Doctor’s Tip: “Undo It,” by Dean Ornish, M.D.
Dean Ornish, M.D., is a famous physician-researcher who proved over 25 years ago that severe heart disease can be reversed by lifestyle changes — more recently he proved that early prostate cancer can be reversed by the same lifestyle changes. Earlier this year he published his latest book, called “Undo It, How Simple Lifestyle Changes Can Reverse Most Chronic Diseases.”
His wife, Anne, who has over 35 years of advanced training in yoga and meditation, co-authored it. In the book, Dr. Ornish notes that his research and that of others are proving that “many of the most common and debilitating chronic diseases and even much of the damage of aging at the cellular level can often be slowed, stopped, or even reversed by this lifestyle medicine program.”
Following are diseases that Dr. Ornish says have been shown to be reversible by optimal lifestyle: coronary heart disease; type 2 diabetes; early-stage, non-aggressive prostate cancer; high blood pressure; high cholesterol; obesity; some types of early-stage dementia; some autoimmune conditions; depression; and anxiety.
Dr. Ornish’s program has been approved by Medicare and many insurance companies. It can be summarized by “eat well, move more, stress less, love more.” The four pillars of his program are: a whole-foods, plant-based diet; moderate exercise; stress management; and love, social support and intimacy.
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Physicians often don’t have time to discuss details of patients’ lifestyles with them — it’s quicker and easier just to write a prescription for a pill. In the Ornish program, “Medicare and insurance companies are paying for seventy-two hours of training each patient rather than only ten minutes,” the average length of an office visit. Furthermore, insurance companies are finding that a program such as this saves money. For example, “in a demonstration project, Mutual of Omaha found that almost 80 percent of people who were eligible for bypass surgery or a stent were able to safely avoid it by going through our lifestyle medicine program instead — saving almost $30,000 per patient in the first year.”
We’re hearing a lot about personalized medicine these days — tailored treatment based on your genome. It’s true that personalized medicine has resulted in cures for a few diseases such as some forms of cancer. However, the cure for most of the chronic diseases that make Americans sick and that kill them involves simple lifestyle changes, which apply to many diseases in all patients, regardless of their genome. This is what Dr. Ornish calls “a new unified theory of health and healing,” which fits with an old saying in medicine: “Genetics loads the gun but environment pulls the trigger.” In other words, environment (in this case diet, exercise, stress reduction, loving relationships) determines whether genes are turned on or off.
You might be wondering how stress reduction, loving relationships, healthy diet and exercise can affect an array of diseases as diverse as cancer and diabetes. The next few columns will explain this, based on “Undo It.”
Retired physician Greg Feinsinger, M.D., is author of new book “Enjoy Optimal Health, 98 Health Tips From a Family Doctor,” available on Amazon and in local bookstores. Profits go towards an endowment to the University of Colorado School of Medicine to add prevention and nutrition to the curriculum. He is available for free consultations about heart attack prevention, diabetes reversal, nutrition, and other health issues. Call 379-5718 for an appointment. For questions about his column, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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