Eat Your Way To A Healthier Heart, with Dr. Steven Masley

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

After years of studying how your diet affects your overall health, Dr. Steven Masley decided to make it his mission to write more recipes than prescriptions. In this first episode of a series with the author of “The Mediterranean Method”, Dr. Masley tells the Amens his story of how going through a chef school transformed his approach from treating symptoms to preventing disease.

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Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is also brought to you by Brain MD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to
Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome everyone. We have a very special week for you. We are together with our friend Dr. Steven Masley, who is a physician, nutritionist, a trained chef ... I love that part ... and author and the creator of the very successful public television show, 30 Days to a Younger Heart. He helps motivated people tune up their brain, their heart and sexual performance. Now, we have talked about that, haven't we? How your brain-
Tana Amen: Why did you focus on that?
Dr Daniel Amen: ... your heart and your genitals are all connected, because it's all about blood flow. He is a fellow with the American Heart Association and the American College of Nutrition, which is so important to do those two things together. His research focuses on the impact of lifestyle choices, on brain function, heart disease and aging. He's the bestselling author of a number of books 10 Years Younger, The 30 Day Heart Tune Up, Smart Fat, The Better Brain Solution and his latest book, The Mediterranean Method. Plus, he's also written a number of scientific articles. We are so excited to have you on with us, Steven.
Tana Amen: Yes. Thank you for being here.
Dr Daniel Amen: I think-
Dr Steven Masley: I'm delighted to be with you.
Dr Daniel Amen: Thank you. I think our audience really is going to be interested about the things we're going to talk about, the brain heart connection, the brain heart gut connection, the brain heart gut genital connection. I mean, all of this is just so important.
Tana Amen: It really is. And I want to see a picture of that book again because your book's coming out soon, right? It's beautiful.
Dr Steven Masley: December 31st.
Tana Amen: Gorgeous. So we always love promoting books that are in line with what we recommend and people get just more and more recipes. So that's fabulous. I'm assuming there's some easy things in there for people who don't like to cook?
Dr Steven Masley: Yeah, easy to prepare. This is my first book ever where it comes out with photos in it-
Tana Amen: Beautiful, beautiful.
Dr Steven Masley: [crosstalk 00:03:02] some of the dishes.
Tana Amen: Oh, lovely.
Dr Steven Masley: That's a first for me that-
Tana Amen: Gorgeous.
Dr Steven Masley: ... you have photos of the meals as well, which that goes with the Mediterranean eating, right? The food is beautiful.
Tana Amen: That's wonderful.
Dr Daniel Amen: Colorful as well. So let's start in this podcast, and tell us your story. How did you get interested in being a different kind of physician?
Dr Steven Masley: Well, you may not know this, but my dad was a surgeon and he worked like 90 hours a week. To see my dad as a child, I basically rode my bike to the hospital and I would find him in the emergency room, in surgery, in the ICU, and it was very intensive. So here's someone who's not old enough to drive a car, who goes to see his dad, scrubs, get scrubs on, scrubs up. And my dad usually would make me do a few stitches or something.
Tana Amen: Wow.
Dr Steven Masley: When I would see them in the intensive care unit, I thought, "Wow, this is awful. This is what they do to people in the hospital? This is terrible." So people love my dad. We had so many fruitcakes over the holidays, we could hardly find our own presents. But I dreamed that when I grew up, I'd be a doctor that kept people out of the hospital so they didn't need surgery and they didn't need to go to the intensive care unit, and that was my dream as a child. You could imagine going to medical school and going through residency. It was frustrating because all our time was spent in the hospital. So I had to reinvent myself, get a nutrition degree, go back to cooking school-
Tana Amen: Love that.
Dr Steven Masley: To get to my childhood roots-
Tana Amen: That's amazing.
Dr Steven Masley: ... what I wanted out of medicine, that was quite a journey.
Tana Amen: That's amazing. You'll relate to this thing because I'm a neurosurgical ICU nurse and so I worked in a level A trauma unit and I had a really interesting story. There was a surgeon. He was a well-known surgeon on our unit. I worked at Loma Linda, so we saw a lot of high profile cases, and I used to see him outside the hospital. He was overweight and he would smoke and I'm like, "How is that possible? How does the surgeon smoke knowing what he knows, eat the way he eats, stay overweight? I'm confused," but I also know in their defense their lifestyle is really hard to contend with. The hours that they work and such, it's really difficult.
Well, I used to come in with my lunch bag every single day and I was really into weight lifting at the time. So my lifestyle was the opposite of what a lot of people in the medical field is. And so I'd come in with my lunch bag and he walks in one day to the lunch room and he says, "You know, all of that healthy eating and exercise is only going to add a few years to your life," and my jaw hits the table. And I looked at him and I'm like, "Have you looked around our unit? It's really not about the number of years I live. It's really more about how I live those years." I was so confused that-
Dr Steven Masley: Absolutely.
Tana Amen: That Western medicine philosophy is just so different from the preventative medicine. So it's just so interesting. So you'll relate to that, I thought, based on what you saw.
Dr Steven Masley: Absolutely. I totally get it.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr Daniel Amen: So tell us more. Why chef school?
Tana Amen: That's so great.
Dr Steven Masley: I was doing research. I worked at group health cooperative, which now is part of Kaiser. They are now part of the Kaiser family. And I was doing research studies on how to help reverse heart disease and what could people do for osteoporosis. And in the studies when I did surveys and questionnaires on how to improve this, what the subject said over and over is, "If you just gave us recipes that were easy to prepare, the food would taste good and I could find ingredients in the store. That's what I'll make and that would make all the difference. I don't need all this detailed information." And that was like a light bulb going off for me that I really did need to start writing a lot more recipes than I ever wrote prescriptions as a physician.
