Diet That Reverses Heart Disease and Lowers Blood Pressure

Some of you may have heard of Dr. Dean Ornish. He is the founder and president of the non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California. He is Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Ornish received his medical training in internal medicine from the Baylor College of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and the Massachusetts General Hospital.

For over 33 years, Dr. Ornish has directed clinical research demonstrating, for the first time, that comprehensive lifestyle changes may begin to reverse even severe coronary heart disease, without drugs or surgery.

Recently, Medicare agreed to provide coverage for this program, the first time that Medicare has covered a program of comprehensive lifestyle changes. He directed the first randomized controlled trial demonstrating that comprehensive lifestyle changes may stop or reverse the progression of early-stage prostate cancer.

Another word you may be hearing more often is Telomerase: this is the enzyme that lengthens telomeres… the “tail ends” of our chromosomes which control aging.

Dr. Ornish’s current research showed that comprehensive lifestyle changes affect gene expression, “turning on” disease-preventing genes and “turning off” genes that promote cancer and heart disease, as well as increasing telomerase (in collaboration with Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2009).

He was recognized as “one of the most interesting people of 1996” by People magazine; selected as one of the “TIME 100” in integrative medicine; honored as “one of the 125 most extraordinary University of Texas alumni in the past 125 years;” chosen by LIFE magazine as “one of the fifty most influential members of his generation;” and by Forbes magazine as “one of the seven most powerful teachers in the world.”

Dr. Ornish’s 35 years of clinical research proved how the lifestyle program he recommends improves most chronic diseases, including:



Results of this study, published in the journal Lancet Oncology, showed, for the first time, that changing lifestyle significantly increases telomerase. Telomeres are a type of protein at the ends of chromosomes that influence how long we live. This is the first time that any intervention, even drugs, has been shown to significantly increase telomerase.

“Increased telomerase activity and comprehensive lifestyle changes: a pilot study.”
Lancet Oncology (PDF)

Telomerase and the Benefits of Healthy Living”
Lancet Oncology (PDF)


Gene Expression

Turn on health-promoting genes & turn off disease-promoting genes

In this study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (, we found that over 500 genes were affected by lifestyle changes. In fact, certain disease preventing genes were up-regulated, or turned on, and certain disease promoting genes, including oncogenes involved in cancer, were down-regulated, or turned off. The results of this study suggest that comprehensive lifestyle changes may cause changes in gene expression that could be beneficial to the general population as well as to those with prostate cancer.

“Changes in prostate gene expression in men undergoing an intensive nutrition and lifestyle intervention.”
Preceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS): (PDF)

Heart Disease

Reverse & Prevent Heart Disease

They examined the ability of patients enrolled in the Lifestyle Heart Trial to sustain intensive lifestyle changes for a total of five years and the effects of these lifestyle changes on coronary heart disease. Adherence to lifestyle changes, changes in coronary artery percent diameter stenosis, and cardiac events were measured. Outcomes in the experimental group showed significant improvement relative to controls. Additionally, compared to 1 year follow up, 5 year follow ups showed greater improvement relative to controls.


Diabetes & Pre-Diabetes

Reverse and Prevent Type 2 Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes

Patients with diabetes were able to follow the Ornish program and show the same improvements in coronary risk factors and quality of life as those without diabetes.  Patients showed statistically significant decreases in their HgbA1c, and many were able to reduce their diabetes medication.

“Comparison of coronary risk factors and quality of life in coronary artery disease patients with, versus without, diabetes mellitus”
American Journal of Cardiology (PDF)


Lower Cholesterol

Patients who participated in the 12 week Ornish program showed statistically significant improvements in their total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerdies.  In fact, patients lowered their LDL-cholesterol levels by an average of 40%.

“The effectiveness and efficacy of an intensive cardiac rehabilitation program in 24 sites”
American Journal of Health Promotion (PDF)



Nutrient Excesses/Deficiencies

The Ornish Diet may be deficient in calcium, iron, vitamin B12, and essential fatty acids. Dr. Ornish recommends supplementation with these nutrients.

Who May Benefit

Research indicates that individuals with existing heart disease can reverse their disease process and reduce their risk of dying from heart disease by following the Ornish Program. This diet is also beneficial for people who want to prevent the onset of heart disease.

Who May be Harmed

The diet is not recommended for individuals with increased caloric and nutrient needs, such as pregnant and lactating women, children, adolescents and the elderly.

Consult your Doctor before beginning any lifestyle or diet change.


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