Couple talks as they cut vegetables at the kitchen counter

Reversing Heart Disease Through Diet

According to the World Heart Federation, those who live in the developed world have a 73 percent greater chance of having a new major cardiac event than those who live in the undeveloped world. Why? One major contributing factor is the undeveloped world doesn’t have access to the conveniences we do. As a result, their diet consists primarily of local fresh fruits and vegetables, with very little saturated fats — hallmarks of a heart-healthy diet.

Developing a heart-healthy diet is just one component of the Dr. Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease ™, an integrative lifestyle program now available through Texas Health Resources. In this program, participants learn about preparing nourishing, delicious meals in order to prevent — or reverse — heart disease. As a result of their new lifestyle, those enrolled in this intense cardiac rehabilitation group often experience reduced cholesterol levels and improved blood pressure and blood sugar while also losing weight.

Getting with the Program

The nutrition component of the Dr. Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease ™ is more than a diet. While diets — such as those that emphasize eating foods that are low-carb or low-fat — often fail and aren’t always healthy, Ornish program classes encourage participants to develop a new way of thinking about food. Ornish program participants abide by a diet that’s low in animal protein and high in whole foods and plants, and select their meals by considering not only whether the food is healthful, but also whether it is fresh, locally grown or processed, and how it’s prepared. Foods are divided into five categories, and the lower the group number, the healthier the food.

Group 1 (healthiest options): These foods, which include mainly fruits and vegetables, legumes, nonfat dairy, whole grains and soy products, are high in good carbs, fats and proteins.

Group 2: While these plant-based foods are still considered to be extremely healthy, they have a slightly higher fat content than those in Group 1. Foods in Group 2 include avocados, nuts and seeds, along with low-sodium canned vegetables, decaffeinated beverages, low-fat dairy and small amounts of the healthier oils.

Group 3: Foods in Group 3 include seafood high in omega-3 fatty acids, some reduced-fat dairy products, sweeteners including high fructose corn syrup, some oils and foods with higher levels of sodium.

Group 4: This group contains foods that are higher in fat, including higher-fat animal proteins, whole-fat dairy products, and foods such as cakes, cookies and doughnuts.

Group 5 (the least healthy options): These foods include fried meats, hot dogs, butter, egg yolks and cream.

Navigating through the nutritional component of the Ornish program is fairly simple: You evaluate your current diet, determine where you are within the spectrum of the food groups and make a conscious effort to eat more foods from the healthier groups.

As you learn about the spectrum of foods and the Ornish program, you’ll learn how to combine the foods from the healthier groups and find an ongoing food program that works best with your lifestyle, activity level and needs.

Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital offers both the Dr. Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease ™ and a traditional cardiac rehab program that last 12 weeks. Both programs are covered by Medicare and many insurance companies.

For more information about the Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, patients can talk to their physicians or call 817-960-6475.

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