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Name: Ed

Age: 76

Health Challenge: Bypass surgery, several stents, heart disease since 1987.

Greatest Motivation: Finding these other people inspired me to start my own Ornish community in 1995, and I served as president for the first 5 years. Eventually, the support group grew to 270 participants, and we have probably reached more than 1000 people over the years. I am very proud of the fact that the group is still active today, and I hope to keep it that way for a long time to come.

His Story: My journey towards changing my lifestyle began when I read Dr. Ornish’s book—Reversing Heart Disease—in 1993. I’d had heart disease since 1987, so I was looking for some way to take control of my health, and I was convinced that Dr. Ornish was right. However, I was also convinced that I could not do the reversal diet. Despite this conviction, I decided to attend a one-week program that Dr. Ornish was giving in California to learn more about the program. Before I left Rochester, I had a liverwurst sandwich and told my wife that “this is going to be my last good meal for a little while”—I said “a little while” because, as I mentioned earlier, I really had no intention of following the diet beyond the initial program. Little did I know, that meal would be the last time I’d eat meat for the rest of my life. Ever since the end of that week, I knew that I could do it.

“The impact that the Ornish program has had on my life—both medically and otherwise—is truly immeasurable.”

Medically speaking, I don’t necessarily have the prototypical Ornish success story. Since joining the program in 1995, my symptoms haven’t totally disappeared in the way that most people’s symptoms seem to. The program’s impact has on my health has, however, been undeniable. The best way to describe the impact is through a conversation I had with my cardiologist. I asked him what the probability is that—if I weren’t on the program—I’d either be incapacitated or dead. He said 50 percent. Then, I asked the same question to two of my other doctors, who both put the number at 80 percent. So, the consensus is 70 percent that, without the program, I’d be dead or incapacitated—and that’s not bad, not bad at all.

The program has truly had a wonderful impact on my wellbeing. The program has also impacted me beyond the obvious medical side of things. I was on a radio show with Dr. Ornish one time and he said that the program “just makes people feel better,” and he was completely right; I feel better, I have more energy, and I’m more optimistic than before—it’s made a huge difference.

The program has also helped me continue to do the things that I love. I’m a tennis player, for example, and I still play very often. Sometimes I even play singles, and for a guy that’s 76 years old, playing singles means that I’m definitely ahead of the curve. Overall, the program has really impacted and improved my life. Each of the program’s components has been meaningful to me, but none more so than the group support. I honestly think I hold the Guinness World Record for most Ornish programs attended, and there’s a reason for that—I love being with the group and helping people through the program. I recognized the importance of support early on; after leaving the one week program in 1995, I knew that the best way for me to deepen my understanding and continue to follow the diet was to give talks and be around others who were on the program, so that’s what I did. I spoke to groups like the local vegetarian society and Mended Hearts, and eventually I found a group of like-minded people.

Finding these other people inspired me to start my own Ornish community in 1995, and I served as president for the first 5 years. Eventually, the support group grew to 270 participants, and we have probably reached more than 1000 people over the years. I am very proud of the fact that the group is still active today, and I hope to keep it that way for a long time to come. Creating and running an Ornish support community has meant the world to me—it’s my baby. Running the group has also been the catalyst for some amazing moments over the years. Recently, a man came up to me and said “you know Ed, I think you saved my life. And I really, truly want you to know how much I appreciate that.” Hearing that floored me; nothing in the world could make me feel better than hearing those words—hearing that, with the help of the Ornish program, I saved someone’s life. Ultimately, without the program I’d probably be dead, and—to state the obvious—that’s not a good thing. Or I’d be incapacitated, and that’s not a good thing either.

The impact that the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program (Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation) has had on my life—both medically and otherwise—is truly immeasurable. I’d recommend it to anyone, and I often do; I could easily bore someone about the program for an hour and a half if they’d let me. But, if I had to boil my advice down to one sentence, I would say to just give the program a try—it’s doable and it really will help. It certainly has for me.

Contributed by

Adam Farina
Contributor

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