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Name: Debra J.

Age: 55

Location: WVU Ruby Memorial (Legacy Site)

Health Challenge: Risk factors for heart disease, high cholesterol, post menopausal

Greatest Motivation:  We have created a home gym and both make it a priority that we use it before work. I run almost every day, and I really look forward to it.  My cholesterol, LDL and weight decreased, while my mental clarity, sleep, and energy increased.   I can honestly say I’m healthier right now than I’ve ever been in my life!

I don’t have heart disease. Since I went through menopause, however, my cholesterol has gone up a bit and so has my LDL—plus I’m over 55. Because of this, I was extremely motivated to join the Ornish program because of my husband, Ralph. Over the past year, Ralph has had a failed quadruple bypass surgery, been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and had multiple stents put in. When his bypasses collapsed, I knew that we had no choice; the Ornish program was the only thing that was going to save his life. At first, he was somewhat reluctant, which really infuriated me because I thought he was valuing food more than his life. But our family doctor finally got through to him, and we started the program in July.

“There’s no way that you can go through this program…and not see everything turn around for you.”

The Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program (Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation) has honestly been a game changer for us. Ralph’s health has completely turned around. He’s lost 30 pounds, hasn’t had any further heart disease symptoms, and is healthier and more confident than ever before. I’ve felt a lot better too. My cholesterol has decreased; my LDL has decreased; I’ve lost a little weight, but dropped two sizes. My blood work has been great. I noticed the changes, such as mental clarity, better sleep, and more energy.

Each component of the program—nutrition, exercise, stress management, and group support—has been beneficial for us. At first, changing our eating habits was difficult. I’m not going to sugarcoat it: becoming a vegetarian when you’ve eaten meat your entire life is hard, but it’s not impossible when you think about the ultimate goal. I’ve been able to tailor the meals to our tastes. I love to cook and am very creative. I’ve revamped my traditional recipes to make them Ornish-friendly, which has really helped.

Prior to joining the program, neither of us was very active—at least not consistently. Today, things are different. We have created a home gym and both make it a priority that we use it before work. I run almost every day, and I really look forward to it. (Something I thought I’d never say!) Stress management has also been great. These days, whenever I’m particularly stressed, I’m able to just stop what I’m doing and practice some of the tips we learned in yoga.

Lastly, the group support has had a very large impact on me. It took a few weeks for everyone to relax and become completely honest with each other. Once we realized “what happens in group, stays in group,” we all began to open up and become close friends with a common goal.

I had a friend who went through the program a couple of years ago. When she described the program’s impact to me like “finding Jesus,” I knew it was going to be life altering. The program has brought Ralph and I closer in our relationship, giving us common goals. It has given us the confidence to know that when we do retire, we hopefully won’t have any restrictions on our lifestyle.

It has also given me peace of mind. My first husband died at age 48 of a massive heart attack, and that experience has always been in the back of my mind. I don’t want that for my children. I need to set a better example for them, as well as my grandchildren. The Ornish program has made me confident that I’m doing everything I can to live a long, happy, and healthy life.

To anyone who is thinking of joining the program, I would urge him or her to give it a chance. It’s only a few weeks for a lifetime of benefits. If you give it 100% and don’t notice a change in every aspect of your life, then I’d be very surprised. There’s no way that you can go through this program, do what you’re supposed to do, and not see everything turn around for you—it certainly has for Ralph and I. The program has allowed us to take control of our health and reshuffle the cards that we’ve been dealt. It’s allowed us to enjoy a rewarding life and live as independently for as long as possible.

Without the Ornish program, I would probably be much heavier, my cholesterol would be much higher, and I wouldn’t be feeling as good as I am right now. I can honestly say I’m healthier right now than I’ve ever been in my life! It has been a totally life altering experience in the best possible way.

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