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Name: Rich H.

Age: N/A

Ornish Site: CAMC

Health Challenges: Family history of heart disease, triple bypass

Greatest Motivation: Being responsible to a group helps with my adherence; adhering to the program solo is very tough, but together, it’s not hard at all. Staying connected with the cohort participants is an undervalued tool – our cohort has connected on a genuine, deep level. We’re so close, in fact, that I found myself becoming disappointed as we approached the end of the program because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to spend as much time with the group anymore.

His Story: In 2005, I was first introduced to the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program (Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation) while seeking out information on how to prevent heart disease. At the time, I was in my late 50’s and had started thinking a lot about my father’s death at age 52 from a heart attack. I didn’t want to follow in that same path; I wanted to be here for my family. My first grandson had just arrived and I wanted to be there to dance at his wedding. Through my research, I found Dr. Ornish’s book, Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease, and after reading the book, I discovered that his Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program was offered right here in Charleston, West Virginia – right in my own backyard.. So I enrolled.

Following the program together has also helped to improve our communication

After completing the program, I followed its guidelines for seven years. Some family and friends were skeptical that I would adhere to the program’s guidelines for that long, but I was determined to succeed, and I felt great. I was also very active in a self-directed alumni community; I even started a yahoo e-mail group before Facebook was available – that’s how long I’ve participated in the program! But after those seven years, I started becoming complacent; I noticed weight gain, started making poor food choices, and stopped adhering to the stress management and group support elements – all of which kept me from being inspired to make positive changes in my lifestyle. A few years later, I knew that something wasn’t right with my health, so I scheduled an appointment for a stress test. I failed the stress test and was scheduled for a heart catheterization. Shortly thereafter, I had triple bypass surgery.

After the bypass surgery, I was depressed, so I decided to re-enroll in the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program and get back on track with my health and lifestyle. “Decided” might be the wrong word, though; the bypass surgery didn’t leave me with much choice – the first time I chose to participate in the program; the second time I needed to participate. This time, I am committed 100%. Even my wife is following the program’s guidelines now. Following the program together has also helped to improve our communication; we communicate more clearly and deeply now than we did before.

The second time through the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program has given me a greater appreciation for its stress management and the group support elements. Being responsible to a group helps with my adherence; adhering to the program solo is very tough, but together, it’s not hard at all. Staying connected with the cohort participants is an undervalued tool – our cohort has connected on a genuine, deep level. We’re so close, in fact, that I found myself becoming disappointed as we approached the end of the program because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to spend as much time with the group anymore.

All in all, I’m proud that I participate in the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine. In addition to my improved personal relationships, I’ve lost 11 pounds, decreased my body mass index by 0.5 kg/m2, reduced my hip and wait circumference by 2 inches and 1.5 inches respectively, increased my stamina, and decreased my blood pressure from 138/88 to 116/74. I feel great.

I would highly recommend the program to anyone. We pay such a huge price to improve our health by going through surgery and then recovery, but we owe it to ourselves to change our lifestyle and stay healthy before we need surgery rather than after. My favorite piece of advice is this: some people can get hit by a tree branch and it gets their attention, while others need the whole tree to fall on them. Pay attention to that first branch (your first symptom) and don’t wait for the whole tree (your first heart attack or surgery) to fall on you. When the first branch hits you, take the hint, embrace the program, and don’t let go. I’m not letting go this time – eleven years later, I now have multiple grandchildren who are waiting for me to dance at their weddings, and I fully plan to be there for all of them!

Contributed by

Adam Farina
Contributor

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