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Name: Welch G.

Age: 82 (and a half)

Location: UCLA Health

Health Challenges: Heart Attack and 3 stents

Greatest Motivation: I feel omnipotent. I take on so many projects and do so many things that my wife is always having to say “don’t climb that ladder, stop breaking those boulders”—things like that. I even climbed Diamond Head in Hawaii—a mountain which very explicitly states in a sign at the bottom that “if you have coronary problems, don’t climb this mountain.” My motivation is my lovely wife Laura, and it’s my kids, and it’s my grandkids. I want to spend many years with them and be around for the things that they accomplish. I’m also motivated because, quite simply, I’m enjoying life. 

His story: In 1995, I came in from walking my dog and began to have severe chest pain. I’d had no symptoms before that—and I was feeling good and looking healthy—so I didn’t realize what was happening for a long time. But the pain persisted, and three or four hours later, I finally drove myself to the hospital. There, I found out that I was having a heart attack, and my 20-year struggle with heart disease began.

 “My doctors can hardly believe what’s happened to me. I believe their exact quotation was ‘wow, that’s amazing.’”

My next heart episode happened in 2002. I had second one in 2005, and then, for the final time, in 2014. Each of these incidents deeply affect me, but the first one had the largest impact. It was just such a surprise. When I got to the hospital, and the doctors told me what that I was having a heart attack, I became very depressed—very vulnerable. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to do the things that I was used to do. I felt totally helpless. Then, after the episode in 2014, I decided that I had to take control and turn my health around. So I started to make some changes.

First, we began to change my diet. During one of my doctor’s appointments, my lovely wife Laura presented the doctor and I with a food contract she’d written. It stated, “from this point on, Welch will not eat X, Y, and Z, (unhealthy foods) and Welch will not make any faces at Laura when she keeps him from eating those foods.” I always joke that that was a dark time in my life, but she was totally right. I signed the contract and stuck to it. Around the same time, Laura and I began researching lifestyle programs, and that’s when we came across the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program. (Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation) In my research, I’d come across a lot of programs that offered prevention and maintenance, but none that could promise reversal like Ornish. So we gave it a shot, and doing so was one of the best decisions we ever made.

When you focus on your motivations—on being able to live better and spend more time doing what you love—making lifestyle changes becomes easy.

Since joining the program, I have had no symptoms of heart disease. At one time before the program, my cholesterol was 234—now it’s 134. My HDL has improved by 11 points, my LDL has drastically improved—the list goes on and on. I’ve gotten off of some medications and reduced others. My doctors can hardly believe what’s happened to me. I believe their exact quotation was “wow, that’s amazing.” And they’re right. It really is.

Honestly, I feel so good, and have so much more energy, that it almost becomes problematic at times. I feel omnipotent. I take on so many projects and do so many things that my wife is always having to say “don’t climb that ladder, stop breaking those boulders”—things like that. I even climbed Diamond Head in Hawaii—a mountain which very explicitly states in a sign at the bottom that “if you have coronary problems, don’t climb this mountain.” But it’s a great problem to have. Especially now; I’m at an age where you begin to look for validation—look for things to do to make yourself useful. The thought of just sitting down and doing nothing is, to put things lightly, not desirable. But I haven’t had to. For example, before the program, I was thinking of selling off some of the properties that I own to lessen my workload. But now, I’m doing so well that we bought another house. Instead of scaling down my activities, I’m actually increasing them. So the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program has really given me the energy to stay active.

I’ve also found throughout the course of my life that discipline, not desire, determines your destiny—and I believe that sentiment really applies to the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program. At first, it’s easy to be a bit hesitant about the program’s elements. Oscar Wilde once said “I can resist anything but temptation,” and as a life-long meat and potato man, I can relate. But I’ve found that the diet, the group support, the stress management, and the exercise are all really helpful. More importantly, I’ve found that when you focus on your motivations—on being able to live better and spend more time doing what you love—making lifestyle changes becomes easy.

For me, “motivation” is the big word for the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program. My motivation is my lovely wife Laura, and it’s my kids, and it’s my grandkids. I want to spend many years with them and be around for the things that they accomplish. I’m also motivated because, quite simply, I’m enjoying life. I’m retired, so I do what I want to do, when I want to do it–and God has blessed me with great people to do it with. None of this would be possible if I weren’t healthy, though, and that’s where the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program comes in. It has made me healthy, which has taken my motivations and made them my reality. For that, I am so grateful. At 82 and a half, it really doesn’t get any better than this.

Contributed by

Adam Farina
Contributor

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