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My niece was visiting us this weekend.  She is awesome.  Intelligent, athletic & very talented.  She is the beneficiary of living a very healthy life in the Pacific Northwest and having parents that pay attention to her health & well being.

She listens and she had questions about my blog.  The discussion turned briefly to who I would like to meet, someone who could make a huge difference in the current health crisis.  I said former President Bill Clinton.

She quickly put together the press release photo, so I am pretty much set on my end for the meeting; just waiting for Clinton to read my blog.

In all seriousness, President Clinton is the real deal.  I was not a big fan of his when he was in office, frankly I had other things on my mind in my twenties… probably the same things he did.  My respect for him has grown as I have educated myself on his post presidency.

Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. CGI Annual Meetings have brought together more than 150 heads of state, 20 Nobel Prize laureates, and hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations and NGOs, major philanthropists, and members of the media. To date CGI members have made more than 2,100 commitments, which are already improving the lives of nearly 400 million people in more than 180 countries. When fully funded and implemented, these commitments will be valued at $69.2 billion.

Clinton is also a very well-known plant-based diet follower and attributes his success with his heart disease to Esselstyn and Ornish.  He believes the vegan regimen is helping to reverse the damage to his heart and blood vessels caused by cardiovascular disease.

What I would like to discuss with him, primarily, revolves around the role of nutrition and the environment.  (I will further explore this topic in future blogs).

Clinton, 65, who had quadruple bypass surgery in 2004 and then stent surgery in 2010, is following this eating plan to improve his heart health.

He talked about his plant-based diet last year, saying he lost 24 pounds on it for his daughter Chelsea’s wedding, and he chatted about it again recently on TV, drawing national attention to the potential health benefits of this type of diet.

Elizabeth Turner, editor in chief of Vegetarian Times, says, “A much larger number of people — 22 million based on a poll the magazine did in 2008 — are what I’d describe as vegetarian-inclined. These are the people who might have the occasional chicken or fish. They’re interested in vegetarianism and moving in a veg direction, but they aren’t all the way there yet.

What the science shows is that people who are vegetarians have a lower risk of heart disease and cancer, especially colon cancer, and they tend to live longer,” Turner says. “They’re also less likely to be overweight.”

But, “a vegetarian diet is not by definition a healthy one. You can’t just replace meat with French fries,” she says. “What makes a great vegetarian diet is eating whole foods that come from the earth like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts. Beans are the ultimate source of protein, and they are loaded with fiber.”

Clinton says he was inspired to follow a low-fat, plant-based diet by several doctors, including Dean Ornish, author of Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease. Ornish has been working with Clinton as one of his consulting physicians since 1993.

After Clinton’s angioplasty and stents in 2010, Ornish says he contacted the former president “and I indicated that the moderate diet and lifestyle changes he’d made didn’t go far enough to prevent his heart disease from progressing, but our research proved that more intensive changes could actually reverse it,” he says.

“Heart disease is a food-borne illness,” says Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. He’s in a documentary about the benefits of a plant-based diet, Forks Over Knives, out next week on DVD. He advocates going “cold turkey from the typical fatty, meat-laden, dairy-rich Western diet” to this kind of plan.