This story is about Nickhil—entrepreneur, soccer player and at 43, a man in good health. During a regular checkup, Nickhil’s physician explained to him that, because of his South Asian heritage, he was at a higher risk for heart disease. After a bit of encouragement from his wife, he underwent a comprehensive risk assessment. When the results came back, he was stunned. Nickhil was told he was at high risk for heart disease and already had coronary heart disease. His calcification level in his arteries was in the 98th percentile. He thought to himself, “how in the world could I possibly have heart disease?” He doesn’t smoke and stays away from alcohol and soda. At 6 feet tall and 164 pounds, he had an optimal Body Mass Index of 22. As difficult as the news was to accept, he started statin therapy and took on some lifestyle changes.
The registered dietitian at the South Asian Heart Center created a meal plan for Nickhil, allowing him to continue enjoying his beloved traditional Indian foods by making better breakfast and lunch choices. The sugar-rich fruit juices were replaced with water and whole fruit. Instead sugary cereals for breakfast and rice bowls for lunch, he now eats brown rice, a chili-like mix of dals, beans and green leafy vegetables and combines his Indian meals with stir fried vegetables and green salads.
After a few weeks, Nickhil was sleeping longer and waking up with energy. Within four months, his cholesterol and triglyceride levels improved dramatically. He lost 18 pounds and finally felt on the inside like he looked on the outside. Nickhil says, “I would never have known that a serious health problem was lurking underneath my seemingly healthy exterior. Regardless of our level of health, it is my belief that we are all capable of making smarter lifestyle choices and minimizing our risk for heart disease so we can lead better lives.”