Excerpt: Dean Ornish's 'The Spectrum'

We recently conducted the first study in men with prostate cancer showing that our program of comprehensive lifestyle changes may change how your genes are expressed--in general, turning on (upregulating) the good parts of the genes and turning off (downregulating) the harmful ones. More on this in chapter 4.

We recently conducted the first study showing that comprehensive lifestyle changes may improve how quickly your cells age. Telomeres are the ends of your DNA, and they affect longevity. As they become shorter and their structural integrity is weakened, cells age and die more quickly. In simple terms, as your telomeres get shorter, your life gets shorter. In our new study, we found that the telomerase enzyme (which repairs telomeres) increased significantly in those who went through our diet and lifestyle program after only three months.

We learned what really works to motivate people to make and maintain comprehensive lifestyle changes in the real world. We've consistently shown that our program can motivate many people to make and maintain bigger changes in diet and lifestyle, and to achieve better clinical outcomes and larger cost savings in diverse groups of people than have ever before been demonstrated.

Let's examine these.

The program works to prevent and even reverse disease.

People often think that advances in medicine have to be a new drug, a new laser, or a surgical intervention to be powerful--something really high-tech and expensive. They often have a hard time believing that the simple choices we make in our lives each day--what we eat, how we respond to stress, whether or not we smoke, how much we exercise, and the quality of our relationships--can make such a powerful difference in our health, our well-being, and our survival, but they often do.

Awareness is the first step in healing. When we become more aware of how powerfully our choices in diet and lifestyle affect us--for better and for worse--then we can make different ones. It's like connecting the dots. In my experience, many people are not afraid to make big changes in their lives if they understand the benefits of doing so and how quickly they may occur.

Part of the value of science is to raise our awareness by helping us understand the powerful effects of the diet and lifestyle choices we make each day and how changing these may significantly--sometimes dramatically--improve our health and well-being. In many cases, these improvements may occur much more quickly than people once believed possible.

In our studies, we used the latest in high-tech, expensive, state-of-the-art measures to prove how robust these very simple, low-tech, and low-cost interventions can be.

For more than thirty years, I've directed a series of scientific research studies showing, for the first time, that the progression of even severe coronary heart disease can often be reversed by making comprehensive lifestyle changes. These include a very-low-fat diet including predominantly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and soy products in their natural, unrefined forms; moderate exercise such as walking; various stress management techniques, including yoga-based stretching, breathing, meditation, and imagery; and enhanced love and social support, which may include support groups.

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