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Name: Laura G.

Location: UCLA Health

Health Challenge: I didn’t have many health problems, but even so, the program’s four elements have made me feel healthier.

Greatest Motivation: Ultimately, my motivation for following the program is two-fold: I want to live a happy and healthy life for a long time, and I want Welch (my husband) to be around (and healthy) for all of it. We’ve always had an excellent relationship, but I always feared that Welch wouldn’t be around for long because of his heart condition. Now, with the program, that fear is gone. Today, I really feel great, and my doctor and lab results echo that feeling.

Her Story: When my husband Welch had a heart attack in 1995, he wasn’t exactly sure what was going on. He’s always been in great shape and there had been no warnings of any kind, so he dismissed it and waited for the pain to go away. But it didn’t go away, and after 3 or 4 hours, he finally called me and told me how he was feeling. At long last, I convinced him to go to the hospital and we found out about the heart attack. Between that day and the end of 2014, Welch had three more incidents with heart disease, and each took its toll on him. Most of all, the incidents made him guarded—worried that something might happen again and unsure about the unknown. After the final incident, the doctors were considering bypass surgery, and we didn’t want that. So I started doing research and making calls about the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program. (Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation) Luckily, we got in.

Most people don’t understand the power of lifestyle change, so they get sick, have surgery and take medication

I’m a dietician and (not to shoot myself with the glory gun) a pretty good cook, so I got us going on the Ornish nutrition plan before the official program even started. To get Welch onboard, I wrote up a food contract for him to sign before he even got out of the hospital. The “contract” prohibited him from eating certain foods, and, more importantly, from making faces at me when I enforced the contract. When I presented it to Welch and his doctor, they both read it over, laughed, and the doctor made Welch sign it. It was great. Then, I started calling my family members and giving them the meat in my freezer—the prime rib, the steak, all of it. From that day on, we’ve eaten the Ornish diet and loved it.

When the program officially began, we quickly realized that it was everything we’d hoped it would be. I attended most of each session with Welch, and our results have been outstanding. I didn’t have many health problems going in, but even so, the program’s four elements have made me feel healthier. Today, I really feel great, and my doctor and lab results echo that feeling. I wasn’t the reason we got on this program, however; Welch was, and his results have been absolutely amazing. He hasn’t had any symptoms of heart disease since we started, he’s drastically reduced the amount of medication he’s taking, and his lab results have completely turned around. He’s doing exceptionally well. It’s wonderful.

Welch’s newfound abundance of energy is even more noticeable than his improved health. Usually that’s a great thing, but sometimes it gets him into a little bit of trouble (with me). Last year, for example, we went to Diamond Head—a difficult climbing mountain in Hawaii—after completing the program. When we got there, Welch promised he’d wait at the bottom because of the health risk. While I was climbing, I kept looking back to make sure he was still sitting on the bench where I’d left him, and every time I looked, I was relieved to see that he hadn’t moved. Then, I looked back and the bench was empty. It was my turn to almost have a heart attack: Welch was climbing the mountain.

Frantically, I grabbed a random man who was going down the mountain, and told him to say these words to Welch: “I’m a cardiologist and you should turn around immediately.” I had no idea what the man actually did for work, but I knew that a fake cardiologist was the best I could do on such short notice. Unfortunately, the man mispronounced “cardiologist” when talking to Welch and foiled my plan. Minutes later, Welch found me at the top of the mountain—a bit angry, but relieved and very impressed. He never could have done that without the program. He used to get winded just taking out the trash! It’s really amazing.

Today, I recommend the program to people whenever I can, and try to show them that they can take control of their health. Most people simply don’t understand the power of lifestyle change, so instead, they get sick, have surgery and take medication, then go right back to doing the things that got them sick in the first place. It’s really a vicious cycle, and I hope that more people are able to break out of it like Welch and I have. I’d recommend the program to anyone.

Ultimately, my motivation for following the program is twofold: I want to live a happy and healthy life for a long time, and I want Welch to be around (and healthy) for all of it. We’ve always had an excellent relationship, but I always feared that Welch wouldn’t be around for long because of his heart condition. Now, with the program, that fear is gone. We’re taking care of ourselves, and I’m really happy with that. “I love the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program.

Contributed by

Adam Farina
Contributor

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