Medicare’s new approach to familiar diseases

American Medical News: By AMY LYNN SORREL, AMNews correspondent. Posted May 14, 2012.
Exercise is just one part of the Ornish heart disease program. Patients Mike Rich and Dawn Diven hit the machines at the West Virginia University Heart Institute in Morgantown. Although supporters say lifestyle changes promoted by the program can reverse heart disease, some are skeptical. [Photo by David Smith / AP Images for American Medical News]


When patients with a history of multiple heart attacks or coronary artery bypass surgeries come to Silverton Hospital in Woodburn, Ore., staff members see that something beyond the usual drugs and medical procedures might be needed.

Yet that something, while perhaps unconventional, may not be as radical as one might expect, said emergency physician Frank Lord, MD. Just exercise, a low-fat vegetarian diet and stress management through group support, meditation — and yoga.

The yoga element “was certainly a surprise to me,” said Dr. Lord, who oversees the one-year multidisciplinary program offered at Silverton known as Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease. “But until patients learn how to deal with stress, it’s really difficult to be disciplined in the other areas needed to control their disease,” especially for those with chronic conditions.

A year after they go through the program, Silverton heart patients on average have lost 22 pounds, blood sugar levels have dropped by 23%, and depression scale scores have plummeted 41%. Read more