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Name: Joy H.

Age: 83

Location: Hamot (Legacy site)

Health Challenge: Heart disease. Quadruple bypass. Obesity.

Greatest Motivation: My goal has always been to not only live longer, but to live better—to feel better. And on the program, I do. My mind works. My body works.

Her Story: I never had a heart attack or any classic symptoms of heart disease. I just kept having this little sensation in my neck that was more annoying than painful, really. But when I told my doctor about it, he wanted me to take a stress test. I figured that I didn’t need one and just didn’t go to the appointment. It was about a year later when things started to change. I live above a funeral home and I run up the stairs every time I get home. One day when I ran up the stairs, I got that annoying pain in my neck again, and after that I decided to do the stress test.

“Had I known about this program and lived it when I was younger, I never would have gotten heart disease.”

It was all downhill from there. During the stress test the doctor forced the technician aside and asked me if I saw what he saw on the monitor. I did. He told me that the only way to fix something like that was to have surgery, and that if he had known that my heart disease was that bad, he’d never have let me delay the test. Shortly after, I had quadruple bypass surgery. The health issues didn’t end there, however. Not long after leaving the hospital, I had another incident and was rushed back in an ambulance. This time it was a lung problem.

The whole ordeal was very frightening. I remember waking up after the heart surgery and hearing one person say: “Joy, what a beautiful name. When I was a young man in France, there was a perfume named Joy.” I was a little taken aback, thinking to myself “What the heck is he talking about perfume for? Can I get this tracheal tube out of my mouth?” But then the man asked, “May I bless you?” I nodded, finally understanding that a priest was there to administer a precautionary blessing. I went back to sleep. The whole thing was very frightening and very confusing. Finally, we got the issues straightened out and I went home for good. But those two incidents are why my doctor recommended that I join the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program. (Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation) Thank God he did.

Almost immediately after joining the program, my health improved immensely. First, the program drastically improved my heart health and ended the avalanche of procedures. Second, the program helped me lose and keep off 106 pounds since my original surgery. Lastly, and most surprisingly, the program dramatically improved my overall health. Before the program, I had shingles, I’d get colds, I’d get the flu—just like everybody else. But since joining the program, I’ve been able to go for stretches of ten years without any sickness at all. The program deserves credit for all of those improvements. It has bolstered my immune system and kept me healthy. Had I known about this program and lived it when I was younger, I never would have gotten heart disease. In fact, I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the Ornish program. I wouldn’t be upstairs anymore; I would have been downstairs a long time ago. And remember, I live above a funeral home!

I’ve never found the program to be hard to follow. The group component is an excellent source of support, and I’ve enjoyed that aspect of the program so much that I joined an alumni community after the official program ended. I’ve made many good friends in that group; we have a strong bond and they truly want me to succeed. The stress management and exercise components have also helped immensely, allowing me to control my anger and stay in shape. I’ve even enjoyed the dietary component, which I’ve found to be the easiest part to follow despite what most people believe before entering the program. The program is not only sustainable because of the components, however; it’s sustainable due to the results. I’m motivated by how I feel, and the program makes me feel great. My goal has always been to not only live longer, but to live better—to feel better. And on the program, I do. My mind works. My body works. And I know I can’t live forever, but I’m certainly going to try!

If I were to give advice to someone who is considering joining the Ornish program I would say that “you have to try it because it works. It worked for me and it will work for you.” Take my word for it—look at the way that I live; I’m 83 years old but people would never know it—I move around well, I’m active, and my mind is sharp. People look to me for guidance within my alumni community. I’m happy, I’m healthy, and I feel great. Better than I did before. And I owe that success to the Ornish program. Really, I could stand and preach about the program all day, but you have to try it for yourself; you’ll see and feel the benefits right away.

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