Cover image for The carbohydrate addict's healthy heart program : break your carbo-insulin connection to heart disease
The carbohydrate addict's healthy heart program : break your carbo-insulin connection to heart disease
Heller, Richard F. (Richard Ferdinand), 1936-
Publication Information:
New York : Ballantine Pub. Group, 1999.
Physical Description:
xi, 352 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
RC684.D5 H45 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Compatible with the American Heart Association guidelines, The Carbohydrate Addicts Healthy Heart Program is a carb-smart plan designed to correct the cause of your carbohydrate cravings and weight gain while cutting your risk for high blood pressure, high blood fat levels, adult-onset diabetes, and heart disease--without sacrifice and without deprivation!


[show before and after photos of Dr. Heller]

                                        BEFORE                                AFTER
BLOOD PRESSURE:                220/120                                110/70
TOTAL CHOLESTEROL:        250                                        178
TRIGLYCERIDES:                385                                        98
BLOOD SUGAR:                        DIABETIC                                NORMAL
WEIGHT:                                300+ lbs.                                138 lbs.
HEART RISK RATIO:                HIGH RISK                                LOW RISK

Are you a carbohydrate addict at risk for heart disease?
Take this quiz and find out.

1. After eating breakfast, are you hungry before lunchtime?
2. Do you get tired in the middle of the afternoon and find that a snack makes you feel better?
3. Do you eat or snack when you're really not hungry?
4. Once you start eating snack foods or sweets, is it hard to stop?
5. Does stress, exhaustion, loneliness, or boredom make you want to eat?
6. Have you been told that you're overweight or have high blood pressure or adult-onset diabetes? Or do any of these disorders run in your family?


Author Notes

For more than a decade, Richard F. Heller, M.S., Ph.D., and Rachael F. Heller, M.A., M.Ph., Ph.D., each held two professorial appointments and conducted research at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City and in the Department of Biomedical Sciences in the Graduate School of the City University of New York. Dr. Richard Heller holds a third appointment as Professor Emeritus at the City University of New York. They are coauthors of the bestselling Healthy for Life and The Carbohydrate Addict's Diet, as well as The Carbohydrate Addict's Lifespan Program, The Carbohydrate Addict's Program for Success, and The Carbohydrate Addict's Gram Counter.

Dr. Frederic J. Vagnini, M.D., F.A.C.S., is the medical director of The Cardiovascular Wellness Centers of New York. He has served as Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at Cornell University and as Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, New York, for more than twenty-five years. Dr. Vagnini is the author and coauthor of many research papers and articles on cardiovascular and heart disease, preventive medicine, and the role of nutrition in heart health and healing.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this follow-up to The Carbohydrate Addict's Diet, biomedical researchers Heller and Heller and cardiologist Vagnini present compelling evidence that eating a regular, low-carbohydrate diet can reduce the risk of heart diseaseÄand they offer a clear program for sticking to it. According to their studies, heart disease, high blood pressure, adult-onset diabetes and excessive weight gain are all linked to high levels of insulin in the body that are triggered by the consumption of carbohydratesÄespecially in individuals whose genetically predisposed chemical imbalances cause them to crave high-carbohydrate foods. For these carbohydrate addicts, certain foods celebrated for their nutritional value (including pasta, rice and, surprisingly, even fruit) can promote the opposite of heart health. The book prescribes an exercise and nutrition program that reads much like any other healthy-heart plan, with attention paid to vitamin supplementation and low-carbohydrate tofu recipes. More helpful, however, is a section on how over-the-counter drugs, like pain relievers, can raise insulin levels in the body, resulting in carbohydrate cravings. This intelligently written book has much to offer those wanting to maintain a healthy heart. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



