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Name: Larry S.

Age: 67

Health Challenge: Acute heart attack. 3 Stents. Family history of heart disease.  

Greatest Motivation: A couple weeks ago I went to my doctor and he was shocked by my blood test results, asking me “Are these numbers real?” and assuring me that “You’ll never have another heart attack with your HDL 14 points higher than your LDL.”

His Story: Ironically, I had my heart attack while I was at the health club. I was just finishing up an hour-long workout, doing some curls or something on a bench. I started to feel a pain in my jaw. “That’s odd,” I thought, and decided to just end the workout and shower. But by the time I got to the shower, I realized that I was genuinely uncomfortable, and by the time I got to my car, I knew I was in too much pain to drive. So I walked back into the health club and told the woman at the front desk what was going on. She was alarmed and asked if she should call 911. I told her that I was fine and that I just needed to sit down for a minute. Fortunately for me, she didn’t listen—she called 911 and the paramedics were on their way.

“Coming into the program, I remember asking myself ‘How can I give up meat? I love meat.’ But it was easy.”

The fact that I was having a heart attack—and a major one at that—didn’t sink in for a while. In fact, when the paramedics arrived and wanted to give me some aspirin, I told them that “aspirin upsets my stomach.” But the paramedic reminded me that I had two options: “You can die here or you can have an upset stomach.” I conceded that he had a pretty good point there. On the ride to the hospital, it finally hit me that I was having a very serious heart attack. It was a rude awakening. Later on, my doctor would describe the type of heart attack that I had as “the widow maker” because of its severity. I was lucky to have survived, really.

During my time in the hospital, my cardiologist suggested that I look into the Ornish Reversal Program. (Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation) Furthermore, two or three people from the program visited me to discuss the program’s merits. Before I even left the hospital, these visits had convinced me. I knew I didn’t want to have another heart attack and saw that the program could flip the odds back in my favor. I joined shortly thereafter.

I began to feel better shortly after joining the program. I bounced back very quickly after the heart attack and to this day I rarely get sick at all—not even common colds. I’ve had no heart pain whatsoever. I carry nitro pills, but I have never taken one. I’m generally very healthy. In fact, just a couple weeks ago I went to my doctor and he was shocked by my blood test results, asking me “Are these numbers real?” and assuring me that “You’ll never have another heart attack with your HDL 14 points higher than your LDL.” So I’ve done well, really well. The program has helped immensely.

Each of the program’s components has helped me in a different way. The exercise component helped me return to my usual regiment very quickly after my heart attack, and it has helped me remain very active since. In fact, I even began to jog a bit when I started the program, and over the years I’ve gotten to be pretty dedicated to it. The group component was also very beneficial for me. I’ve always had a hard time opening up and sharing things prior to the program, but over time I actually began to look forward to our sessions. Even my public speaking, which has always been one of my biggest fears, improved. I liked the support so much that I joined a self-directed community, which still meets to this day.

The component that surprised me most was the nutrition. Coming into the program, I remember asking myself “How can I give up meat? I love meat.” But it was easy. I enjoyed the food and started trying new things—I even became something of a foodie. I enjoyed eating more than I ever had. The final component—stress management—also helped me, particularly when I was working full time. I found my job to be very stressful. I had angry customers, deadlines, late shipments—all of the usual stresses. But the program gave me the tools to take a step back, relax, and put everything in perspective. It was very helpful.

Without the program, my life would be very different. I might have had another heart attack and been gone by now. But having maintained the program for so long, I feel great. Maybe I look like a 67- year-old man, but I certainly don’t feel like one. I wake up feeling good every day, and I owe a lot of that feeling to the Ornish program.

To anyone who is thinking of joining the program, I would say that “It’s worked for me and it can work for you too.” I owe my life to the program—or at least my quality of life. I feel great and there’s nothing that I can’t do. Granted, I can’t run a marathon, but I couldn’t do that when I was 20. I’m not restricted in any way. I plan to see my grandchildren grow up and graduate and have children of their own. I have places to see and things that I want to do. Ultimately, it all comes down to enjoying life, and the Ornish program has helped me do that—it can do the same for you.

Contributed by

Adam Farina
Contributor

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