SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — November is “Movember” at WAVY. Each week we will bring you a story focused on men’s health.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in America, but it doesn’t have to be. Doctors say 90% of heart disease is preventable, or in Ron Caswell’s case, reversible.

Caswell was driving to work on Interstate 264 in 2018 when he felt a sharp pain in the chest that forced him to pull over. The pain quickly went away, so he kept driving.

“So, I just figured it was another ache or pain from my poor golf swing and I ignored it,” he said.

Several weeks later, on the job at a construction site, he started complaining to a co-worker about chest pressure, and he said, ‘Are you stupid? Call your doctor.’ So I called him, and he asked the same question, ‘Ron are your stupid?'”

At Sentara Heart Hospital, doctors discovered Caswell had not only suffered a heart attack two weeks prior, the widowmaker was waiting.

“So, I said, ‘Alright, what are my options?’ He said, ‘You’ve got two. You can go in for triple bypass in the morning or you can die.” Caswell told WAVY.

After a successful surgery, Caswell returned to work, but had zero energy.

Then one day, a health care worker turned him on to a book called Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.

It’s mostly full of recipes for healthier eating. It also taught Caswell to read food labels, and cut through marketing from the food industry.

“I’m an all-meat, all-the-time guy, that is how I lived my life, and now, I’m a kale guy and I just love it,” Caswell said, beaming.

The diet is basically vegan, with the added restrictions of no oils, avocado or coconut.
It’s a hard plan to follow, Caswell admits, and that’s why most people don’t.

However, Dr. Ethlyn Gibson of Eastern Virginia Medical School told 10 On Your Side that it’s not all or nothing.

“Make small changes,” she said. “Don’t try to change everything at once. Little small baby steps are what make the difference.”

The American Heart Association recommends following Life’s Essential 8.

“Life’s Essential 8 means there are some simple things you can do to protect your heart,” Gibson said.

The big three on the list include regular exercise, no smoking and a healthier diet.

“Many of us do what we call mindless eating, where we pick up the first thing that we see,” Gibson said, “and so, we want you to think about having more fruits and vegetables. That’s what he started thinking about.”

Now when the work day is done, instead of thinking about a nap, Caswell is wide awake
and living his best life.

“Now I’m out and I’ve got energy and I’m living my life,” Caswell said. “I bought a camper and we’re out doing things all the time, and I no longer live like the end is near.”