Reversing Heart Disease – Is It Possible?

“Men will run to and fro and knowledge will increase.” Thirty years ago in medical school we were taught that one-half the knowledge we learned would turn out to be incorrect. No one knew which half. We would be required to continue learning and discover that for ourselves.

Thirty years ago we were taught that heart disease could not be reversed. Once the blood vessels of the heart were clogged, there was no way to reverse the damage. This bit of dogma turned out to be one of the parts that was wrong.

There are currently two publicly presented life style change programs that are designed to reverse coronary artery disease.

The Complete Health Improvement Project program (CHIP) designed by Hans Diehl, PhD, is a combination of comprehensive nutritional information and exercise intervention. This program is presented four nights a week for four weeks or two nights a week for eight weeks. Large classes of participants are divided into small support groups, each led by a facilitator, to encourage buddy support.

The Dean Ornish Coronary Reversal Program, designed by Dean Ornish, MD, PhD, is a combination of nutrition emphasis, exercise intervention, stress management, and personal relationship enhancement. This program is presented 2 nights a week for 12 weeks and one night a week for 12 weeks. The group is limited to 15 people at a time to encourage buddy support and facilitator attention.

The CHIP program has graduated over 40,000 participants. The Ornish program has graduated about 480 participants. Both programs collect baseline data on the participants upon enrollment in the program, and then again at six weeks and at 18 months. Both programs have achieved similar results.

Chest pain is reduced or eliminated in 80% of the participants. Stroke incidence is markedly decreased. Cholesterol is lowered to below 150 mg/dl with similarly improved levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Diabetes and hypertension are improved to the point that medications can be curtailed or stopped in 50% of participants. Depression scores are improved by 40%. Participants consistently lose weight, and establish and maintain an effective, regular exercise program. X-rays of the coronary arteries of participants reveal a halt in disease progression or a reversal of the coronary disease.

These are remarkable results in that they are as good as or better than anything achieved by medications. Follow-up research shows that participants continue in the new lifestyle over a three year period without significant regression to their old life style habits.

Yes, these programs are serious! Their nutritional emphasis is on a plant-based diet with less than 10% of calories as fat, a restriction that is serious by anyone’s definition. However, the programs are effective! With the reductions achieved in lowering cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, and body weight, it is estimated that the programs reduce cardiac events in the participants by 60-90%. If practiced by the American adult population, this would translate into 600,000 lives saved and many billions of dollars of health care cost saved per year.

To be fair, not every American adult needs to be on such a severe restriction of fat calories. However, many American adults have significant heart disease or lab values that place them at risk of serious coronary heart disease. In addition, by these same criteria, many are at risk for stroke, diabetes, and many types of cancer. All of these diseases can be prevented and many of them can be controlled or reversed by adopting a lifestyle similar to those described in these two programs.

How serious are you about your health? For further information on these two programs see: Complete Health Improvement Project or The Ornish Spectrum. The results are in. Reversal is possible. It’s your choice.