That was transforming. And once I started doing that, that really did change my practice. I became more food-oriented and practical. So yeah, I want meals to be easy to prepare, delicious, your family and friends love them and the nutrients nourish your heart, brain and soul. So I got my fellowship in nutrition at the American College of Nutrition. I went to the Four Seasons and did a chef internship and the results from my studies improved dramatically.
Tana Amen: That's awesome.
Dr Daniel Amen: That's like a headline, writing-
Tana Amen: Recipes.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... more recipes than prescriptions.
Tana Amen: That's a great sound bite, by the way. That's fantastic, because there's not a lot of doctors who have that mindset. They're not trained that way. I think it's becoming a little more ... the focus is shifting but it's still not the norm.
Dr Steven Masley: Not the norm. Yeah. Our friend Mark Hyman I think is the same way.
Dr Daniel Amen: Tell us a little bit more about some of the studies you were doing and how they informed your practice.
Dr Steven Masley: Well, we looked at a diet trial, diet intervention exercise trial and it was for people with heart disease and we were looking at could we change behavior, risk factors. Initially, we tried adding an Ornish program. This was back in the early 1990s. But I couldn't get even 5% of people with heart disease to follow. Even if they tried it, they would drop out within a month. So I realized this isn't going to work. And I had always had an interest in the Mediterranean diet, and I thought, "What if I did a Mediterranean version of this where we add more healthy fat, really focus on vegetable, fruit, beans, nuts, healthy fats, herbs and spices, make food tastes great, simple to prepare?" And my results were awesome. I mean, it was pretty amazing. And so when I ran my clinic over time, we would notice our average patient was shrinking plaque over time. We had hundreds of people that shrunk their artery plaque by more than 10 years.
Tana Amen: Wow.
Dr Steven Masley: Brain cognitive performance, doing CNS vital signs, our average patient's processing speed increased. We had hundreds of people who had more than a 25% improvement in brain processing and brain function. So we could see that lifestyle had a huge impact. So I changed my whole perspective. If I put someone on a med, it's not like I never wrote a prescription. Let's be realistic. But I would usually say, "I'm writing this because I failed you somehow."
Tana Amen: Oh, interesting.
Dr Steven Masley: "If I really made an impact, I wouldn't need to write this, and hopefully someday you won't need it. But for now, let's go ahead and start this. But the key is not this prescription. It's the other choices you're making."
Tana Amen: I love that.
Dr Steven Masley: That was quite a change in my practice.
Tana Amen: Wow.
Dr Daniel Amen: So what you're saying, because I don't think most people believe this, is that you can actually decrease the amount of plaque you have on your blood vessels.
Tana Amen: Most people don't know that.
Dr Steven Masley: Oh yeah, we've published this. We were doing carotid IMT for 10 years and we monitored every patient and tracked them over time, and our average patient's plaque was shrinking. The average American is growing about one and a half percent more plaque every year.
Tana Amen: Wow. So that reminds me, I mean, that sort of sounds like what we tell people that you can make your brain better. It doesn't have to get worse as you age. And most people don't know that. They don't believe that. But you're saying you actually found the same thing in your practice that cognitively they were getting better as their hearts got better, because what's good for your brain is good for your heart, is good for your genitals.
Dr Steven Masley: Your circulation, your tissues, your functioning, everything. I mean, it all goes together. We're a matrix.
Tana Amen: Right. And I have to say, as someone who suffered a lot, my health was terrible, which is why I went into this field and went on this journey and wrote my book, The Omni Diet, was because I was just such a mess as a kid. I was one of those very sickly kids, ended up with thyroid cancer that was metastatic, kept coming back, couldn't figure out why, was on nine medications and it just didn't make sense to me. So as a nurse, I went, "There's got to be a better way." And I went on that journey myself and I just remember feeling as a patient, like, "Why is no one addressing me as a person? I keep getting sent to all these specialists. They keep layering my meds, not communicating with one another." It didn't make sense to me. I'm not a bunch of individual organs or systems. I'm a person. Why are people not addressing me as a person? And I'm a nurse. So imagine how frustrating it is to someone who has no concept of what they're doing with this. It's hard. It's very frustrating. So I applaud you.
Dr Steven Masley: It sure was, but you obviously had wonderful results once you got out, once you've taken charge of your own health.
Tana Amen: Well, and that's what we tell people. Become your own advocate. And it's easier when you're in the health industry. So if you're not, then you find people like you, right? That's what we recommend. You find people that are holistic, that look at you like a person. You're looking at their heart, their brain function, their genital function, their sexual function. You're looking at the whole person. That's so important.
Dr Daniel Amen: When we come back, we're going to talk about the brain heart connection, which is just incredibly important and we're very happy that Dr. Masley's a brain warrior.
Tana Amen: Let's see his book one more time. That is such a pretty book. So if people want this book, when and where can they get it?
Dr Steven Masley: It's available wherever books are sold on December 31st.
Tana Amen: Excellent.
Dr Steven Masley: Preorder at anytime.
Tana Amen: Excellent.
Dr Daniel Amen: It's called The Mediterranean Method. You're listening to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. Stay with us. Your heart is coming up next.
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