Juicing leads to heart attacks?
Damaris Pinedo, owner of Rochester’s organic juice bar, Just Juice 4 Life, would love to tell you that never in a million years did she see herself becoming a cardiology patient in her thirties. But when she did, it was anything but surprising.
“I am the seventh person in my family to have a heart attack and the third to have one in their thirties,” Pinedo stated.
It is this family history that has fueled her dedication to a vegan diet and active lifestyle.
At age 27, Pinedo found herself mentally and physically exhausted from the stress of working a full-time job as a cytotechnologist at the University of Rochester. She was taking care of her cousin with ovarian cancer, while attending grad school and trying to maintain a balanced family life with her wife and step-daughter. Feelings of depression led her to research holistic methods for healing and wellness, where she discovered “juice fasting.” She began juicing daily, and transformed her diet completely to plant-based.
When talking about her transition, she says, “I found the power of fresh fruit and vegetables and it changed my life, and greater than that, it helped me change other people's lives for the better as well.”
She says she immediately experienced changes in her health from increased energy to diminished symptoms of endometriosis. She even noticed the healing of severe digestive issues that she had suffered for the majority of her life.
As a strong and outspoken advocate for food as medicine, and a pillar in the Rochester vegan community as well as a respected resource for many people seeking wellness advice, she received minimal negativity from the community following her heart attack.
“For the most part people aren’t ignorant to the fact that healthy people can get sick too, and that there are many things that are just beyond our control,” said Pinedo. But there have been things I’ve heard about my diet being the cause which is completely untrue and has no fact basis, so I don’t really pay attention to the negativity. I’ve always felt that people opposing me have given me fuel to continue to do what’s best for me and prove them wrong.”
There are many benefits to following a plant-based diet. For some, it’s the very medicine their genetic makeup needs to prevent hereditary illness. Pinedo, however, is not afraid to admit that while a healthy diet is vital (which she believes played a major role in her quick recovery following her heart attack) -- there are other important health aspects that should not be overlooked. Namely, mental health and stress.
Stress is a huge contributing factor to disease, and overworking oneself cannot be fixed simply by drinking nutrient-packed beverages, she says. But she still considers if she hadn’t made changes to her diet over a decade ago, and still consumed a typical American diet filled with processed and fat-laden foods, her outcome may have been vastly different.
“I’m just thankful to still be alive, and that I’ve recovered,” she says. “I’m grateful for the wake-up call to change things as well. I was holding onto some things that I should’ve been releasing control over and living a very high-stress life trying to do everything myself, and I’m now in a place where I’m really more at peace about life and what my mission is.”
By Krystina Gauer