Heart Disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. While there are some risk factors that you can't control, there are many things you can do to prevent becoming a statistic. Willis Knighton has implemented a new program called the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine. It's a non-invasive approach designed to restore quality of life in some of the most critical heart patients.
I went In-Depth to learn more about the program and how it works. I talked to 4 people who went through the program together, Sharena Estes, John Bandell, Ken ? who all suffered a sudden heart attack, and Janie Conerly who had 90% blockage.
They were perfect strangers united by a common - potentially fatal medical condition - heart disease.
Dr. Eddie Johnson oversees a portion of Willis Knighton's Cardiac rehabilitation, "I see people who have had all of the surgeries, and the stents and the procedures done and they don't want to look at something like heart transplant."
Janie says, when John first started, he kinda drug into the fitness center, "He was kinda of weak and couldn't do to much but it wasn't long before he was dancing at the VFW on Saturday nights."
John, Janie, Ken and Sharena are the first graduates of the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program at Willis Knighton Health and Fitness Center, a four-pronged approach to improve their overall condition and heart health.
Janie, who's 68 years old says, "I feel 100% better and my numbers are good. I already had my blood work, my cholesterol is down, my LDL is down and my A1C was 5." As for 79 year old John, "I'm eating right and I'm exercising at least 3 times a week instead of sitting in my chair."
Dr. Johnson enjoys seeing the results, "In just about everybody there's improved energy, and improved ability to do their everyday activities."
Dr. Johnson describes the Ornish program as Enhanced Cardiac Rehab. "They're here 3 times a week for four hours, as opposed to the ordinary rehab that's here for 1 hour 3 days a week but it gives them a little more impact in staying with the program when you have all of those things included."
With the Ornish Program the emphasis is not just on exercise but stress management, community and diet are also important.
This group started the 9 week program in August. They continue to get together because it's become a part of their lifestyle.
They come Tuesday mornings about 9:30, visit for a few minutes, exercise, then we go find somewhere to eat.
70 year old Sharena admits she likes the accountability. And adds, the Ornish Program has helped her learn to eat better.
"Overall I've lost almost 90 pounds. But, since I started the program I lost an additional 25. So I had already lost weight but this helped me loose additional weight."
As for 69 year old Ken, he's become the group's food researcher, "Within 2 weeks I started feeling different and better and I've enjoyed it."
The group says Ken goes all over town hunting us a place to eat, looking for restaurants where they can maintain an Ornish style - whole food and plant based diet. "It's is overwhelming when you first start because you've been raised to eat meat and set your meal around your meat. But, once you learn how to do it, and the program helps you."
Jared Mitchell is the Ornish program director. From Yoga for stress management - to exercise.
Experts say the lifestyle program developed by Dr. Dean Ornish is scientifically proven to make a difference even reversing the development of plaque than can lead to heart disease. "One patient that finished reported feeling so much better energy wise, she's lost a lot of weight, and even her doctor told me he's excited he got her into this program because she has her life back."
Dr. Johnson adds, "It's like any support really, this gives them the support for things that are going to keep them alive."
The program requires a doctors referral. Willis Knighton in Shreveport is the only location in the state to offer the Ornish-Certified program.