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Name: Walter J.

Age: 82

Location: Hamot (Legacy site)

Location: Pennsylvania

Health Challenge: Heart Disease

Greatest MotivationOn the program, I lost over 30 pounds. I felt great. I ate the right kind of food and I got into shape. Since the plaque break off in 1997, I haven’t had any symptoms of heart disease or of anything else. The program was the best thing I’ve ever done.It has made me more aware of other people’s feelings—made me more empathetic. I analyze my relationships these days, which I never did before. Today, I analyze my friends’ lives and take note of how they adapt to their problems. I empathize with them just like I empathized with my cohort members.

His Story: In 1997, I had a heart attack. Well, not technically a heart attack—a piece of plaque broke off in my heart and caused my arteries to malfunction. It wasn’t too serious of an event, but around that time I heard about the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program (Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation) and was immediately interested. I went to a preliminary introduction to see what it was about and ended up signing up that day.

“On the program, I lost over 30 pounds. I felt great.”

On the program, I lost over 30 pounds. I felt great. I ate the right kind of food and I got into shape. Since the plaque break off in 1997, I haven’t had any symptoms of heart disease or of anything else. The program was the best thing I’ve ever done.

It was such a good program in so many ways: the diet, the group, the stress management, the exercise—it all tied together in such a way that worked very well for me. Each of the components benefitted me, even the yoga, which I had my doubts about at first. When I started the program I thought “well, the yoga is part of the program, I’ll put up with it.” And I did. But much to my surprise, I ended up enjoying it; it was greatly beneficial for me. The exercise has also been great; it made me more active, made me more virile—I’ve really enjoyed the exercise component.

The program has definitely had a beneficial impact on my relationships with family and friends as well. It has made me more aware of other people’s feelings—made me more empathetic. I analyze my relationships these days, which I never did before. Today, I analyze my friends’ lives and take note of how they adapt to their problems. I empathize with them just like I empathized with my cohort members. The group component also led me to continue the program in an alumni community after the conclusion of the original sessions. I’ve made many friends in that community and we continue to meet today. At our meetings, we do the group support, the exercise, the yoga, and then we go out and have a healthy lunch. We are constantly staying in touch and checking in on each other’s progress. It’s like having a good mother to take care of you, to keep you on track.

One of the most gratifying moments for me was when one of my female friends teased me, saying that “you look very good now, but you’d better lay off a bit—you’re starting to look gaunt!” It really showed how much better shape I was in and how much weight I had lost.

Ultimately, without the Ornish Program I might be dead today. I would vouch for it wholeheartedly to anyone with heart disease, and I wouldn’t do that if I didn’t believe in it.

Contributed by

Adam Farina
Contributor

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