I have great respect for Dr Dean Ornish, a qualified doctor who dedicated decades of his life into research towards reversing heart disease through lifestyle changes. After hearing about the book that he has written in 1990 titled “Dr Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease”, I made the aspiration to find the book- and find it, I did. However, even though I’ve read through the book sometime back, I could not find the time to write about it in this blog.
On Sunday, I saw Dr Dean Ornish in Larry King Live and is determined to take time to sit down to write a brief outline about his program.
Heart disease is the number 1 killer disease in Malaysia- just what I’ve heard that announcement in Lite FM (radio). There is a huge waiting list in IJN (National Heart Institute) – many are suffering from coronary artery blockages and sadly, I don’t understand why the only option available to these patients is a heart bypass. Dr Dean Ornish’s program for reversing heart disease through lifestyle changes is actually scientifically recognized- because the results are supported by systematic clinic trials. And yet, his program, “Opening Your Heart” is virtually unknown here.
It is my hope that the Health Ministry would consider obtaining more information and introducing this to help heart patients work towards reversing their condition- rather than offering surgery as the only option. As Dr Dean had pointed out in his book, the real issue is not only about lifestyle changes- even though it may be all some people need.
The best part is that, Dr Dean uses real names of people and state their case histories- unlike many other books where the names of people have been changed. Real name, case histories are quoted- because the author is confident that anyone is free to do a reference check. The success cases are real.
Some pointers worth noting:
Different people, different treatment style
- The way to overcome may vary from one person to another. A person, with ample emotional support but who is brought up to love to eat high fat fast food and is sedentary may find his health greatly improved if he just made lifestyle changes- cut down on such food and exercise more
- However, a person in a highly stressed job but with a chrolesterol level of only 150 would benefit more from an effective stress management program.
Cholesterol is not the whole story
While cholesterol is very important, it is not the whole story. Neither is high blood pressure, or smoking or lack of exercise. All of the known risk factors explain only about one half of the heart disease that we see. Clearly, something is going on.
~ page 19
Dr Dean went on to give a case study of a priest, who earlier followed all the conventional lifestyle recommendations given by his doctor, only to have his coronary artery blockage to worsen dramatically (from 37% blockage to 77%!).
He relayed another example of an investment banker who tried everything to control his heart disease- first going for cardiac medication, only to find the condition getting worse. Then he underwent heart bypass surgery but a few years later the bypassed arteries clogged up again. He did another angioplasty four years later but the arteries closed up within a few months. Then he entered into Dr Dean’s program- his cholesterol dropped from 271 to 192- still on the high side but his angiogram one year later show significant reversal in his coronary artery blockages.
Addressing the fundamental issues:
“Coronary heart disease- the blockages in the coronary arteries and reduced blood flow to the heart- is the end product of a chain of events that occur over a lifetime. A fundamental and recurring theme of this book is that treating only the physical manifestation of heart disease without addressing the more fundamental causes will provide only temporarily relief, and the disease is likely to recur. At best, we will trade one set of the problems or illnesses for another.”
It is very true in US as well as here- if a patient has heart disease, the only way he can claim for treatment from his insurance company is if he goes for surgery. How can the doctors claim if the prescription is to get the patient to agree to follow structured lifestyle program?
In Chapter 2, a transcript from a patient was featured. This man was a school bully and grew up to be a very hard, angry and moody man. He pick up fights with people, even into adulthood. But deep down inside, there was this innermost fear of rejection- so before he could allow other people to reject him, he reject them first. He said, “before, I was a knot inside. My muscles were tight. I even learned that my blood vessels were tight and restricted. When you walk around that way for years and years and you’re uptight all the time, then it takes a toll on your body.”
Look out more in the next article- where he wrote on how increased isolation eventually leads to heart disease.
Some of the books written by Dr Ornish which I recommend and is available in electronic versions: