Need info/resources/suggestions for my dad's diet (he just had coronary bypass surgery)

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created February 12, 2013 at 1:48 AM

Hi Everyone,

I'm looking for the best resources, information, suggestions, or even professional contacts, to help my dad find the ideal diet for his particular situation. He just had open-heart coronary-bypass surgery about 10 days ago, and is about to make some drastic changes to his diet - and he keeps talking about going vegan! Obviously it's his decision to make - I just want him to be as informed as possible. I'm hoping some of you can help - thank you in advance for anything you can add here!

My background: I've eaten a paleo diet for almost a year and a half (mostly ketogenic, almost all quality animal products, with some veggies). I did a lot of reading and YouTube-video-watching before getting into the diet, and during my first year I posted a fair amount of questions on here to learn more and more about the health benefits of paleo, particularly as it relates to heart health, since this runs in the family. So I know a decent amount about how heart disease isn't really caused by eating saturated fat and cholesterol, but has more to do with inflammation and some other factors. At least that's how the high-level story goes. I find it convincing, but am not an expert by any means.

So here is the background on my dad:

  • My dad is about to turn 68. A few months ago, he experienced some chest pain, had his heart checked out, and was going to get some stents put in. While doing this, the doctors apparently found a lot more blockage in his coronary arteries than they expected, so they didn't put stents in, and instead recommended bypass surgery. He got this done on January 31st, 2013. The surgeon said his arteries were a mess.
  • There is a genetic component here. My dad's dad died of a heart-attack at the age of 64, two years after declining coronary-bypass surgery (which was a very new procedure back then).
  • My dad got his gallbladder removed about 8 years ago due to gall-stones. I suspect that this has something to do with his atherosclerosis, but I don't really know much about this.
  • My dad was pretty health conscious for most of his life, but not in the paleo sense. He used to run 10-15 miles per week, he ate wheat germ and fruit for breakfast every day, but was never by any means paleo, nor vegetarian. He has never been significantly overweight, and has always exercised. Due to the frequent excercise, doctors say he developed 'collaterals' - new blood vessels that formed around his blocked arteries that allowed adequate blood-flow to the heart.
  • My dad has been very open to the paleo diet since I started it, and kinda-sorta (maybe 50%) followed it for the last year or so. But he but never really been very low carb (not that this is necessary, it just works for me), he has never completely eliminated grains for an extended period of time, and I don't think he ever avoided the really bad oils, and didn't pay any attention to meat quality. The extent of his information was basically that he watched 'Fat Head'. I got the sense that he took what little information he had about paleo & low-carb and basically used it as a reason to not avoid fat, but at the same time he was not actively avoiding bad fats or sources of inflammation.
  • He drinks a lot of Diet Pepsi, and has for years.
  • Prior to his surgery, he had some blood work done, and his C-Reactive Protein (CRP) was pretty high - one measure had it about 5.4 and the next at about 9.0. By comparison, mine was 0.4 about 6 months ago. Unclear what the specific cause is - could be a number of different things.
  • My dad's main goal now is to reverse his arterial plaque as much as possible, and completely avoid any new plaque formation. He finds the ideas surrounding paleo, and the concept of inflammation being the cause of CVD, to be compelling, but he seems to think that it's all unproven and risky for someone like him. He is now getting really interested in the likes of Bill Clinton (vegan), Caldwell Esselstyn, and Dean Ornish. He sends me videos like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4hbV4RgzI8

OK, so here is my actual question: Given my dad's advanced atherosclerosis and lack of a gallbladder, what kind of dietary considerations should he take into account? How should he figure out what is best for him, and what are the most compelling information sources he should check out? Is it possible that a high-fat paleo diet could be bad for someone who has no gallbladder? Any other insights?

Sorry this is such a long post - I just didn't know how to make it any simpler.

Thanks again for any info you can offer.

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3 Answers



on February 12, 2013
at 02:47 AM

I think one simple, effective piece of dietary advice would be to eat fatty fish or take fish oils. Two major RCT studies, the DART and GISSI trials, with over 2000 and 5000 subjects respectively, found major benefits of fish/fish oil on the incidence of heart disease events.

This is a widely accepted viewpoint, with a number of reviews like this one saying things like "modest consumption of fish or fish oil, together with smoking cessation and regular moderate physical activity, should be among the first-line treatments for prevention of CHD death and SCD".

Fish/fish oil seems to be very helpful, but it doesn't seem to slow or reverse the progression of atherosclerosis very much, so other approaches may be needed for that.

Hope this was helpful Anarchycaveman, I know exactly what it's like having a father with health issues and wanting him to be informed about healthy habits.


on October 13, 2013
at 04:22 AM

Angry caveman,

I wanted to check on any progress made with your father? I as because I am 46 and had a triple by-pass on March 12th. My guidance is the same regarding diet from my Cardiologist and dietician.

I had gone primal late last year and was reaping the benefits but I was diagnosed with hyperlipodemia which the said aided in my having a heart attack from congestive heart failure which led to my triple by-pass.

I am also looking for any advice about going primal (marksdailyapple.com) or paleo again.

Ben regards,

Mark C.



on February 12, 2013
at 04:33 AM

Don't be surprised if your dad refuses to try Paleo now. Unless his cardiologist is very enlightened (they are few and far between) he will be told to reduce saturated fat and increase "healthy" whole grains. Then he will see a registered dietitian who will say that paleo is dangerous and he must, at all costs, avoid saturated fat in favor of grains and low fat alternatives. He will be told that butter and coconut oil are poison, and he should eat grain, grain, and more grain. Your dad will have to be very independent to go against the tide of advice he's going to get from the professionals, and nothing you can say will be enough to counteract that. After all, they are the "experts".

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