Healthy Lifestyle Expo

I’m in Valencia, CA attending the Healthy Lifestyle Expo. I’m determined to post at the end of each day. 

I flew in on Thursday night. I had a long shuttle ride to the hotel, but met a few really nice people and we chatted the whole time. One was a 70 year old woman who looked incredible and was heading off to a month long trek in Tasmania with her Australian boyfriend. Go girl! She was a hot ticket. She has trekked in Indonesia, Cambodia and climbed Kilimanjaro. 

Friday morning bright and early I met a small group in the lobby for a bus tour around the area. We started at the Getty Museum. The grounds were just as interesting as the exhibits. 

 My favorite exhibit was the photography exhibit by Ishiuchi Miyako called Post War Shadows. It was fascinating. I enjoyed the Degas exhibit as well. 

The views must be gorgeous on a clear day. 


Lunch at Sharky’s was the secret menu item, the Chef AJ burrito which is vegan and oil free, but you would never know. 

Unfortunately we didn’t go to the iconic LA sights. Time was short and traffic was abundant. But we did drive down the famed Rodeo Drive. 

Our last stop was Universal City Walk which is nothing more than a shopping center and Universal Studios. Not my thing nor the others I was with so most of us convened at Starbucks and chatted. I was the youngest in the group, but I was easily welcomed and found a lot in common with most of the people. Ironically about half of us had either lived or spent time in Africa. One woman has climbed Kilimanjaro twice. This is my second mention of Kilimanjaro in this post. I’ve been saying since I was in my early 30s that I will climb Kilimanjaro when I’m 50. In June when I ran the Vegan Power 25K I talked with a woman who summited the mountain as well. I really don’t think this is a coincidence. I have 8 years to prepare for this expensive and physically challenging endeavor and I feel as though the path is beginning to form leading me towards my goal. 

We returned to the hotel around 4 and had some time to rest before dinner. 

After a really delicious vegan buffet we headed into the conference room to hear key note speaker Irminne Van Dyken MD.

First of all she is a beautiful well spoken young woman. Her message is soft spoken but presented with confidence and ease. 

She is a surgeon. She explained “Many of my patients have diseases that could have been prevented through dietary and lifestyle changes. My goal in life is to put myself out of business.”

The theme of her talk was:

10 Ways a Plant Based Diet Will Help You Avoid the Scalpel

A few notes before beginning the list of 10:

Leading causes of death in 2014

  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Chronic resp
  • Accidents
  • Stroke
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Diabetes

1900 vs 2010

Leading cause of death in 1900 was infection

Heart disease and cancer were largely nonexistent then. What changed? Our diets and lifestyle. 

There is a magic pill/silver bullet – it is eating a whole foods plant based diet (WFPB)

This does not apply to a junk food vegan diet. 

Exercise is an important component that exponentiates a WFPB diet. 

List of 10 ways to avoid surgical intervention:

10. Avoid Atherosclerosis

  • Direct result of inflammation
  • Fatty streaks-endothelial dysfunction-plaques
  • 15-20 year olds are developing fatty streaks 
  • Dean Ornish MD – Lifestyle Heart Trial took very sick people and put them on his program which included dietary and lifestyle changes rather than meds and 82% had regression of their disease
  • Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn on how to reverse CAD

9. Avoid breast, prostate and colon cancers 

10 recommendations for cancer prevention

  • Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight
  • Be physically active for at least 30 min daily
  • Limit energy dense sugary foods
  • Eat more variety of whole foods
  • Limit red meat
  • Limit alcohol 
  • Limit salty foods 
  • Don’t use supplements to prevent cancer. Get nutrients from whole foods.
  • Breastfeed for 6 months if able
  • After cancer treatment follow above recommendations to prevent recurrence

As far back as 1907 an article was published announcing the incidences of cancer increasing among meat eaters. 

Neil Barnard, MD advocates diet as a preventive agent to decrease risk of cancer. 

Breast cancer is most common cancer among women. 

Exercise will decrease rate of recurrence of breast cancer. 

Hula and Breast Cancer Survivorship – introduced hula dancing as a means of physical activity to breast cancer survivors in Hawaii where Dr. Van Dyken works. The study just closed but already finding better survival rates 

Prostate Cancer 

Like breast cancer it’s very hormone responsive. 

