The Man Who Can Save Your Heart

India Today - - SOCIETY & TRENDS -

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.

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