People considering a program to reverse and prevent heart disease, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and lose unwanted weight often have many of the same questions. Below are some common questions and answers.
If you have questions about the program or heart disease that aren't answered in the website, you may find the answers in the Heart Disease and Lifestyle Discussion Group.
Click on any of the questions below or scroll down to read all
Who is this for?
Who sponsors this program and what research is it based on?
How much is this going to cost me?
Is heart disease reversible?
Why is this program better than angioplasty or bypass surgery?
What's the difference between this program and Dr. Ornish's?
How long will it take for me to see any improvement?
Do I have to do it 100% to get benefits?
What if I can't do one part of the program?
I can do this at home, but what if I travel?
How can I find the recommended foods?
How can I find a support group in my area?
Can you give me a simple list of foods to eat and to avoid?
How can I easily figure out what percent of calories from fat a food is?
I don't have heart disease or any risk factors, but I don't want to get it.
Do I have to do all these things?
Q: Who is this for?
A: Anyone who has coronary artery disease or had a heart attack, angioplasty, stents or other forms of heart disease or stroke, and those who have heart disease risk factors: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overweight, diabetes, family history of heart disease. Most people can reverse these conditions or prevent heart disease from occurring by following this program.
A: The Healing Heart Foundation, established in 1993 by Dr. Neal Pinckney, sponsors this program and website. The program is based on the research and clinical experience of Dean Ornish, M.D. in conjunction with the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, John McDougall, M.D., Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D. and many other professional experts in medicine, nutrition, exercise, stress management and psychodynamics. The research has been published in leading peer-review scientific/medical journals. This program is not afilliated with Dr. Ornish, but Dr. Pinckney has worked with him, leading groups in his residential retreats, starting in 1996.
A: No money, just some effort on your part. In fact, those who follow this program say they save money on food bills and medical costs.
A: Yes. Studies published in leading medical journals clearly show that even severe blockages can be opened by following a program similar to this one.
A: Surgery, stents or angioplasty only provide temporary relief for blocked arteries - they do not deal with the root of the problem. Without lifestyle changes, arteries will soon plug up again.
A: This program is very similar. It is based on the research of Dr. Ornish, Dr. John McDougall and others. It differs in diet, avoiding non-fat dairy and eggs (which Dr. Ornish's residential retreats no longer serve), but permits moderate alcohol and caffeine. It recommends more exercise, but does not place as much emphasis on stress management and communications skills.
A: Some people feel a reduction or even total elimination of angina in just a few days. Most people report increased energy, better and less interupted sleep, more physical comfort and less aches and pains, within a few weeks. Although body fat decreases, often weight loss isn't immediately noticed, as muscle tissue builds as fat leaves. On an average, overweight people tend to lose about 20 pounds in ten weeks - and keep it off.
A: You get what you "pay" for. If you follow the program 100%, you get maximum benefits; if you do it partially, some benefits will accrue, depending on what you do. It's far better to do even a small part of it than to do nothing at all.
A: Some people have physical limitations and can't to the exercise, others live in places where they can't choose their foods. Anything you can do will improve your situation. Often there are ways of modifying what you can do to gain similar or partial benefits. Do as much as you can.
A: Travel makes it more complicated, but many people on the program travel regularly. With careful attention, one can usually keep very close to the program. Learning what to order when eating out can keep the diet within reason. Taking walks and using stairs instead of elevators are examples of getting exercise. See the chapter on Eating Out in the Healthy Heart Handbook.
A: Health or "natural" food stores are in most communities, and many will order foods you request. The Internet has many sources for mail ordering foods. (See Resources links)
A: Call local hospitals or clinics (cardiac rehab or health awareness classes) and visit health food stores and ask the management there. Often local vegetarian organizations and yoga or meditation classes have information on support groups.
A: You can eat as much as you want of these foods whenever you feel hungry, until you're full (but not over-stuffed):
+ Beans and legumes
+ Whole grains
+ Vegetables, especially leafy greens
Be careful with these foods - limit them carefully:
¤ Commercially available "low-fat" packaged products
with more than 3 grams of fat per serving
¤ Alcohol in excess of two drinks per day for men, one per day for women.
(One drink = 1 beer or 1 cocktail or 1 - 4 oz. glass of wine with meals)
¤ Excess caffeine (limit to 3 cups of coffee, 1 cola per day)
Avoid these foods - they can plug up arteries:
- Meats (including chicken and fish)
- Oils (all kinds)*, and all high-oil products, including most
salad dressings, margarines, mayonnaise and all fried foods
- All dairy (including low-fat and non-fat) milk, yogurt, butter, cheese,
ice cream and egg products
- Nuts and seeds (except chestnuts)
- High amounts of sugar, honey, fructose or corn syrup
- Any packaged product with more than 1 gram of fat per 100 calories
* While we do not recommend any oil in the diet or as a supplement, 1 teaspoonful of flax seed oil (1 tablespoon of ground flax seed) daily is a common recommendation in other programs.
A: The simplest way is to find the number of calories per serving is to divide the number of calories from fat by the total calories.
If the label shows how many calories from fat, then just divide. For example, a food with 150 calories per serving, 25 from fat = 17% calories from fat (25 ÷ 150 = 16.67)
If only the grams of fat are shown, multiply the number of grams by 9 and then divide as above.
A very simple method to find foods under 10% calories from fat is to only consume those that have one gram of fat, or less, per hundred calories.
A: No, the program you've seen in this FAQ is to reverse heart disease and for persons who have risk factors. The prevention program is easier. Instead of strictly limiting fat to 10% of calories, the prevention program allows 20% of calories from fat. The exercise and stress management parts are the same for either program.
Dr. Neal Pinckney