I believe that things happen for a reason or, at least, that with the right attitude something good can come out of even the worst of experiences. I never really stopped believing this, although, for many years, when the challenges were hard and I was very young, I could have argued the other side quite well. I don't have the simple childhood memories that so many people have of friends and playing games, of parties and adventures, and of a whole wide world to discover and explore. I remember sadness and pain and a permeating truth that seemed to shape my every action and every thought. In a child's world of wanting to belong, I lived with the unforgiving fact that I was different. In a child's world of wanting to belong, I lived with the unforgiving fact that I was different: I was fat. And every interaction--from my brother's unrelenting teasing to my classmates' ridicule to strangers' disapproving stares--told me in word and look that being fat was a very bad thing and, what was worse, that I was to blame. My parents, though thin in their youth, fought a losing battle with their weight as they approached their late thirties. By the time that each had reached forty, there were clear signs of oncoming heart problems. My mother's blood pressure was out of control, and both my parents showed the telltale signs of diabetes. Within a few short years, my father's blood pressure was far above normal. My mother had suffered three heart attacks, and we lived with an oxygen tank in the closet. I slept lightly, listening for any signs of her distress. In the blink of an eye, within four short years, they were both gone--my father at fifty-two, my mother at fifty-five. My older brother, fearful of becoming overweight and suffering the same ill health as my parents, chose what he considered an acceptable alternative, but within a short time he was as addicted to diet pills as he had been to junk foods and sweets. When he added other addictions to his repertoire, his immune system failed. He never saw his fortieth birthday, losing a long and terrible battle to a rare form of leukemia that preyed on his already-compromised body. Before I was out of my twenties, both my parents and my older brother had died. I was young, alone, sick, fat, and desperately poor. I was young and alone, and most of all, I was sick and fat as well. I had no money, no real friends, and no one to whom I could turn. I had just been witness to what could be likened to a terrible automobile accident, and although I wanted desperately to avoid the collision myself, nothing I did seemed to make any difference. I had dreams of being behind the wheel of an old car, and though I saw it heading for a crash, I could not make the brakes respond. I stomped my foot on the brake pedal, I tried desperately to turn the wheel, I even tried to open the door and jump out, but nothing I did had any effect. And I awoke in terror to find that my nightmare was simply a reflection of my waking reality. Some people say that, although they had been chubby as kids, they never suffered any health-related problems until they hit middle age. Not me. At twelve years of age, I was hospitalized for stroke-level hypertension. My blood pressure was 220/120, and I was twice my normal weight. Though not yet in my teens, I had already become a "high-risk patient." My menstrual periods had stopped, and my belly, sides, back, shoulders, and arms were already scarred with deep-purple stretch marks. As a teenager, when I should have been concerned with friends and dresses and parties, I was trying to cope with staying alive. Long before I ever kissed a boy, I had become familiar with terms like hypertension, stroke, and coronary artery disease--warnings, said the doctors, of things to come. I had become knowledgeable about death and illness before I knew anything about life and love. At a time when I should have been concerned with friends and dresses and parties, I was trying to cope with staying alive. Upon discharge from the hospital, I was given no medication and virtually no help. "Lose weight and bring down that blood pressure," cautioned one doctor, "or you'll never..." Embarrassed, he looked up into my young face, ruffled my hair, and walking down the hall, called back, "Take care now, hear?" Knowing of no other alternatives, I did what I saw adults do then and what many still do today. I continued the same practices that had proved unsuccessful in the first place, promising myself that this time I would try harder. I tried harder and harder and harder, but the results never improved. At fourteen they hospitalized me again, this time trying to determine the cause of headaches, foggy thinking, and an odd assortment of seemingly unrelated symptoms such as panic attacks and sweating. I was addicted to diet pills by this time and used the hospital stay as a chance to break the drugs' hold on me. Still, my doctors were intent on finding a cause for my neurological problems. Had they but checked my insulin and blood sugar levels after I ate high-carbohydrate foods, they would have uncovered the blood sugar swings that were causing these classic hypoglycemic responses. Instead, they did a multitude of brain scans and EEGs and were never able to find proof of the petit mal epilepsy they believed to be responsible for my symptoms. Back at home, the torrent of teasing, ridicule, and humiliation that filled my every waking moment was unspeakable, and had I been able to do anything--anything--about it at all, I would have. And though doctors told my parents that I obviously