Dr. Steven Lome, the founder of HeartStrong.com, is a board certified, academically trained cardiologist currently at Rush-Copley Medical Center in the Chicagoland area. He has demonstrated a passion and commitment to heart disease prevention.
He authored LearnTheHeart.com in 2003 (now a part of Healio.com) which quickly became the #1 free online cardiology education resource for students teaching thousands of students cardiology every day.
He still practices general cardiology, but has emphasized using food as medicine in his practice and is developing a lifestyle medicine program in Chicago. Here is his story as he tells it
Dr. Steven Lome
I fell into two traps. First, I fell into the trap of the Standard American Diet, well on my way to the Standard American Diseases. Second, training at a major university that did not emphasize nutrition and lifestyle change, I found myself practicing standard western medicine. Fortunately, albeit arduous, I was able to work my way out of these traps and now hope to help others do the same…and I have Forks Over Knives to thank.
Trap #1: The Standard American Lifestyle
Growing up in a typical American family, I ate the typical American meals. Milk and cereal for breakfast, macaroni and cheese for lunch, and meat loaf and mashed potatoes for dinner. There was also always some kind of dessert in the house for us to eat at the end of the day. In high school I ate fast food almost every day.
My highly intellectual and caring sister reach more than 400 lbs by high school. Also, gradually over the years, my parents exceed 300 lbs and became type II diabetics without any family history of diabetes.
After years of medical training, the long hours and high stress facilitated the neglect of my own health. Poor nutrition and practically no regular physical activity, led me to become over 250 lbs… significantly obese.
Trap #2: Traditional Medical Training
I went into medicine for the right reasons, to take care of good, hard-working people and help them through difficult times. Cardiology has always fascinated me and I knew this is where I could make the biggest impact. Heart disease has been the #1 killer of Americans for almost 100 years now, surely with all the new medicines and innovative surgical techniques, I thought we could change that statistic.
I trained and worked hard at a well-respected university program. With top notch training, I learned how to order and interpret diagnostic studies, make accurate diagnoses, perform surgical procedures, and understand the hundreds of new medications and their side effects.
Looking back, I now realize that prevention of heart disease with lifestyle change was just a side note in my training. It should have been emphasized to a much larger degree. Heart disease and its risk factors being nearly completely preventable and potentially reversible through these lifestyle changes…and this was not taught. Like most physicians, I received absolutely no formal training in nutrition.
Initially, I did not really appreciate the importance of nutrition and lifestyle change within my practice. Medications always seemed like the answer. It made sense, if the cholesterol is high, give a cholesterol medicine. If the blood pressure is high, give a blood pressure medicine. We wanted lab results to be within range and would have a long talk with patients if they did not take their medicines as prescribed. I quickly realized, however, that despite all the medications and procedures, patients were not really getting much better. They frequently still suffered heart attacks and strokes. Their overall quality of life was frequently quite poor, they were suffering medication side effects and were going broke spending too much money on medications.
This, of course, felt frustrating and created a sense of helplessness because I just knew something was missing. I wanted to see complete transformations in the health of my patients, but that just wasn’t happening.
Putting It Together – Escaping the Traps
About 4 years into my cardiology practice, not only was I still in the rut of trying to figure out how to better help my patients, I also personally started suffering from obesity-related ailments. A change in my approach to practicing medicine had to be made for the sake of my patients and as well as for myself.
It became more and more clear to me, as I worked in a busy cardiology practice, that heart disease was caused by poor lifestyle habits. Therefore, the best treatment for heart disease was improving lifestyle. Everyone knows they should eat fruits and vegetables and avoid fatty, sugary, and salty foods, so that is exactly what I said; but it is way more than just that.
After studying the USDA Dietary Guidelines, following them myself strictly, and including a large amount of exercise (training for and completing 2 marathons), I still found myself overweight and not feeling as well as I should.
Then it all came together when Netflix suggested that I watch Forks Over Knives. I had never heard of a whole-food, plant-based diet and was never introduced to heart disease reversal through this lifestyle change. At one point, I became upset and even felt somewhat mislead by our traditional medical education because of the fact that a whole-food, plant-based diet and other lifestyle changes were not incorporated into our training.
I quickly transitioned myself to a whole-food, plant-based diet and finally achieved my ideal body weight of 170 lb for the first time in my adult life. I now make sure that each patient that I see with heart disease understands the cause of their illness completely…diet and lifestyle. All of my patients are encouraged to watch Forks Over Knives and explore the Forks Over Knives meal planner. I spend a majority of each visit helping them to become successful with lifestyle change to the best of my ability.
I have now finally seen the transformative changes in my patients’ health that I was longing to achieve. To be able to reduce and frequently eliminate medications, while avoiding heart procedures that have potential complications, has been very rewarding.
This change in my approach to medicine has resulted in a change in my career path as well. I relocated my practice to bring lifestyle medicine, centered around a whole-food, plant-based diet to the Chicagoland area in the Rush University Health System. I will be working closely with Dr. Kim Williams, the former president of the American College of Cardiology and Chief of Cardiology at Rush University Medical Center who is a strong, plant-based nutrition advocate.
I have dedicated hundreds of hours of my time and many resources into HeartStrong.com to help educate patients about lifestyle medicine and a whole-food, plant-based diet. While this is still a work in progress, I hope it becomes an authority for information about preventing and reversing heart disease through lifestyle medicine.
My wife has been more than just supportive. As a family physician who also has a passion for preventative medicine, she also immediately changed to a whole-food, plant-based diet and we have successfully transitioned our five wonderful children as well. Both of my parents are approaching their ideal weights and have eliminated their medications through plant-based nutrition. Several years ago, my sister lost 300 lbs through surgical weight loss, but is now maintaining her weight with a plant-based diet.
The Solution – HeartStrong.com
To help move America to a healthier lifestyle ultimately with the goal of eliminating heart disease completely, Dr. Lome founded HeartStrong.com to educate people who want to prevent and even reverse heart disease how they can empower themselves to take control of their health. He aims to teach people not just how to eat healthy and the right physical activity to do, but how to actually get motivated and get it done. The HeartStrong.com program was designed to be easy for anyone to follow with a lot of flexibility since everyone’s personal situation is different in regards to the foods they like to eat and the physical activity that the prefer to do.
Dr. Lome initially developed this program based on his knowledge as a cardiologist and exercise physiologist, the experience of helping his patients become heart healthy and his own personal experience losing weight through healthy eating and physical activity.
Dr. Lome has follows and advocates a whole foods, plant based diet excluding meat, seafood, eggs and dairy, avoiding all processed foods and adding no oil, sugar or salt. He admits that this lifestyle is not for everyone and thus discusses other options as well on HeartStrong.com.
Here is the professional profile of Dr. Lome:
Medical School: Midwestern University – CCOM 2000-2004
Internship/Residency: Internal Medicine – Loyola University Medical Center 2004-2007
Fellowship: Cardiovascular Diseases – Loyola University Medical Center 2007-2010
Board Certifications: Cardiovascular Diseases, Internal Medicine, Vascular Medicine, Echocardiography, Nuclear Cardiology, Cardiac CT, Registered Vascular Technologist (RVT) and Registered Physician in Vascular Interpretation (RPVI)