“We would exercise, practice yoga and meditation, and prepare and eat a healthy lunch together,” Regina continues. “Things were explained to me in a way that made sense. Complex information was simplified.”

Heart smart: The lifestyle program to ease heart disease and boost energy

Regina Patterson, a 58-year-old customer service representative from Norfolk, was watching a TV show one night that mentioned Ornish Lifestyle Medicine, and she wondered if the heart healthy program was offered in Hampton Roads.

"I called the number on the show," Regina says, "and discovered that it's available at Sentara Princess Anne Hospital. A few weeks later, I went to an orientation session."

Regina's motivation: Her heart.

Thirteen years before discovering Ornish Lifestyle Medicine at Sentara Princess Anne Hospital, Regina had a stent inserted in a heart artery that was 80 percent blocked. She had been experiencing chest pain that progressively worsened.

For years after, she felt OK -- until late 2017.

"I started to experience chest pain again," Regina shares. "It wasn't as bad as the first time years ago, but I was concerned enough to talk to a doctor. He wanted to wait and see how I did without another stent, but I wanted to do something preventative."

Regina, who has type I diabetes, had been told nearly her whole life how important it was to take care of herself, but she didn't receive guidance on doing so.

"No one told me how to do the right thing," she says. "So I never did any exercise; never ate right; and never did anything to de-stress."

The Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program was exactly what Regina hoped for:

"Everything I needed was provided," she emphasizes.

Twice a week for three months, Regina and six other participants met at Sentara Princess Anne Hospital for a four-hour session. Experts in healthy eating, exercise, stress management and emotional support met with the group. They shared information and instruction on taking care of both body and mind.

"We would exercise, practice yoga and meditation, and prepare and eat a healthy lunch together," Regina continues. "Things were explained to me in a way that made sense. Complex information was simplified."

Regina isn't alone in her praise of the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program: U.S. News and World Report has ranked it first in their best heart healthy diets rankings.

The program is based on the work of Dr. Dean Ornish, who started his research on reversing heart disease more than 40 years ago. His study was the first randomized, controlled clinical trial to analyze how diet, exercise, stress management and emotional support improve heart disease. After one year, he found that:

  • 99 percent of patients stopped or reversed their coronary heart disease
  • 82 percent of patients saw an improvement in artery blockages
  • 91 percent experienced an overall reduction in chest pain frequency
  • 40 percent experienced an overall reduction in bad LDL cholesterol without drugs
  • Weight loss averaged 24 pounds

Regina proudly shares that she's lost 38 pounds. She belongs to a local recreation center now that she's completed the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program and enjoys walking for exercise and stress-relief. If she has any questions about exercising, eating or de-stressing, she reaches out to the Ornish leaders at Sentara Princess Anne Hospital by email.

"Everybody is so good there," Regina says. "They made such a difference in my life. I used to be tired all the time and wanted to sleep. Now I have so much energy."

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