The doctor returned from a heart attack. Now he looks at Alzheimer’s disease

“I think our unique contribution has been to demonstrate how powerful these very low-tech and low-cost interventions can be by using these very high-tech, expensive, state-of-the-art scientific measures,” said Professor Ornish. University of California Medicine, San Francisco.

“What’s good for your heart is good for your brain and vice versa,” Ornish said. “Previous studies have shown that moderate lifestyle changes can slow the rate of progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s. So my hypothesis is that intensive lifestyle changes can halt or even reverse the decline.”

The original study on heart disease was small — 28 people were in Ornish’s experimental group, then followed for five years. Some skeptics have criticized the program for its small sample size, saying that people can’t stay on the program’s strict plant-based diet unsupervised.
On the Ornish meal plan, more than 10% of a person’s daily calories can come from fat. For this, all animal products are prohibited except egg whites and a glass of skim milk or yogurt. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes form the basis of the diet, along with a few nuts and seeds. Refined carbohydrates, fats and excess caffeine are not allowed, but up to two cups of green tea per day are allowed.

“It’s low-fat, but it’s only a small part of the overall diet,” Ornish said. “It’s basically a vegetarian diet, eating foods that are as close to nature as possible, low in fat and sugar.”

The program also includes an hour a day of yoga-based stress management using stretching, breathing, meditation and relaxation techniques. Strength training and walking or other aerobic exercise should be done 30 minutes a day or three times a week for an hour. No smoking.

“There are also support groups,” Ornish told CNN, “that not only help people stay on a diet, but also create a safe environment where people can let go of their emotional defenses and talk openly and honestly about what’s going on in their lives, their warts, and what’s really going on.” everything.

“That was the part that surprised me the most – these support groups are really close,” she added. Sharing things like, “I may be the perfect dad, but my kids are on heroin.” Even with Zoom, they’re reaching the same level of intimacy within one or two sessions because there’s such a hunger for it. .”

Ornish calls this part of his program “Love More.” He answers the skeptics who wonder why intimacy is an integral part of the pain relief plan: Studies on lonely, depressed or isolated people.

According to Ornish, these people are “three to 10 times more likely to get sick and die prematurely from almost everything” compared to people who say they have a sense of love, connection and community.

“Why? Partly because you feel lonely and depressed, which leads to smoking, overeating, stopping exercise and other unhealthy things,” Ornish said.

Effects on other chronic diseases

By 1993, insurance giant Mutual of Omaha had become the first alternative therapy other than chiropractic to win insurance coverage, and began reimbursing policyholders for the cost of Ornish’s program. Medicare began covering lifestyle interventions for heart disease in 2006.

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“And in October 2021, Medicare has agreed to deliver my heart disease program via Zoom, which is really a game changer,” Ornish said. “We can now reach people at home, in rural areas and in food deserts where they live, helping to reduce health inequalities and health inequalities.”

Over the past two decades, Ornish’s research has shown that the same four-part program in diabetic patients lowers blood sugar and heart disease risk, reduces the growth of prostate cancer cells, improves depression within 12 weeks, and lowers “bad cholesterol” on average. 40% and more.

“With the growing interest in personalized medicine, how can the same lifestyle changes stop and often reverse the progression of a wide range of the most common and costly chronic diseases?” Ornish asked.

“Because they all have the same basic biological mechanisms: chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, changes in the microbiome, changes in gene expression, overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system, changes in immune function, and more,” he said.

“And in turn, each of these directly affects what we eat, how we respond to stress, how much exercise we get, and how much love and support we give,” Ornish said.

These lifestyle improvements can change the body at the cellular level, he said. According to a 2008 study, the Ornish program affects 500 genes in the body through epigenetics, chemical reactions that can activate or deactivate how genes are expressed.

“After three months in the Ornish lifestyle program, the study found that a number of genes that regulate or prevent disease were turned on, and genes that cause many of the mechanisms that cause these various conditions were turned off,” Ornish said.

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“You’re not technically changing your genes, but you’re changing the expression of those genes with chemical switches, turning them on or off,” he said. “So that means we’re victims of our genetic destiny, it’s not in our genes anymore. We’re not victims. There’s only so much we can do.”

Ornish lifestyle interventions have also been shown to lengthen telomeres, the ends of chromosomes that control longevity and shorten as we age. Ornish conducted a pilot study in 2013 with San Francisco biochemist Elizabeth Blackburn, who won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her work on telomeres.

“We found that telomerase, the enzyme that repairs and lengthens telomeres, increased by 30% in just three months of the program,” Ornish said. “We then found that people who had been in the program for five years had about 10% longer telomeres, a sign that aging is being reversed at the cellular level.”

Is this same lifestyle enough to slow or even reverse cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s and other dementias? Time will tell. The site study is still ongoing, and although preliminary results appear promising, all data must be collected, analyzed, and peer-reviewed before results can be reported.

“But I believe it’s not diet and lifestyle for heart disease, it’s different for diabetes or prostate cancer and different for Alzheimer’s. It’s really the same for any condition,” Ornish told CNN.

“In order to reverse the disease, you almost 100% have to intervene. If you’re just trying to prevent the disease, the more you change, the better you’ll be. But the most important thing is your diet, lifestyle, and general approach. So that we all die as young as possible.” the love”.

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