September 19, 2012

Ten years ago, John Linton and Jim Perry faced some life-altering decisions. Following bypass surgery, both needed to make changes in order to ensure that they would be around to see their daughters get married and have children. Thanks to the Dr. Dean Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease, both men have accomplished these dreams.

“I found out that CAMC would be offering the program about five months prior to its start in the Charleston newspaper,” said Jim Perry, original cohort participant and current Dean Ornish volunteer. “I wanted to see my daughter get married and my first grandchild be born and that wasn’t going to happen if I didn’t make changes, so I thought I’d give it a try.”

“The Ornish team approached me during cardiac rehab following open heart surgery,” said John Linton, PhD, original cohort participant and acting chair of the Department of Behavioral Medicine at WVU – Charleston Division. “There were originally about 100 people interested in the program, so they asked very pointed questions to see who would make it into the first cohort. I think I was chosen because when asked why they should pick me I answered, ‘Because I don’t have time to be in it.’”

CAMC currently offers two Ornish programs. The first is the heart disease Reversal Program, which is a research-based, one-year treatment plan with four components: nutrition, stress management, social support and exercise. The second is the Spectrum Program, which is a six-week lifestyle improvement program consisting of weekly two-hour educational sessions also focusing on nutrition, exercise, social support and stress management.

“The Reversal program includes on-site exercise, stress management instruction, group support and chef-prepared meals in the cardiac rehab department,” said Kelly Anderson, RN, nurse case manager, recruitment specialist and group support facilitator.

Reversal was the program that Perry and Linton entered into 10 years ago.

“When I saw the program presented 10 ½ years ago by Dr. Ornish’s California staff, I thought it was something that was even good for healthy people who wanted to stay that way,” Perry said. “The key to this program is that there is scientific documentation to back it up. My own blood work backs it up. After 12 weeks, the transformation was staggering.”

“It is not a diet program, it’s a lifestyle change,” Linton said. “It’s like tuning a car every day. When you do, it’s never in the shop. Who knows if we’ll live longer, but we’ll definitely live happier.”

The Ornish program at CAMC is one of only two programs in the state and was recently given approval by Medicare and added as a benefit as an intensive cardiac rehab program. This illustrates that the program results are big.

“This program is easier to do than it looks because there is tremendous support from staff and other program participants,” Linton said. “People think it’s like the Marines in that Ornish folks are an elite group. That is inaccurate. The fact is if you get an earlier start on being healthy, the better off you’ll be in your middle and senior years. Anyone can do it. It’s not rocket science. There are challenges, but getting back your life is a great trade-off.”

The Reversal program requires a physician to authorize participation in the program, but most people refer themselves by contacting the Ornish program.

“Once they contact us, we take care of contacting their physician for approval,” Anderson said.

Spectrum is totally self-referral, so a physician’s order is not needed.

Ornish staff members have worked with more than 300 people like Linton and Perry in the 10 years the program has been at CAMC. It is the only program available that is proven to reverse heart disease in participants.

“I’ve stuck to the program for 10 years and my weight fluctuates about four pounds between summer and winter,” Perry said. “I want to live healthy as long as I can. Anyone who wants a good quality of life needs to make changes. This is one of the best programs available for that.”

Linton has good advice for those who know they need to make a change, but are still undecided about whether or not they can.

“I attended a conference in Chicago with Dean [Ornish] several years ago. He showed a slide about the death rate and listed it at 100 percent. He stated that everyone in the room would certainly die, but they needed to decide how they were going to live until they did.”

For more information about the Dean Ornish programs offered at CAMC, call (304) 388-9411 or visit

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