didn't want to lose weight or I would have done so, they were terribly wrong. To me, a typical adolescence would not have been a time of turmoil and distress. It was my fondest wish. I know now that, like my parents and brother before me, I was the unfortunate victim of a physical imbalance that caused me to gain weight easily and to crave starches, snack foods, junk foods, and sweets with an intensity that I could hold off for only so long. My body ached for these high-carbohydrate foods, it screamed for them, and though at times I literally cried as I ate them, I could not stop myself. Sometimes I would eat them until I was sick, then fall into a semistupor of sleep or walk around in a kind of drugged fog. My weight climbed, and the state of my health plummeted. By seventeen I weighed more than three hundred pounds. My blood pressure remained dangerously high, and my heart was unable to handle the strain. By my midteens I had developed an irregular heartbeat and a murmur; a young heart that should have been healthy and strong was literally being torn apart from within. Now any exertion brought heart pain. It was not long before I was diagnosed with adult-onset diabetes. In high school I spent most of my senior year at home, though I'm not sure whether I really felt ill or just wanted to avoid my classmates' unrelenting abuse. The irony of this horrendous state of affairs is that I had done everything in my power to lose weight and get healthy. At nine years of age, I had a weekly appointment with a weight-loss doctor. I was a veteran of diets and diet pills by the time I was eleven. A year later I knew the calorie count of every food in the supermarket. From diet pills to diet pops, from cellulose cookies to calorie counting, I had tried them all before I had even hit my teens. Nothing worked. With each new weight-loss approach, the story was the same. I would boost my motivation, talk myself into action and commitment, and be successful for a few days or a few weeks. Then, sooner or later, the cravings would return, and I would find myself out of control. With each attempt I became more frustrated, angry with myself, fatter, and sicker. I was clearly in a lose-lose situation with regard to just about everything. I couldn't give up, and it made no sense to keep trying. But keep trying I did--every new book, new approach, new diet. I would try it, and though with each new attempt I felt my enthusiasm wane, I still gave it my best. In the long run, I always failed. Then I'd wait until I couldn't stand it any longer, and I would try something new. Every new diet, book, product--I would try it. In the long run, I always failed. Then I'd wait until I couldn't stand it any longer, and I would try something new. On commercial weight-loss programs, I watched my weight go down--then up again. I repeated this frustrating and disheartening process six or eight times over. I tried Atkins (becoming very ill by following his entry program for too long), hypnosis, Metrecal, behavioral therapy--you name it, I tried it. I drank it, measured it, weighed it, and exchanged it. Whatever it took, I tried it. But nothing took the weight off and kept it off. I founded the Philadelphia chapters of Overeaters Anonymous. I even tried water fasts (once for forty-two days while I continued working and going to school). But it was the same old story we all know too well. In the end, the only thing I lost was my health. The years slipped by, marked mostly by which weight-loss program I was currently following. By the time I was in my thirties, my health had become seriously impaired. My heartbeat was irregular, and I had already suffered at least one episode of tachycardia (in which the heart literally beats out of control and no longer productively pumps blood). My high blood pressure was wearing down my cardiovascular system, and it was only a matter of time before my heart simply gave out. By the time I was thirty-five, my triglyceride level was three times normal, I was twice my normal weight, and my body was literally collapsing. At that time blood pressure medication was not something that was typically given to people my age, so each new visit to the doctor brought only more blame and shame and yet another preprinted diet sheet. With the advent of routine blood fat testing, a triglyceride level of more than 350 (more than three times the ideal level) left both me and my doctor speechless. At thirty-five the rest of my body started to show the effects of the high blood fats, blood sugar swings, and excess weight. I was in pain almost all the time; my feet and knees were collapsing under the pressure. The blood sugar swings left me in a fog for hours. I was irritable and unhappy and devoid of hope. A cold and searing pain clutched my heart whenever I exerted myself at all. My heart was enlarged, and the lining that surrounded it was inflamed. My life was slipping away, like grains of sand between my fingers, without ever having been lived, and somehow, for some reason, though I really tried my best, everyone