Hope after heart attack

If you’ve had a heart attack or other serious heart issue, you’re understandably confused and concerned about what happens next. Is it only a matter of time before you have another heart attack or cardiac issue? Does heart disease mean your heart is “diseased” forever?

According to researchers and dieticians, the answer is no—heart disease can be reversed, and one of the best ways to reverse heart disease is through cardiac rehabilitation.

“Cardiac rehabilitation programs are designed to help people with heart disease build back their heart health,” said cardiologist Bryan Martin, DO. “Programs focus on diet, exercise, counseling and education as a way to recover and avoid future cardiac complications.”

One specialized cardiac rehab program is Ornish Lifestyle Medicine’s “undo it” program.

What is “undo it?”
Dr. Dean Ornish, the creator of Ornish Lifestyle Medicine, developed the “undo it” cardiac rehabilitation program, which incorporates diet, exercise, stress reduction and community support into a comprehensive program to undo heart disease. “Undo it” is spaced out into 18 four-hour sessions, for a total of 72 hours. In these sessions, a care team teaches you how to manage stress, be conscious of how much you exercise, help maintain a heart-healthy diet and offer support. 

“Diet, exercise and stress are all factors that influence the heart,” said Dr. Martin, medical director of Ornish Lifestyle Medicine at Geisinger Wyoming Valley. “Because of the supportive community, people on the diet find it easier to stay committed and make improvements to their heart health.”

What is the Ornish diet?
Part of “undo it,” The Ornish diet is a type of vegetarian diet that can reverse the symptoms of heart disease. The diet has gained popularity in the last 30 years because participants averaged losing 24 pounds and most kept the weight off—something uncommon for other major diets, and helping get rid of a major risk factor for heart disease. Unlike other diets, the Ornish diet’s positive effects have been documented through research, which is why many doctors and health professionals prescribe the Ornish diet for patients.

“On the Ornish diet, people eat beans, legumes, fruits, grains and vegetables,” said Dr. Martin. “You can also eat some low-fat and nonfat dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt. While on the diet, avoid all meats, oils and sugars. You’re also encouraged to quit smoking and reduce your alcohol consumption.”

The Ornish diet causes weight loss because it lowers your fat and calorie intake and eliminates your cholesterol intake. As a result, this puts less pressure on your heart. In addition to reversing heart disease, the Ornish diet can reverse diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. 

Results vary by person, but people have lowered their BMI by ten percent, lowered their cholesterol by 40 points and lowered their blood pressure by 35 points. 

“People following the Ornish diet often notice that chest pain goes away and there’s an increase in blood flow to the heart in only three weeks,” said Dr. Martin. “After a year, their arteries are less clogged, and after five years, they experience even more improvement.”

Dr. Bryan Martin, DO, is a cardiologist at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre. For more information about Ornish Lifestyle Medicine, visit Geisinger.org or call 570-808-7973.
The Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program is based on a plant-based diet.
The Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program aims to reverse coronary artery disease and other chronic conditions through lifestyle changes, such as eating a plant-based diet.