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HuffPost’s Third Metric seeks to redefine success beyond money and power. As part of the ongoing series, Dr. Ornish, who is also the HuffPost Medical Editor, talks about “Lifestyle Medicine,” his work with President Bill Clinton, and whether changing the way you eat and live can really treat and prevent diseases?

It’s not all in your genes. Your genes are not your fate. If you change your lifestyle, you can change your genes.

What is lifestyle medicine?

We all know whether life affects whether we get sick or not. But lifestyle medicine is using lifestyle as treatment for reversing disease when people already have it. We’re able to show for the first time that these simple lifestyle changes can actually reverse, not just prevent, the progression of even severe heart disease, that men with early stage prostate cancer can slow stop or even reverse it. We can reverse Type 2 Diabetes. We can change your genes and lengthen your telemeres, even reversing aging. Many people think that it has to be a new drug or a new laser, something really high tech to be powerful, and what we’ve done in our almost 40 years of research is to use these state of the art scientific measures to prove how powerful these very simple, low tech and low cost interventions, can be.

How did you encourage President Clinton?

I began working with him back in 1993, when he first became President. I met with Mrs. Clinton, later Secretary Clinton, and she asked me to train the White House chefs, the Camp David chefs, and the Air Force One chefs, who cook for them. Of course, I was honored to do that. And then I began working with him as one of his physician consultants as well. And much later when he had bypass surgery and his bypasses clogged up, he was told it was all in his genes and his lifestyle didn’t have anything to do with it. I told him, it’s not all in your genes. Your genes are not your fate. If you change your lifestyle – we actually did a study that if you change your lifestyle you can change your genes. Not to blame, but to empower. Because if its all in your genes, there nothing you can do about it. So about five or six years ago, he began making these changes, eating predominantly a plant-based diet, and he’s doing great. I love him. He’s wonderful guy, but whatever your politics, when a President makes these changes and becomes known for eating healthy, it sets a great example for everyone.

Watch the full interview here. 


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