pioneering spirit that would usher in a true "giant leap for all mankind."
Contact your representatives, the media, those in power, and demand attention to the real problems threatening our existence. We need to take control of our "Dietary Destiny," both as individuals and as a society. We need to do it now.