Top Lifestyle Changes to Build a Better Heart

Top Lifestyle Changes to Build a Better Heart by Dr. Joseph Mercola for Mercola

Dr. Dean Ornish, clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), is perhaps best known for his pioneering work in how to use food and simple lifestyle strategies to improve health. This is also the topic of his new book, “Undo It! How Simple Lifestyle Changes Can Reverse Most Chronic Diseases.”

Ornish is well-known for arguing that high-protein and high-fat diets contribute to America’s ever-growing waistline and incidence of chronic disease. We obviously share different positions on this issue.

Since critiques of Ornish’s diet can be found in various places on the internet,1 I decided to focus on what, in my view, is his major contribution to health, which is facilitating an aggressive lifestyle modification program to lower the risk of disease and have it paid for by insurance companies.

It is virtually impossible for most to have the foundational cause of their disease process reverse in the typical 10- to 15-minutes’ doctor visit. So, he took 16 years to get his lifestyle program approved by Medicare and many insurance companies, which allows access to the tools necessary to change the causes of most disease.

Once a person has the foundation in place, it will be easy for them to research the high versus low-fat debate and try it for themselves and let their body tell them which position is correct. But the important point is that most of their destructive health habits will be changed at that point.

For the past four decades, Ornish has directed clinical research showing you can reverse not only Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure but also coronary heart disease — even severe cases — through lifestyle changes that can be boiled down to “Eat well, move more, stress less and love more.”

Simple Lifestyle Changes Can Reverse Most Chronic Disease

One of Ornish’s studies also demonstrated that these same lifestyle changes can slow, stop or reverse the progression of early-stage prostate cancer, and probably breast cancer as well.

“We found that these same lifestyle changes actually change your genes, turning on the good genes and turning off the bad genes, specifically the genes that promote heart disease, diabetes, prostate cancer, breast cancer and colon cancer,” he says.

“We did a study with Elizabeth Blackburn, Ph.D., who received the Nobel Prize for her pioneering work with telomeres. We found that these lifestyle changes could actually increase the enzyme telomerase in just three months that repairs and lengthens telomeres. Over a five-year period, we found that these lifestyle changes could actually lengthen telomeres.

When The Lancet sent out a press release announcing this study, they called it ‘reversing aging at a cellular level.’ We have just begun the first randomized trial to see if this program can reverse the progression of men and women who have early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.

The more diseases we study and the more mechanisms we look at, the more reasons we have to explain why these changes are so powerful and how quickly people can often get better in ways we can measure.”

Since the early 90s, Ornish, through the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, a nonprofit organization, has been training hospitals, clinics and physician groups around the U.S. Despite the program’s early success, many sites ended up closing down due to lack of insurance reimbursement. As noted by Ornish, “If it’s not reimbursable, it’s not sustainable.”

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