Food & Drink Magazine

How My Plant-Based Diet Saved My Life

By Chuck Underwood @brandnewvegan

I mentioned that I had a recent health scare in my last article and many of you have been asking me about it. So, since I’ve always believed in 100% transparency on my blog, here’s exactly what happened and How My Plant-Based Diet Saved My Life.

How My Plant-Based Diet Saved My Life

This is PART 1 of what I imagine will be a series of articles covering the “Who, What, and When” of my very first trip to the hospital.

Today I’ll talk about the WHAT and the WHY…

In the next article, I’ll cover the HOW, as in how the hospital treated me, and more importantly – how I treated myself.

An Unexpected Turn Of Events

How My Plant-Based Diet Saved My Life

On February 24, 2020 – (which just happened to have been my dad’s birthday – miss you dad)

I felt …… “funny”.

Odd… even. A feeling I’ve never had before.

Not quite sick, but definitely not right? I knew it wasn’t a cold or the flu, and this was weeks before Covid-19 was in full panic mode, but still – something was off.

Slightly nauseous? Kind of dizzy even? Maybe a little vertigo?

Weird for sure and I even had this sense of dread – especially when I noticed my speech starting to slur.

What was that all about?

I know – I should have gone to the ER right then and there. But I ignored the symptoms and besides, there’s no way I could be having a stroke. I’m Vegan! I had no muscle weakness, no facial drooping, nothing like that. So I told myself it’s probably nothing.

“It’ll go away”, I told my wife, and went on about my day. (She WAS concerned btw and tried to convince me to gowhat can I say, I’m stubborn)

Only it didn’t go away

The next day it was back again, even stronger. I was still slurring my speech and I had that really bad sense of dread again. Something was seriously wrong and for the first time in a very long time, I teared up. 🙁

I had my wife take me to my doctor who promptly told me to go to the Emergency Room, which led to my very first ever, overnight stay in a hospital.

I was poked and prodded for hours while they ran their tests.

I had CT-scans, an MRI, and even an Echocardiogram. I got an IV, the funny gown that never fits right, and even my very own bottle to pee in (seriously?).

All of that to tell me what I already kind of suspected…..

The Unimaginable

How My Plant-Based Diet Saved My Life

NOTE: Remember the acronym FAST.

  • F – facial drooping
  • A – arm weakness
  • S – speech problems
  • T – time to call 911

If you have ANY of the systems, call 911 immediately. If a stroke is caught in the first 4 hours, any damage may be able to be reversed.

So yes, as you might have already guessed, I had a stroke.

An Acute Ischemic Stroke to be exact, and from what they told me, a very mild one, and that I was very LUCKY.

Well, naturally I wanted to know WHY?! How could this happen, especially to ME?!

Every doctor that came into my room, I demanded to know WHY this happened. How?! I’m healthy! I eat whole food, plant-based! Why is my cholesterol high?! I don’t eat animal products!!

Yeah, I was mad as hell and my wife said I was NOT a very good patient lol. To make matters worse, I had TWO nurses try to tell me that plants have cholesterol. Yes, plants. (they don’t)

I said, “You have google out there?! Ya might want to look that up!”

Sheesh! We have really got to get some nutritional training in our med schools!

How My Plant-Based Diet Saved My Life

Naturally, my Blood Pressure was high. In the ER it was 174/105 but I was scared, irritated, and very angry. But my cholesterol was also high at 201 with my LDL at 129. And I was overweight at 206 lbs, despite my plant-based diet.

Clearly I thought, I was doing something wrong.

And then came, the guilt.

Here I am, a blogger who teaches people how to eat healthily, and I’m overweight, have high blood pressure, and have high cholesterol.

For the very first time, I felt like a complete failure.

So many people look up to me for advice!
And here I am in the hospital being treated for a stroke!
I’m letting them down!
They’ll never trust me again!

I was in a very dark place for sure, and THAT is why I went offline for a while.

But then I remembered something one of my doctors told me. He said I may never know why this happened.

It could be:

  • My crappy SAD diet before I committed to plant-based
  • The fact I used to be a smoker
  • Lack of exercise
  • A whole career working nights
  • Tons and tons of stress

But one thing he told me I will never forget…..

How My Plant-Based Diet Saved My Life

How My Plant-Based Diet Saved My Life

He said if I had still been eating a Standard American Diet, at 57 yrs old, this stroke probably would have been worse.

Much, much, worse.

He said my diet didn’t cause this stroke….. my plant-based diet probably saved my life!

For 50 years I ate whatever I wanted and treated my body pretty badly too. And I’m sure that in those 50 years, I caused some damage. Which was pretty obvious by my blood pressure and cholesterol.

All those cheeseburgers, all those fries, the BBQ, the pizza, the cigarettes, the booze….

But … in the last 10 years or so since I became plant-based and started this blog, I have begun to reverse some of that damage.

I keep hearing his words, “It could have been a lot worse“.

By eating a whole-food, plant-based diet these last 10 years, I prevented this minor stroke (which may have happened no matter what), from becoming a MAJOR stroke.

And that could have crippled me for life – or ended it permanently.

So, if you read my last article How I Cured My Hypertension in 30 Days Without Dieting, you can see what I am doing now to try and speed that healing process even more.

So that’s it.

That’s why I’ve been so quiet lately.

I am fine now, with NO residual damage to speak of (with the exception of a little slurring here and there, nothing that speech therapy can’t fix).

I can walk, I can talk, I have no limp, and no weakness of any kind. You basically cannot tell I just had a stroke 6 weeks ago.

As they said, I was LUCKY.

As I mentioned before, I have cleaned up my diet even more, dropped 18.5 lbs, and have basically cured my hypertension. I take absolutely NO medications and walk a minimum of 30 minutes daily.

I wanna thank my good friends Trish & Kim who not only looked after my Facebook Group while I was out, but have also been the best support group ever, AND my dear wife for never leaving my side and putting up with all my grumpiness.

I couldn’t have made it through this without you. Hugs to you all.

We can talk more about this in my next Livestream if you want, and I will be writing a few more articles as well.

Until then….. be safe, wear those masks, and wash those hands. It just so happens that a plant-based diet not only helps with chronic diseases like hypertension and CVD, it may even be just the thing to prevent this CoronaVirus as well.

Feed that immune system!


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