Data driven studies to prevent prostate cancer note the following preventive measures:

  • Eat WFPB diet
  • Lycopene 
  • Yellow and orange vegetables
  • Get folic acid from foods not supplements
  • Avoid fried foods
  • Exercise at least 3 hours a week
  • Supplement with a conservative amount of zinc

8. Colon cancer (CRC – colorectal cancer)

  • Preventable and detectable early by colonoscopy
  • Increased risk correlated to red meat intake. High intake of red and processed meat is associated with an increase in CRC. 
  • Preventive measures: fiber rich foods, grape seed oil, milk thistle (promoted cancer cell death), turmeric root (very important antiinflammatory properties), green tea (antioxidant)
  • Limit alcohol intake because it is metabolized into a carcinogen in the GI tract and supresses B vitamins
  • Tobacco is directly related to increase risk of CRC

Circumin (turmeric) benefits in the body are enormous. Lots of research being she and pharmaceutical companies have a vested interest in this root. Combine with black pepper for even more benefits. 

7. Avoid obesity

  • Liver can be replaced with fat cells causing inflammation and eventually cirrhosis with liver failure. Fatty liver is an unwanted product of obesity and our lifestyle. 
  • Obesity predicts risk of complications during and after surgery 
  • Vegans have a much lower BMI than people who eat everything 
  • Hara hachi bu engrained in Okinawan culture which means stop eating when you are 70% full

6. Eating more fiber reduces risk of constipation, diverticulitis and hemorrhoids

  • Lowers cholesterol and blood sugar
  • >3 million cases of hemorrhoids in the US. They are painful and cause misery.
  • One formed BM is a misconception. 
  • Diverticulitis are little poured in the colon. 200,000-3 million cases. Not found in less developed countries. Directly related to fiber in the diet. When diverticula burst it is an emergency and may result in a colostomy. 
  • People in the US need to be looking at fiber intake rather than protein. We all eat much more protein than we need. 

5. Have more constant blood sugar to avoid type 2 diabetes 

  • All risk factors for type 2 diabetes except height are modifiable by dietary and lifestyle changes. 
  • Complications of diabetes: cardiovascular disease, decreased kidney function, neuropathy, infections

4. Decrease cholesterol

  • Vegetarians have little to no reported cases of gall stones which are made primarily of cholesterol. 
  • Gall stones are preventable with WFPB diet

3. Decrease degenerative disc disease and the need for joint replacement surgery

  • WFPB diet relieved the symptoms of osteoarthritis 
  • Nutrition and activity should be first line treatments for osteoarthritis not medications
  • Obesity, inactivity and otsteoarthritis are pro-inflammatory factors. 

2. Have more radiant skin, feel your best and have more self esteem 

  • Nutrition is a causative factor in acne
  • Avoid plastic surgery by changing diet and activity 

1.  Epigenetics – pass the health on to your progeny

  • What I eat today may affect my child and grandchildren 
  • ITC is chemical term for broccoli sprouts – epidemiological studies link a high intake of broccoli related vegetables with a lower incidence of cancer. Chemopreventive effects. 
  • EGCG is green tea and possesses antiproliferative, antimutagenic, antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral and chemopreventive effect
  • This is an up and coming area of study. If you want to know more check out Epigenetics Explained

Dr. Van Dyken ended by stressing that it’s important to meet people where they are at. I couldn’t agree more.  The WFPB movement should lead by example and not impose judgment. I present this material as information to anyone who might be interested. I eat a WFPB diet, but it has taken me a long time to arrive at this lifestyle and as always I admit that I am a work in progress which is why I’m constantly seeking wisdom. I welcome questions and encourage curiosity. 

4 thoughts on “Healthy Lifestyle Expo

  1. Aimee…sounds like a super conference…and to be surrounded by people who support and encourage the lifestyle you have…amazing. Thank you so much for sharing all this information.

    • Kaye, I miss you and Kimm. We have to get together soon. It was a great conference. I really do enjoy being amongst others who are either living a similar lifestyle or exploring the possibility of shifting into a WFPB lifestyle. I appreciate anyone that visits here and actually reads these posts. I know they are a bit dry, but I think it’s important information whether you change anything in your life or not.

  2. I’m reading one of those Blue Zones books now and several of these themes are there as well (and possibly one from your other post, about how the diet changed in Okinawa after WWII). Milk thistle is an interesting take-away for me, something I’ve never heard of. Another interesting conference for you! Thanks for sharing about it, I can only imagine how tough it was to pull together those take-aways right afterward.

    • I’m very curious about milk thistle too. I’m going to my local herbal shop soon to see if they carry it in tea form. The Blue Zone book by Dan Buettner is on my list of books I really want to read. I heard him on the Rich Roll podcast and it’s such an interesting topic. I often hear from my Puerto Rican patients that their parents lived well into their 90s and beyond. Of course their parents never left Puerto Rico and lived on a mostly WFPB diet. I try to make that connection for my patients, but it’s definitely an area I’d love to explore more.

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