Photos of Armando Alvarez before and after adopting a plant-based diet for heart disease. On the left, he sits at a restaurant table wearing a fedora and pink button-down, on the right, he appears slimmer and holds out a football with one hand

How I Transformed My Health in My 60s on a Plant-Based Diet

By Armando Alvarez,

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As a young man I was very athletic, playing high school and college football as a wide receiver. That position required a lot of running, and as a result I was in very good shape. I always thought of myself as a healthy eater, so I was surprised by how quickly I started gaining weight after I stopped playing football.

I could never seem to get a handle, despite trying every diet that I could find. My weight continued to balloon, reaching 245 pounds—which, at 5-foot-8, is a lot to carry. At 45, I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

Reaching a Dead End

In 2017, I received another troubling diagnosis: full-blown atherosclerosis. My arteries were full of plaque, and an angiogram revealing a 100% blockage in my right coronary artery. Because of issues that prevented me from being able to undergo anesthesia, I was not able to undergo triple bypass heart surgery or have stents put in. I felt that I was at a dead end. In the hopes that it might improve my heart health, my wife and I went vegetarian for six months and then vegan.

Finding a Way Forward

Then, in 2018, I found the Forks Over Knives documentary, which opened my eyes to new possibilities, and also the books by Dean Ornish, MD, and Caldwell Esselstyn, MD, on reversing heart disease. My wife and I had already been vegan for about a year at that point, but we decided to cut out all oil and highly processed foods and go whole-food, plant-based. We had the help of two tremendous plant-based doctors: my cardiologist, Robert Ostfeld, MD, MSc, and George Guthrie, MD, one of the founders of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. That’s when everything really started to come together for me. Soon afterward, the angina that I dealt with for 10 months finally stopped. Three years ago, my doctors gave me the green light to start exercising again.

Thriving in My 60s

Today I'm 63 years old, and I'm feeling as energized as ever. I've run five half marathons and more than a dozen 5Ks over the past three years. I'm happy to report that I've been able to safely discontinue all medications.

I have three beautiful granddaughters. Thanks to my newfound health, I am able to keep up with them (for a few hours, anyway) during our park adventures, running and climbing alongside them. Hopefully, my story inspires someone reading this to see what is possible. Here’s to our health!

Ready to get started? Check out Forks Meal Planner, FOK’s easy weekly meal-planning tool to keep you on a healthy plant-based path. To learn more about a whole-food, plant-based diet, visit our Plant-Based Primer.

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