Can You Reverse Heart Disease?

You know that silly saying, “You are what you eat.” What might have started as a parental push to urge children to eat their veggies has more legitimacy than we may think.

As I’ve been reviewing heart health information over the last few months, I’ve been reading about Dean Ornish, MD. Dr. Ornish’s premise is that we can not only improve our heart health but reverse heart disease with our lifestyle, including what we eat:

“The Proof: 37 years of scientific evidence conducted by Dean Ornish, M.D.® and his colleagues in collaboration with the UC San Francisco and other leading academic institutions shows that changes in diet and lifestyle can make a powerful difference in your heart function and overall well-being.”

describing the Undo it with Ornish, lifestyle medicine and research 

Lifestyle Choices Make a Difference

What we eat and do (our habits) change our bodies. We can literally accelerate or slow the aging process. Since we’ve been focusing on heart health, scroll the research page on Dr. Ornish’s website on this topic:

“Intensive Lifestyle Changes for Reversal of Coronary Heart Disease”
Journal of the American Medical Association (PDF)

“Effects of Stress Management Training & Dietary Changes in Treating Ischemic Heart Disease”
Journal of the American Medical Association (PDF)

“Long Term Effects of Lifestyle Changes on Well-Being and Cardiac Variables Among Coronary Heart Disease Patients”
Health Psychology (PDF)

It’s fascinating to see the evidence. A lot of experts talk about how they can improve heart/body health and offer approaches, but what makes Dr. Ornish unique is that he has assembled years of research that supports this idea of changing personal lifestyle habits to change health. His research is invaluable to all functional medicine experts and health practitioners … and, frankly, to you and me, because it means we can do something to improve our health.

A colleague, Mark Hyman, MD, shares some history and perspective:

“Thirty years ago, Dr. Dean Ornish came up with a radical but simple idea that threatened the very foundation of our whole conception of disease.  He believed that heart disease, cancer, and any chronic illness could actually be reversed with diet and lifestyle changes. Medication and surgery can slow and treat disease, but Dr. Ornish’s lifestyle program could actually reverse and undo the damage.  … What Dr. Ornish thought and then proved has the potential to change medicine as much as the discovery of antibiotics or vaccines.  If only people would have listened to him then, we would not be in the healthcare mess we are today. … The secret of reversing disease, he shows us, is changing your genes. … It means recognizing that absolutely everything you do interacts with your genes and literally changes the way they are ‘read’ or expressed.  Health is the result of your genes expressing themselves well, disease is the result of poorly expressed genes. … It matters whether you eat whole, real food, or processed, high-sugar, and high-fat food.  It matters whether your diet contains phytochemicals or toxic chemicals.  And it matters whether the way you eat balances your blood sugar or causes swings in blood sugar. … Dr. Ornish explains how and why the choices we make everyday influence our health through our genes.  The future of medicine, he says … is personalized medicine.”

More Than the Heart

Remember, when you’re talking about heart disease, you’re talking about metabolic disease; if you’re addressing one issue or body system, you’re addressing all of them. Your body is interconnected.

Likewise, another researched expert who is focusing on reversing aging, but in the area of brain health, is Dr. Dale Bredesen. In this Ted Talk video, which emphasizes that “treatment can reverse cognitive decline,” Dr. Bredesen mentions how a personalized precision program for brain health is the key. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Our takeaway from these experts is that you and I can make changes. Our habits can help reverse damage, aging, and disease. We can increase our health span and life span.

A popular starting point for rebooting our health is the Mediterranean Diet, and it mirrors many of the recommendations from the above experts. It focuses on eating vegetables, healthy fats, nuts, legumes, and fruit with an emphasis on stress reduction and exercise. From there, I recommend partnering with health practitioners who can further personalize your care needs.

Because of the growing body of published research, I’m observing changes in services and offerings in the health care world, including Medicare even covering The Ornish Reversal Program itself. It’s an exciting time to see that, yes, we can improve our health and reverse disease….and that these healthy doable changes are being recognized and supported.

This is what my 30 Day Metabolic Challenge was all about, making lifestyle changes that impact your health! This is what the MetaPWR System by doTERRA is about, trying to help you make those healthy changes. If you think you would like some support in making those changes, contact me!

Have questions or need more information? You can always drop me a line.