said I was responsible for this dismal situation. My body seemed to be some kind of "fat machine," making blood fats and body fat by the carload. Like my parents and brother before me, I was well on my way to an early death. With each doctor's visit or hospital discharge, I was cautioned to watch my weight and my diet, but I had tried that over and over again, and though I nodded in agreement, and though I knew I could be a very determined and strong person in other areas of my life, deep down I knew that no diet ever had, or ever would, work for me. Still, though I just didn't know what else to do, I could not let myself give up. My exercise regimen was exhausting. Had I seen results, I would have stuck with it, but I ached all over each time I finished a session, and I was just too tired to keep it up. For all the discomfort, it simply didn't seem to make that much of a difference. My body seemed to be some kind of "fat-making machine," turning all the food I ate into fat instead of burning some of it as energy. Even when I mustered every bit of strength and forced myself to hold on and not give in, I seemed to gain weight on the same amount of food that caused others to shed pounds. And to make matters worse, as my body fat increased, so did the levels of fat in my blood. I was desperate, watching myself spiraling into a pit, knowing I was to blame for my own failure, but unable to pull out of the tailspin. My salvation came in the form of a phone call--one of those unimportant things that seems like a simple annoyance at the time but, in retrospect, becomes a turning point in your life. The ringing phone shook me from my sleep, and the X-ray technician informed me that my early-morning appointment had been changed to four in the afternoon. "Now don't forget, you can't eat anything between now and then. Liquids like coffee or tea are okay, but nothing to eat." At nearly 270 pounds, the thought of not eating all day threw me into a panic, but I could figure no way out. Steeling myself to the task, I headed for work and, I thought, a day of torture. I was director of student services at a private school, and although my day would normally have been filled with counseling sessions and meetings, the postponement of my X ray left me with a day free to catch up on my paperwork. Still, the thought of the long hours ahead, without food or diversion, made the day stretch endlessly before me. Amazingly, the hours passed quickly, and even more surprising, I was far less hungry than usual. Coffee break time came and went. I worked right through lunch. I barely thought of food. My energy remained high, and my ability to concentrate seemed better. My usual midafternoon slump failed to appear, and as I headed out to my X-ray appointment, I experienced a sense of well-being that I could not remember ever having felt before. I arrived at my appointment in wonderful spirits. As I entered the hospital for the X ray, I was aware of feeling somehow liberated from the clouded thinking and cravings and tiredness that had filled me for so long. Despite this, I had brought along two French crullers, tucked away in a brown paper bag, ready to revive and nourish me in the dressing room after my X ray. The X ray completed, I headed out for a well-earned dinner, my crullers still in the bag, uneaten and unneeded. Dinner was wonderful. I don't think I had ever tasted so marvelous a meal, before or since. As a reward, I ordered everything I wanted: soup, salad, bread and lots of butter, pasta, veal parmigiana, and coffee. Though I was more than satisfied, I slowly relished my crullers on the way home. I was satisfied in body but not in mind, as I chastised myself for ruining a wonderful day of fasting with a meal that would surely put on the pounds. But I was in for a surprise. The next morning my weight had dropped by two pounds. I checked and rechecked--moved the scale around the bathroom floor as I usually did in a vain attempt to bring the numbers down. Now I was trying to get the scale to balance at a higher weight so that I could make sense out of what it was saying. Try as I might, however, my weight remained two pounds lower than the day before. Water weight, I told myself. It will be back in a day or two. Still, something in me, a well-trained scientist combined with a bit of a gambler at heart, dared me to try it again, and taking up the challenge turned out to be the chance of a lifetime. The next day went almost as easily as the first, except for the games my mind began playing with me. I told myself that I couldn't skip breakfast and lunch again (though I knew I had done it so easily the day before). I felt great, but the voices in my head kept chipping away at my confidence. I compromised by getting a cup of coffee and two more crullers to be put away as my after-dinner treat. I promised myself the best dinner ever, though deep inside I wondered whether I might not give in and have those crullers before the end of the day. The afternoon flew by, and before I could torture myself with the question of "to cruller or not to cruller," it was time to leave work. I wanted to enjoy dinner in the privacy of my own home, so assuming I would add some special goodies I had waiting at home, I stopped by my favorite pizza restaurant and ordered a giant pizza slice (a small pie in its own right), half of one of the large submarine sandwiches, and a Greek salad, all of which I proceeded to take home. The meal was delicious! I ate it all, though at the end I struggled to get everything down. That had never happened before! And, try as I might, I could not face the chips and cookies that awaited me on the shelves. I could barely eat one of my crullers, and as I sat and thought about my reduced appetite, I wondered whether it could in some way be connected to not eating all day. I considered that perhaps my stomach had shrunk. I wasn't sure how accurate that was from a biological standpoint, and I also knew it wouldn't explain my lack of hunger and the increased clarity in thinking I had experienced all day. My typical headaches were gone, and even the discomfort in my chest had vanished. Most amazing of all was the satisfaction that I felt after the meal. I felt more complete than I had ever remembered feeling after eating. It was wonderful. The next morning--the third day--brought even more confirmation. I didn't wake up hungry as I normally would after a big dinner, and as unbelievable as it was to me, I had lost another pound. I didn't know what was causing it, but I was on a roll, and nothing could have convinced me to stop what I was doing. I was doing everything they said was wrong, but I felt better and was less hungry than I had ever remembered feeling. Afraid to change a thing, I followed the same eating plan for several weeks, with similar results. I continued to lose two to three pounds each week, and my cravings were literally gone! I felt better than I had in years, and for the first time in as long as I could remember, I had renewed hope and--I was almost afraid to think it--a way out. And what a way out it was. As the weeks passed, I began to test foods to see whether some could be added as breakfast or lunch foods without bringing on the cravings and weight gain that had ruled my life for so long. I was afraid to meddle with something that was working so well, but if I could, I wanted the freedom and pleasure of eating more than one meal a day (no matter how good that single meal might be). Slowly and methodically, I discovered a wide array of high-fiber and protein-rich foods that satisfied me, kept me free of cravings, and still enabled me to enjoy what I had come to refer to as my "reward meal." And I was losing weight all the while. My weight, blood pressure, and blood fat levels dropped so dramatically that my doctor didn't believe the results. At the time I didn't understand why it worked. All I cared about was the fact that it did work. I lost more than 150 pounds over the next eighteen months (later I lost another 15 pounds without even trying!), and I kept it off--struggle-free--for more than fourteen years. With each passing day, it seemed that I was growing healthier as well. My blood pressure was so much better than at my last visit that my doctor thought something was wrong with his blood pressure cuff! My blood tests showed such great changes in my triglyceride levels that he questioned the accuracy of the report. With repeated testing my doctor was at a loss to explain the wonderful results. I wasn't. It all made sense to me: whatever had been driving me, pushing me to crave high-carbohydrate foods, was gone, and everything else seemed to be righting itself as well. I know with an unshakable certainty that the most difficult of experiences may hold a perfect purpose. Our bodies are amazingly resilient. When we stop hurting them, they stop hurting us. The long battles that had filled my thoughts and dreams were over. Gradually, in the months that followed, my heart murmur disappeared, and my heartbeat became regular and strong. My headaches disappeared, as did my panic attacks and mood swings. Even my knees and feet stopped hurting. With each passing day, I grew stronger and more confident, healthier and happier. Life was good, and though I hardly dared to believe it, my personal nightmare was over. In time I met the man who was to become my loving husband, partner, coauthor, and colleague. Together we would discover the scientific basis for this simple but effective way of eating that had set me free and would soon do the same for more than 1.5 million others. Still, when I look back in wonder at all that has gone before, I know with an unshakable certainty that, although we may be tempted to deny it in hard times, and despite the fact that we may never understand it all, the most difficult of experiences may hold within them so perfect a purp Excerpted from The Carbohydrate Addict's Healthy Heart Program: Break Your Carbo-Insulin Connection to Heart Disease by Richard F. Heller, Rachael F. Heller, Frederic J. Vagnini All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.