AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH DR AKIL TAHER
I am still in awe of Dr Akil Taher's transformational journey. After his Bypass surgery in 2009, at age 61, he decided to be completely reborn. Since that moment, he has never looked back. His lifestyle changes and diet enabled him to run marathons and climb mountains. Amazing right? Now at 73, Dr Akil Taher details his experiences in his new book "OPEN HEART".
However, I wanted to know more about his incredible recovery and encourage every reader to read his new book "OPEN HEART". This made me reach out to him for an exclusive interview.
Want to know how Dr Akil Taher started climbing mountains and running marathons after his Bypass surgery at 61? Then read the interview below.
Dr Akil! Tell our readers a little about yourself?
My name is Dr Akil Taher; I am a practicing physician in Gadsden, Alabama, United States and Owner of Doctors Med Care. I was raised in Mumbai India, and trained in Family Medicine in Sylvania, Ohio, United States. I am also an author, heart healthy speaker, mountaineer, marathoner, century bike rider, a Septuagenerian athlete and a whole food plant-based diet (Vegan) proponent.
What led you to have a Bypass Surgery?
I spent the better part of my adult life enjoying too much rich unhealthy food, the Standard American diet of meat, eggs and dairy (very aptly called the SAD diet).I was a SEE food eater, eating everything at sight. I was more carnivore than an Omnivore. The word exercise was not in my vocabulary. I was a couch potato. The only muscles I exercised were my eye muscles looking at joggers in the park.
I also had a type A personality. In trying to achieve the American dream, I worked non stop paying scant attention to my health (physical, mental and spiritual) and was under a lot of stress. So it was no surprise that Heart disease came knocking at my door at age 56 when I had to have angioplasty and stents, and at age 61 when the stents failed I had to have open heart Bypass surgery.
How was life after the Bypass Surgery?
After the surgery, I realized I had two choices—first, lead a cautious, mediocre, and sedentary life, as I’d seen in most patients after a heart-bypass surgery; or second, change my lifestyle to incorporate healthy eating habits, an exercise regimen, meditation, and regular practice of yoga.
I could have retired immediately, sat on my rocking chair all day, lived vicariously through my children and grandchild, and resigned myself to the inevitability of eventual death. Instead, I chose to live life to the fullest, turning a setback into an opportunity. I was walking on the third day after my open heart surgery. I took no pain mediations. In fact the physical pain was a welcome sign as opposed to the emotional trauma that I had endured for so many years.
What were the lifestyle changes you made that led you to become a Mountaineer and a Marathoner after your Bypass Surgery?
To truly live, I had to dramatically alter the conventional script adopted by most elderly heart patients. And even though I was scared, I decided to do what I feared most—exercise. For a sedentary slob like me, exercise was going to be accompanied by stiffness and soreness.
Yet while I was improving my lifestyle, I had not improved the quality of my life. To do so, I had to improve and nourish my body, mind, and soul. I started eating better, took small steps towards exercising not expecting any immediate gratification. So in 7 months after my surgery, I did half a marathon in Nashville, Tennessee, US. In there grueling hours, which I had promised to the ICU nurses in the hospital. From then on there was no stopping. I climbed Mt Kailash and Kilimanjaro, ran marathons, triathlons, jumped out of planes amongst several other adventures.
Initially I was a flexitarian and had cutback on meat , eggs and dairy. I gave up meat and eggs first but I still ate sea food. I then gave up dairy but I had difficulty giving up cheese. I finally gave up fish but I turned into a junk food vegetarian, eating processed foods, using a lot of oil and sweetened drinks. And finally I turned to a Whole Food Plant-Based diet.
How has Whole Food Plant-Based Diet changed your life?
Prior to WFPB diet sinus infections and bronchitis made regular visits. Chronic constipation troubled me. Fissures and hemorrhoids added to my discomfort; and because I had severe diverticulitis, I was hospitalized twice with colon perforation. Not to forget the medication they gave me led to mouth ulcers for many years. I was plagued with insurmountable health problems.
But after going on a WFPB diet, all the above ailments are on the back burner. I have much more energy. Being an athlete, I realized that my preparation time for an activity, my performance time and my recovery time after an event or injury have decreased significantly. My type A personality has mellowed down and I’ve become more calm and peaceful.
I turned to veganism for health reasons but now I realize the cruelty we cause these defenseless animals, and I am also aware of the environmental repercussions of animal farming.
How did you come about the title of your book "OPEN HEART" and what inspired you to write the book?
I realized that I had to have open heart surgery because of heart disease and I wanted to open up my heart to others so that they could learn from my mistakes. That’s when it dawned on me that this would be an apt title to my book. I want nature to perform open heart on my readers and not a surgeons scalpel. The motivation to write my book came from my staff at the clinic. Each time I came back from an adventure they asked me to write about it. I procrastinated, using work as an excuse. But the covid period gave me time to put my thoughts on paper and finish the book.
Where can our readers find your book to read?
My book"OPEN HEART" The transformational journey of a doctor who, after a bypass surgery at 61, ran marathons and climbed mountains is available on Amazon worldwide.
What advice would you give to people who are sick and are hoping for a miracle?
Never give up hope. Listen to the advice of your doctors but also change your lifestyle mainly your diet. Whole food plant based diet is the only diet that is proven to not only prevent heart disease but reverse it. Vegan diet can negate your bad genetics and can even help in certain cancers.
So go ahead and lead a life of purpose, passion and positivity.
My Short Bio:
Daniella Obuwan Oshiame is an experienced freelance Health & Nutrition Writer/ Vegan-Health Consultant, with 4 certifications in Health & Nutrition related fields, and over 3 years experience in Vegan-Health Consultancy. She writes well researched articles, for both Nigerian and International blogs.
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