The Man Who Can Save Your Heart
DEAN ORNISH, USA His low-tech prescriptions to tackle lifestyle diseases are rapidly going mainstream The journey began in early 1970s, when as a first-year college student, he met an Indian yogi, Swami Satchidananda, in the US. As the guru helped him through a phase of profound depression, his perspective on life and well-being changed. He accompanied the guru to India in 1973, as a medical student, to learn more about his approaches. “That was my doorway into other ways of healing,” Dr Ornish says.
The rest is history. Dr Ornish started a wellness revolution. He has been the first to prove through evidence-based research that a plant-based diet— combined with mind-body stimulation—can stop or even reverse the progression of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and even early stages of some cancers. It’s not every day that a medical doctor says that lifestyle changes can be a form of treatment. And it brought alternative ways of healing centre stage.
The well-known four-step programme has four components—How one eats, how much exercise one gets, how one responds to stress and how much love and support one receives. In his 72-hour training, the doctor simply guides while the patient chooses just how much change he or she wants. And it brings together exercise physiologists, yoga and meditation teachers, dieticians and clinical psychologists, in a seamlessly integrated solution.
The principle that motivates Dr Ornish’s approach is to treat the underlying causes of chronic diseases. “Treat the cause,” he says, “not just lifestyle.” “People who are lonely and depressed are three to ten times more likely to get sick and die prematurely than those who have a strong sense of love and community,” the doctor adds. The need for love and intimacy is as crucial to a person’s well-being as the need for food and water. And the value of compassionate science, he believes, is to give people new hope, new choices and new possibilities.