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The Health Science Podcast | Episode 019. | March 16, 2023
019: From Couch Potato to Extreme Athlete … Going Strong at 75 with Dr. Akil Taher
019: From Couch Potato to Extreme Athlete … Going Strong at 75 with Dr. Akil Taher

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“It’s never too late to change,” states Dr. Akil Taher. At 75, Dr. Taher, author of Open Heart; Transformational Journey of a Doctor Who, After Bypass Surgery at 61, Ran Marathons and Climbed Mountains, is on a mission to share his story of redemption.

Dr. Taher went from a self-proclaimed couch potato to an example of what health can look and feel like when one is a plant-based lifestylist.

During this episode of the Health Science Podcast, he shares his transformation journey from a life-threatening health situation to a place of personal and spiritual growth with Dr. Frank Sabatino.

Dr. Taher has practiced as a medical doctor in a number of countries like Bahrain, India, and the United States for over 50 years.

For years, he did not exercise, ate a horrible diet, and prided himself on being a couch potato.

Until he ended up on the operating table as an overweight patient with nearly 100% blockage in one of his arteries, he had no idea that his life was about to change…dramatically.

The stents failed, landing him in the hospital a few years later. He was warned to change his lifestyle but threw caution to the wind.

“I ended up lonely, sad, and empty inside. I reached a point where I knew something had to change,” he shakes his head.

One more time he was being wheeled into the operating room for open heart surgery. On his way in he turned to the nurse and said, “In a year, I will do a half marathon if everything goes well.”

Find out how he did a complete 180. He began a whole food, plant-based diet, began exercising, got enough sleep, and implemented the Six Pillars of Lifestyle Medicine.

His book. Open Heart is a testament to his commitment to inspiring and encouraging people around the globe to lead a healthy, fulfilling lifestyle.

Episode Highlights:

[03:24]  The life of a couch potato

[10:25]  The start of making better choices

[13:39]  Fear associated with heart problems

[19:11]  The journey to a plant-based diet

[21:33] The early years of Dr. Akil Taher

[27:00]  Adventure may hurt you, but monotony will kill you

[31:58]  You cannot outrun your diet

[36:30]  Being in the now

[39:16]  Nature as our ally

[50:00] Stay healthy as you age

[45:20]  It’s never too late to change

[52:00] Final thoughts

About Dr. Akil Taher

Dr. Akil Taher relates the journey of his transformation—how even as a physician who knew better, he led an unhealthy lifestyle. He tells how he ignored the warnings of his heart disease and other chronic ailments, how even after dying on the operating table during angioplasty and surviving at age 56, things didn’t change and seemed only to get worse, physically and emotionally. Dr. Taher recalls vividly how after his bypass surgery at age 61, he set out to radically change his life to heal his body and his spirit.

Training for and competing in his first half-marathon was only the start. Dr. Taher recounts his running in the Chicago, Boston, and Mumbai Marathons; his pilgrimage to Mount Kailash and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro; his first triathlon, 100-mile bike ride for charity, his mud run, skydiving, and white-water rafting. He found life to be a very different type of adventure.

Dr. Akil Taher was transformed from a middle-aged couch potato with a dangerously bad diet into a vital, energetic athlete, ever seeking new challenges and adventures. His life path and purpose emerged and now he practices medicine as a resurgent physician and has claimed the mantle of a septuagenarian athlete, and is a strong proponent of a whole-food, plant-based diet, and lifestyle. As an author, Dr. Taher avidly shares the details of his amazing story, and more importantly the science and the medical proof behind living a whole food, plant-based lifestyle, a lifestyle he now lives and is a testament to.

Dr. Taher often says that on this journey he met the new Akil; the man who is in alignment with the meaning of his name Akil… ‘The Wise’.

His book, Open Heart; Transformational Journey of a Doctor Who, After Bypass Surgery at 61, Ran Marathons and Climbed Mountains, continues to impact people of all ages.

Learn more about Dr. Akil Taher

About Dr. Frank Sabatino

As a recognized authority on the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle, Dr. Frank Sabatino has cared for and inspired thousands of people for over 40 years. Dr. Sabatino has a Ph.D. in cell biology and neuroendocrinology and has done extensive landmark research on calorie restriction, stress, and aging. He currently is on staff at the TrueNorth Health Foundation in Santa Rosa, CA, and serves as the Director of Health Education at the NHA.

Dr. Sabatino’s passion and life’s work include raising awareness about the benefits of whole-food, plant-exclusive nutrition (without added salt, oil, or sugar), health rejuvenation,

About NHA

The National Health Association (NHA), founded in 1948, is a nonprofit organization that promotes the benefits of a plant-based diet. The Association provides educational materials, educational events, and services to thousands of people around the world.

The mission of the National Health Association is to educate and empower individuals to understand that health results from healthy living. The NHA recognizes the integration of all aspects of health: personal, environmental, and social.

The NHA also provides travel experiences around the globe through the NHA Plant-Based Travel and cruise division.

More information:

Conference (75th Annual)

A one-of-a-kind experience, the annual NHA Conference features top leaders in the plant-based movement. Attendees of the in-person event enjoy 100% no SOS plant-exclusive meals.

To learn more and reserve your spot, visit


A unique benefit of the NHA Conference is the selection of two medical students who receive a full scholarship to the conference.

Contact Wanda Huberman for more information on how to apply for the scholarship.  [email protected]

NHA membership

For a very nominal investment, you can enjoy the incredible benefits of the NHA membership.

Members of the NHA enjoy a subscription to the award-winning quarterly health journal, Health Science, access to the “Members Only” section of the NHA Website (which contains all 43 years of back issues of the magazine),  the ability to download for free many classics out of print eBooks on the history of the Natural Hygiene Movement, including Fasting Can Save Your Life and The Greatest Health Discovery, discounts on books, and early notice of the NHA events.

Only $35 a year for basic membership within the United States.

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