Section: Highlights

A Matter of the Heart: Unique program is changing hearts and saving lives

03/29/2016
A Matter of the Heart: Unique program is changing hearts and saving lives

An estimated 43 million women in the U.S. are affected by heart disease. And even though heart disease causes one in three women’s deaths each year, research shows that women vastly underestimate their risk.

This explains why April Pearson, a 55-year-old self-employed attorney, spent almost an hour staring at “heart attack symptoms in women” on her iPad screen — seeing each of her symptoms listed: sweating, fatigue, chest pressure, and nausea — before finally deciding to go to an emergency department. “Because of my stress level, a nervous breakdown seemed likely,” explains the Chino Hills resident with a laugh, “but never heart disease.”

Determined to avoid a second heart attack, April recently completed the Ornish Reversal Program at St. Jude Medical Center, a nine-week cardiac rehabilitation program with four simple tenants: move more, stress less, gain support and eat healthy (very healthy).

St. Jude Medical Center is one of only two hospitals in the western United States to offer the innovative program, rated the #1 Best Heart Health Diet by U.S. News & World Report for the sixth year in a row. The program is proven to “undo” or reverse the progression of heart disease through simple but powerful lifestyle changes.

“It is about creating wellness rather than just managing illness,” explains Jon Sherman, MD, a board-certified cardiologist and co-medical director of the program. “Instead of trying to avoid another heart event through medications and surgeries, patients are eliminating the root causes of those events.”

The highly successful program includes twice-aweek sessions of intensive lifestyle intervention aimed at dramatically improving heart health: monitored exercise, personalized nutrition (vegetarian, low-fat meals), stress management (restorative yoga and meditation), and the emotional comradery of a support group — individuals who, according to April, quickly become valued friends.

Reluctant at first to make the commitment, April now calls herself a true believer. “I considered myself healthy before, but this program made a huge difference both physically and emotionally,” says April, explaining she feels stronger, more mentally alert, and more energetic since completing the Ornish Reversal Program than before her heart attack.

Research shows that the progression of even severe coronary heart disease — as well as other chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes — can be stopped and reversed by the program. Stories of healthy weight loss, avoiding surgery, weaning off heart medications, and falling blood pressure and cholesterol levels are common. Equally impressive, one year after the program, 90 percent are still following the lifestyle changes. If you want to live a happier, healthier life, there is no better program,” April explains.

If you have had a heart attack, bypass surgery, valve surgery, angioplasty, stent placement, or other heart condition, call (714) 992-3000, ext. 3789 to learn more about this lifechanging program. Its success has prompted some insurance plans to cover it under a new benefit category called intensive cardiac rehabilitation, making it the first of its kind to qualify. There is also a self-pay option for the nine-week program.

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