Living the Ornish Life

Constance Kilgore is a true believer in the Dr. Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease.™

“This program has saved my life,” the 71-year-old geriatric care manager and social worker says.

Kilgore was born in Massachusetts, but later “got married and moved to Dallas” A 2000 job offer found her in San Francisco, but in 2006, she moved back to Texas, settling in Fort Worth — an easy distance to travel to her son and daughter’s families in Dallas.

“I used to be very athletic, but I became ill while I was in California,” Kilgore says.  “I developed high blood pressure, and took medication for that.

“I underwent various tests, and found that I suffer from left bundle branch block and occasional angina,” Kilgore says, adding that Justin Martin, M.D., a cardiologist and physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Fort Worth, oversaw her treatment.

Left bundle branch block is a condition that reveals itself by an abnormal electrocardiogram that indicates the cardiac electrical impulses transmitted by nerves are not being distributed across the heart’s ventricles normally. The block can be caused by coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, or valve disease.

Although her condition needed no surgery, Kilgore began doing research to see what she could do to improve her health.

“I came across the Dr. Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease™ website that spoke about the intensive cardiac rehab program,” she recalls. “Then I saw the information about Texas Health Fort Worth’s Ornish program.”

That proximity — and the documented success of the Dr. Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease™ — gave Kilgore incentive to join the second-ever group of patients to go through the program from March to June 2016. Three of the five patients were there post-heart attack. Two had diabetes, as well.

Kilgore says she learned that high blood pressure can cause vascular dementia, adding that her work in geriatric care has made her cognizant of what dementia can do. Knowing what she knows now about heart disease, it’s also caused her to look at her work in a different light.

“Being a geriatric care professional, I help a lot of elderly with chronic illnesses,” she explains. “I help them with decisions about health care, looking at their legal, finances, and screen for mental illness and dementia. I look at their lifestyle, especially those with heart disease.

“I don’t typically share my patient journey with clients. If someone asks me though, I will tell them. Just because something works for me, it might not work for them.”

Nowadays, Constance says the program is something she sees herself remaining dedicated to for the rest of her life.

“I’m a member of the Ornish Alumni in Arlington that meets every first and third Thursday of the month,” she says.  “I don’t ever expect to terminate the program. I still adhere to the Ornish program.

“Four to five times a week I do cardio,” she says. “I do a half hour of yoga or 1 hour of meditation daily, and I live by a plant-based diet.”

Kilgore says that while she’s still on high blood pressure medication, her dosage has been cut in half since she graduated from the Ornish program last year.

What is Kilgore’s key to success when it comes to remaining in the program long term? Mind over matter, she says.

“I realized that when I started thinking about eating pizza and hamburgers, I was not eating enough throughout the day,” she explains. “I learned to plan ahead what I would eat. That way, I stopped thinking I was hungry. Eating a lot of my meals at home helps me stick with the Ornish plan.”

Giving up meat for a plant-based diet that avoids the use of oils isn’t for the faint of heart. Kilgore, who says her old diet was healthy but used a lot of olive oil, reports that time helped her overcome the first hurdles of the diet change.

“The Ornish diet was challenging for the first three weeks, and gradually, it became easier to do,” she says.

Today, it’s no burden at all.

“I want to live a healthy life, for the rest of my life.”

Interested in learning more about the Dr. Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease™? Read our article here.

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