An Interview with Heart Doctor, Dr. Andrew Freeman
We were fortunate enough to learn of Dr. Freeman's work after reading an article he wrote about heart attacks during the holiday season. We were immediately struck by his conviction and reached out as quickly as possible. Since then, we've had the great privilege of getting to know Dr. Freeman more and our initial reactions to his work were right: he's brilliant, dedicated, and tireless in pursuit of reducing diet-related deaths and preventable illness.
We hope you enjoy our interview with him as much as we've enjoyed getting to know Dr. Freeman.
First, tell us a bit about yourself and your history as a physician.
I joined National Jewish Health in Denver, CO after completing my training in Philadelphia at Temple University. Prior to that, I completed my internal medicine training at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. At National Jewish, I serve as the director of clinical cardiology and the director of cardiovascular prevention and wellness, and I'm an Associate Professor of Medicine. I am board certified in internal medicine, cardiovascular disease, nuclear cardiology, cardiac CT, and echocardiography. My clinical and research interests are in disease prevention, exercise and lifestyle medicine, imaging heart disease, nutrition, and cardiac sarcoidosis.
I also host a monthly Walk with a Doc program (http:/Denver.WalkWithADoc.Org) in the Denver area where I volunteers my time to walk with patients on Saturday mornings to teach key health concepts, but also to explore using exercise as medicine for the greater good of the public.
Finally, I hold some key leadership positions in the Colorado chapter of the American College of Cardiology as well as at the national level, including founding chair of the Early Career Council and Section, an active member of the Best Practice Quality Improvement committee, co-chair of the Lifestyle and Nutrition Workgroup and a spot on the Patient-Centered Care, Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Council and ACC Digital Steering Committees. I have published scholarly manuscripts on patient-centered care, cardiac sarcoidosis, and served as editor-in-chief of the Patient Centered Care community on CardioSource. I serve as the social media editor for JACC, the country’s number one cardiology journal. As an avid teacher and educator, I teach medical, physician assistant and pharmacy students regularly, and have hosted many community lectures and CME programs.
(See, we told you! Brilliant and dedicated!)
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey in healthcare and how the food system has shaped the way you practice medicine today?
When I finished my training, like most trainees, I was an expert in the latest in standard Western medicine, diagnostics, imaging, therapeutics and medications. I could treat the most severe disease nimbly… but I was not prepared for prevention and the concept of how lifestyle medicine could actually allow for a potential cure of the very diseases I was treating.
Obviously, when damage is done, we must use the tools we have to repair it, but once the repair is made, the next step is allowing for true healing – and this is where the combination of diet, exercise, and stress relief really come in.
Even better is to prevent the damage to begin with! When I discovered the power of plant-based and minimally processed eating combined with exercise, stress relief, and connectedness, the results in my patients were astounding… for the first time in my career I took away medicines and watched high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes literally melt away.
What is one thing you would change about the food ecosystem in your community that would make a profound impact on your patients' quality of life?
Making plant-based foods readily available everywhere from hospitals to schools to your favorite restaurants. These foods taste wonderful and are cheaper and easier to make and keep on hand than many other foods, and healthful living should be contagious!
When did you first realize your patients struggle unnecessarily hard to lead healthy lives?
When I started asking patients what they ate for dinner the night before their visit with me, I was astounded as to what the average American was consuming every night – highly processed, carcinogenic, high calorie, high fat, and high salt foods were the regular issue.
What has you most concerned about your local food system?
The impact of many of the animal product industries on our planet. The current rate of animal product consumption will strip our earth of needed resources it makes me worried about future generations.
Big Food has made it nearly impossible for clinicians and scientists to extract useful and truthful health outcomes data to guide our everyday clinical care.
How do you choose to impact your local food system?
Locally, we are working hard to implement plant-based food items in our hospitals and have started using Intensive Cardiac Rehab which makes use of the Ornish model (plant-based eating, exercise, stress relief and connectedness) of which I have led the implementation. In this model we literally hold the hand of our patient as we teach them healthy living patterns to create sustainable health and to have positive impacts on our planet.
If you could design the ideal meal for your patients, what would it be?
It would be a super healthful and tasty curry brown rice bowl loaded with local vegetables and spiced just right!
How can patients or our supporters get in touch with you if they would like to know more about your practice? A few ways: for people interested in becoming a patient, they can call 303-398-1355 for an appointment. They can visit njhealth.org/walkwithadoc Or they can visit https://www.nationaljewish.org/doctors-departments/providers/physicians/andrew-m-freeman