Lifestyle Wellness May Be the Key to Cardiac Health

When you think about cardiovascular health, do you imagine a surgical suite or a doctor’s office? If so, you may be excited to learn about Praire Heart Institute’s Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program is now available at FitClub South.  In February 2018, leaders from FitClub and Prairie threw themselves into the lifestyle by participating in training in California.  The program is Medicare approved for those suffering from cardiovascular disease and in need of cardiovascular rehabilitation.  This nine week program can take up to twelve participants and meets twice each week in lieu of what we might think of as traditional, medicine-based cardiovascular rehabilitation. dean-ornish-heart-health-lifespan-900x600

FitClub’s Andrea Bryne, R.N., shared her insight into the program. Whether you’re suffering from cardiovascular disease or you’re seeking a healthier lifestyle to prevent disease, the principles of Ornish Lifestyle Medicine is the best place to start.

The program is designed for those suffering from existing cardiovascular disease, but the fundamentals of the program can be easily adapted for anyone seeking better heart health.  Unlike traditional cardiovascular rehab, which has a very low post-treatment compliance rate, ninety percent of Ornish program participants continue to follow the lifestyle after formal program management ends.  The total mind-body wellness approach to recovering from cardiovascular disease has been scientifially shown to reverse the damage done prior to entry in the program.

It’s not easy, though.  Program participants must quit smoking prior to being allowed into the program. They must commit to a lifelong exercise and diet program that includes formal stress management, small group support, and tracking their attempts at maintaining the lifestyle.  The team of experts from Prarie and FitClub review the members’ tracked components and offer insight and feedback to ensure that everyone is meeting their goals and adhering to the total lifestyle approach to a longer, healthier life.

The Diet
The Ornish diet is a plant-based, no meat diet that also includes 10% healthy fat. In lieu of giving up favorite comfort foods, group members are encouraged to experiment with new foods to develop recipes, share favorite foods at members’ potlucks, and use creativity to recreate favorite dishes with plant-based ingredients.

The group is taught about tracking and considering macro-nutrients for the greatest benefit, but the program does not require counting calories.  Auggie’s Front Burner in downtown Springfield has even held Meatless Mondays to celebrate healthier lifestyles and create dining out options to those living a healthier, cardiac focused lifestyle.

The Exercise
Ornish group members are required to commit to a lifelong exercise habit and quickly begin to enjoy the process when their hearts begin to repair.  Many report feeling better right away.  The program can meet the participants where they are in their current level of fitness and provide avenues and support in improving and maintaining cardiovascular fitness.

The Stress Management
Andrea calls the stress management component the “egg in the cake” because it’s the egg that really brings the entire experience together.  The heart is an emotional organ that responds to all of the stress that we take in throughout our lives.  The program requires participants to take at least one hour each day to participate in stress reduction therapies, including meditation, postures, or imagery.  For example, the participants are taught to visualize healthy blood flowing through their healthy, healing heart.

The Results
Participants in the Ornish program show almost immediate improvements in health.  The group support allows for them to work through the challenges in shifting their lifestyles, discovering and sharing new favorite recipes, and holding one another accountable to a healthy lifestyle.

If you or your loved ones are in need of cardiovascular rehab, check out Prarie’s Ornish Program at FitClub South!


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