June 27, 2011

It's not every day that you hear about a program that is clinically proven to reverse heart disease. CAMC is proud to offer the Dr. Dean Ornish program to do just that. Charlie and Kelli Bolen joined the Ornish Reversal program on Jan. 24, 2011.

"Charlie, who is 41, has a family history of heart disease," said Kelli, age 38. "His dad died of a heart attack in his mid-50s and Charlie himself has struggled with blood pressure and cholesterol issues since he was a teenager. My grandmother has had open heart surgery, and both of my parents have high blood pressure. I don¹t want it!"

"One of the reasons I was compelled to start the Ornish program is that I wanted to be a better steward of God¹s temple," said Charlie, who is a pastor at a local Baptist church. "That, and I also want to be there to dance at my girls' weddings."

CAMC 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 Reversal program includes on-site exercise, stress management instruction, group support and chef-prepared meals on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Memorial Hospital in the cardiac rehab department," said Kelly Anderson, RN, nurse case manager, recruitment specialist and group support facilitator.

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.

"Education in Spectrum focuses on how a person's health behaviors and choices can impact total health and well-being," Anderson said. "The Reversal program is designed for people with heart disease, diabetes or those at risk for heart disease or diabetes. The Spectrum program is designed for anyone who simply wants to learn to make healthy lifestyle choices and changes."

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. The Bolens decided to inquire about the program on their own and were then enrolled. At first, they were apprehensive about the food they would be required to eat on the reversal program.

"I didn¹t want to have to prepare two meals," Kelli said.

"For the most part, they eat what we eat, and they really like the food," Charlie said.

The Bolens have done well since starting their year-long program. In the first 16 weeks, Kelli lost 26 pounds and five inches around her waist; Charlie about 23 pounds and three inches.

"The greatest thing for me is that my blood pressure and cholesterol are down," Charlie said. "My cholesterol always ran about 249 on medication, and it¹s down to 154. My blood pressure is at about 110/70, which is unheard of for me."

He also used to have to take acid reflux medicine daily, but hasn¹t had to have it for 16 weeks. Ornish staff members have worked with nearly 300 people like the Bolens in the 10 years the program has been at CAMC.

"We are privileged to have this program here, as we are one of only two programs in the state," Anderson said. "The Ornish Program was recently given approval by Medicare and added as a benefit as an intensive cardiac rehab program. This approval is more proof that the program results are big. The healthier people become, the more they enjoy their lives and the more they feel empowered and in control. It is amazing to watch the transformations."

The weight loss and overall health improvement has been great for the Bolens, but both agree they couldn¹t do it without the support of the staff and the other members.

"The staff makes this a great program," Charlie said.

"They make you feel like you¹re part of a family," Kelli said. "It's really like our own little community."

For more information on the Dr. Dean Ornish programs offered at CAMC, call (304) 388-9411, or visit camc.org/heart.

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