Excerpt: Dean Ornish's 'The Spectrum'

In a related investigation, we studied forty patients whose hearts were pumping blood poorly, many of whom were on the way to needing a heart transplant. All of these patients were eligible for surgery (bypass surgery or angioplasty). We compared twenty-seven patients who chose our program as an alternative to surgery with thirteen patients who underwent surgery. The two groups were comparable in age, disease severity, and heart function.

After three months, there were six cardiac events (cardiac death, congestive heart failure, stroke, heart attack) in the thirteen patients who had surgery compared with only one cardiac event in the twenty-seven patients who chose our program of comprehensive lifestyle changes. Put another way, there were six events in thirteen patients (46 percent) in the surgical group but only one event in twenty-seven patients (4 percent) in the lifestyle-change group--in other words, ten times fewer cardiac events in the lifestyle-change group than in the surgical group. Not surprisingly, these differences were statistically significant.

After three years, 96 percent of the patients in the lifestyle-change group were still alive, and only three had undergone surgery. In the surgical group, only 77 percent of the patients were still alive, and these differences were also statistically significant.

Thus, even really sick heart-disease patients were able to safely avoid bypass surgery and angioplasty and, if anything, did even better than those who were operated on. Although this is a small sample of patients without a randomized control group, the differences are striking and encouraging.

In the next chapter, I'll describe why these patients were able to make and maintain comprehensive lifestyle changes in the real world--and how you can do so as well.

Excerpted from The Spectrum by Dean Ornish, M.D. Copyright © 2007 by Dean Ornish, M.D.. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Group, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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