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Name: Joe S.

Age: 71-years-old

Ornish Site: Beacon Health System – Elkhart General

Health Challenges: Quadruple bypass, several high percentage arterial blockages, aneurysm, carotid blockages.

Great Motivation: At one point, I weighed over 300 pounds; today, I weigh 253. I haven’t maintained a weight this low in at least ten years. I no longer have hip issues, I’m more active now than I used to be, and I have far more energy than I did before. I’ve even been able to stop taking so many medications—I used to take 16 pills a day (which included vitamins and several prescribed medications), now I take only two prescribed medications to go along with my vitamins. Physically, everything has changed for the better.

His Story: A couple years ago, I was living an active lifestyle and thought that I was relatively healthy. Then, I started slowing down—so much so, in fact, that I’d have to stop and catch my breath even when I walked short distances. Eventually, I went to my doctor and they discovered that I had a 70% blockage in my carotid artery, and a few even more ominous blockages in my heart. We held off on treatment for the time being, but an intervention certainly seemed likely moving forward.

I feel like I have a new lease on life

Before undergoing any procedures, I went on a previously scheduled family vacation, and my condition worsened during the trip; by the time we got home, I could hardly walk from my house to the mailbox without gasping for air, and I couldn’t even make it halfway up the stairs in my house without being short of breath. Shortly thereafter, my doctors did a heart catheterization and found that my blockages had worsened to the point that I would need surgery right away. The catheterization was on a Thursday; I had quadruple bypass surgery on Friday. During the surgery, the doctors cleared up several of my arteries and an aneurysm. However, I still had the 70% blockage in my carotid artery. They could not clear the artery at the same time as they performed the bypass surgery, but it seemed inevitable that I’d have to undergo another major surgery in the near future to address the problem. Shortly after, I got into the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program (Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation) to try to turn things around.

Fast forward to my yearly doctor’s appointment in January of 2016—about nine months after surgery and soon after I graduated from the program. My doctor began the appointment by questioning me about chest pain (I had none) and “mini strokes” (none of those, either), then asked, “Well, do you want some good news?” Of course, my answer was yes. “The blockage that we found in your carotid artery is now gone,” she said. “Your arteries are completely clean. For a man who is now 71, that’s amazing. We honestly have no answer for what’s happened to you.” My blockage, they told me, had gone from severe to non-existent. I didn’t need the second surgery that, just months before, had seemed inevitable. The Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program had changed the composition of my carotid artery to the point that the surgery was not needed.

I was stunned. Amazed, really. In just nine months, I’d gotten rid of my heart disease and my carotid artery blockages. Unlike my doctor, I knew why I had improved so much in such a short time: the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program. I told her about the program and explained what it had done for me. It had totally changed my life.

Beyond the obvious benefits to my heart, the physical benefits of the program have been tremendous. At one point, I weighed over 300 pounds; today, I weigh 253. I haven’t maintained a weight this low in at least ten years. I no longer have hip issues, I’m more active now than I used to be, and I have far more energy than I did before. I’ve even been able to stop taking so many medications—I used to take 16 pills a day (which included vitamins and several prescribed medications), now I take only two prescribed medications to go along with my vitamins. Physically, everything has changed for the better.

Those physical benefits have given me the ability to get back to doing the things that I like to do. Before my surgery, I would always rationalize away my inability to do things. We have a cottage in Northern Michigan, and last winter I wouldn’t go snowshoeing or do any of my other activities because I just didn’t feel up to them. I never took my problems too seriously though; I’d always tell myself, “Well, you feel like this because you’re 70 years old now. You have to feel like this—everyone does at this age.” But now I realize that I don’t have to feel like that, I don’t have to say no to snowshoeing, and I don’t have to be in poor health. This realization means a lot to me, and I’m more active now than I’ve been in a very long time. Today I walk three to five miles every day, and our food pantry is always stocked with Ornish recommended foods.

I recently had my annual physical with my internist and all of the numbers from the blood tests are at or below recommended levels. Once again, I believe the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program has helped lower my A1C and other important markers of good health.

Moving forward, I feel like I have a new lease on life. Everyone I see—from family to friends to acquaintances—notices the improvements that I’ve made, and that affirmation feels great. The whole experience has been particularly eye-opening for both of my boys. They were both with me during my surgery, and they’ve been so complimentary of the changes that I’ve made over the past nine months. Ultimately, thanks to the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program, I feel good and have reversed my heart disease. I’m thankful to be here today and every day. I couldn’t ask for much more than that.

The Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program has changed my life and the life of my family. Thank you Dr. Ornish.

Contributed by

Adam Farina
Contributor

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