Baxter Montgomery, M.D., is a busy cardiologist in Houston, TX. As a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiology at the University of Texas and a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology, he manages arrhythmias and coronary disease, performs angiography, defibrillator implants, and other hospital procedures, and teaches young physicians.
But in 2002, he had to take stock of his own health. At age 38, his cholesterol was far into the not-so-healthy zone. Around the same time, his mother, who had had heart disease and diabetes, succumbed to complications of her illness and of the medications used to treat it.
This wake-up call made him re-evaluate not only his own health, but also his approach to medicine. Digging into the scientific literature and nutrition books, he came to some stark conclusions. A healthy diet was plant-based, and animal-based foods had to go. He changed his diet, got his cholesterol down, and began to build nutritional teaching into his practice. His patients welcomed his nutritional advice, but many needed more instruction than they would ordinarily get during an office visit. So he set up special group sessions on Saturdays, giving them the time and attention they needed. He developed more and more programs to teach patients, and then built a series of conferences to reach the larger community.
“It struck me that families pass illnesses more effectively through recipes than though genes,” he said. “Instead of struggling to untangle lethal genes we should untangle lethal recipes.”
So what about breakfast? How should we start our day? “A bacon and egg breakfast is familiar to anyone who grew up in America—about as familiar as a heart attack or stroke,” Dr. Montgomery said. “I encourage all my patients to skip the eggs, breakfast meats, and fried foods completely. There are so many healthier things to eat.”
By the way, Dr. Montgomery has a prescription for physicians, too: “American medicine needs to change its focus. Medical practice has become a process of prescribing medicines and procedures to treat the effects of the foods we eat. The key issue for health is lifestyle, and the core of that lifestyle is nutrition. That needs to be the focus of our practice.”