Dean Ornish, MD – Pioneer in Reversing Heart Disease

Who is Dr. Ornish?

Dr. Dean Ornish is an American physician and researcher who advocates for using diet and lifestyle changes to treat and prevent heart disease. He promotes lifestyle changes in order to control coronary artery disease (CAD) and other chronic diseases. His belief is that this can be done through a quasi whole foods and plant-based diet as well as healthy physical activities such as exercise and stress-relieving ones like yoga and meditation.

From the 1970s to the 1990s, Dr. Ornish was involved in research into the impact of diet and stress levels on people with heart disease. This research became the foundation for Ornish’s “Program for Reversing Heart Disease”. In 1993, it became the first non-surgical and non-medicinal therapy for heart disease that qualified for insurance reimbursement.

The Program for Reversing Heart Disease

Doctors believed that the plaques of cholesterol and other substances that clog the arteries to the heart could not go away. When they got too severe, the patient was sent off the hospital for a bypass or angioplasty.

Dr. Ornish proved that if a more potent diet was followed, along with other lifestyle changes, plaque build-ups would not only stop growing, they would actually start dissolving. He demonstrated that heart disease can actually be reversed without medicines or surgery

Although heart disease was the most common cause of death then, and still is, most doctors were not even attempting to reverse the disease.

Dr. Ornish’s “Program for Reversing Heart Disease” focuses on these 4 areas:

  • Nutrition: eating nutritious meals using fresh ingredients.
  • Stress Management: relaxing, releasing stress and reacting in healthier ways.
  • Fitness: daily moderate activity.
  • Love and Support: giving and receiving emotional support and the power of community.

Books by Dr. Ornish

Along with his research and revolutionary lifestyle program, Dr. Ornish has written several helpful books about on this topic:

Dr. Ornish’s books explain his program for reversing heart disease.

Criticisms of His Program

As with any medically recommended program or treatment, there are always considerations to be taken when changing one’s lifestyle (even for the better).

Dr. Ornish’s claims that animal fat and protein contribute to the existence of obesity have been proven to be gleaned more from observational research based on association rather than research based on causation. This means that people who tend to consume higher amounts of animal fat and protein also tend to make poor lifestyle choices – the presence of animal fat and protein in a person’s diet is not necessarily the cause of their unhealthy state.

Also, Dr. Ornish tends to lump all animal proteins together, instead of differentiate between the ones that are harmful and the ones that may actually be beneficial to our health.

Even though Dr. Ornish’s lifestyle program has provable results, there’s very little scientific evidence that suggests we need to avoid animal fat and protein in order to be healthy. We simply need to make healthier lifestyle choices.

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