Improve your heart health with the Ornish program in Denmark
My week as a coronary heart disease patient
One week I have lived according to the Dr. Dean Ornish program during my yoga therapy certification course for heart conditions. I had the privilege to study with Lutz Hertel, who worked closely with Dr. Dean Ornish himself and lived according to the program for 30 years as well as is accompanying people with heart problems ever since.
Let me start with saying this: I am feeling amazing!
The four pillars of the Ornish Program for heart health
- Food (plant-based very low fat)
- Relaxation (Yoga for the heart)
- Movement (Walking or Slow Jogging)
- Community (Sharing circle)
Let me briefly introduce you to these pillars.
Food for a healthy heart
The diet is a plant-based whole foods low fat diet. I ate my usual vegan diet but didn’t add any oils (and as usual no sugar) and avoided any processed foods that had added oils.
I ate mainly whole foods with tofu, soy yoghurt, lentil pasta, mustard and rice cakes being the only processed foods I had. I came up with a great variety of delicious dishes and it was not difficult at all, once you know what you are doing. Reach out, if you want to learn more or get some inspiration.
Yoga for a healthy heart
We practiced a specific deeply relaxing form of yoga for the heart that is suitable to prevent and to support treatment of coronary heart conditions. Taking physiology and different types of heart conditions into account to make this a safe and nurturing practice.
Movement for a healthy heart
Another part of the program is to strengthen your heart with moderate exercise.
We had a target pulse and we aimed to do 3h of this training during this week. I broke it down to daily 30 min walks with the occasional slow jogging to reach my target pulse. I experimented with walking up hills, carrying extra weight on my back and learning the new slow jogging technique.
Community for a healthy heart
The fourth pillar were regular group talks. Suppressing emotions and lack of community have been scientifically shown to negatively impact heart health. Part of the program is getting together as humans and sharing from our hearts.
So how did all of this make me feel?
The first days I was pretty hungry, as I had to compensate for the lack of oil with more veggies and carbs. But after three days, I didn’t feel that anymore. Also the first three days I felt a bit of withdrawal syndromes, probably caused by no processed and sugary foods, jep I had some vegan Ben & Jerrys before the experiment started.
Making these new dishes was fun as I in general enjoy taking care of my body. I already have non toxic non stick pans, so it was easy to prepare meals and eat a great variety of plants.
The exercise was a bit challenging in the beginning but around day four I really got a hold of it, and damn it feels good. So I am committed to keeping this cardiovascular training in my routine, as it is also an important part in our Feel Good Aging program.
My sleep improved dramatically this week and my energy levels are high despite the very full and busy days and being premenstrual.
Talking about cycles. I did notice a big change in mood. Usually I am easily irritable, and close to tears and full of self doubt during my luteal phase. I noticed none of this. I feel contempt, relaxed, confident and generally happy. So that is definitely something to keep on exploring to help with PMS.
My take-away is that I can see how it can be challenging to implement for people who do not have a focus on a healthy diet and mental and physical well-being yet, but it can be done and I am here to help. It is amazing how this can improve the lives of people with heart conditions and has been shown as one of the only ways to reverse coronary heart disease.
I will definitely make more time for my self-practice and my regular get-my-pulse-up-walks as well reduce added oils dramatically from my diet.
It was an eye opening and highly educational week, and I am impressed how great I feel after just ONE week of doing the program.
Curious about heart health for prevention or know someone who is affected. Let’s have a chat and together we can work on reducing preventable heart disease.