Sentara Heart and Ornish: Working Together to Reverse Heart Disease

Perhaps you have been diagnosed with heart disease. Or maybe you experienced a heart attack or had heart surgery. You know what a wake-up call it can be: A clear sign that it’s time to make some serious changes to your lifestyle. Chances are, your doctor will recommend that you join a cardiac rehab program to help you take charge of your heart health.

But does your rehab program offer the well-rounded support you need? The truth is, most traditional cardiac rehabilitation programs don’t provide the comprehensive education and support that can truly make a difference to your long-term health. The Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program at Sentara is different.

Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program: Taking cardiac rehab to the next level

Sentara is the only health system in the state of Virginia where you can find the Ornish program, currently offered at Sentara Princess Anne. Based on research by world-renowned heart disease expert Dean Ornish, M.D., this 9-week program has a unique approach to treating heart disease.

The Ornish program, considered “intensive cardiac rehab,” is an in-depth, comprehensive cardiac rehab program that emphasizes patient education and making permanent lifestyle changes. The program is covered under Medicare and many insurance programs as “intensive cardiac rehab” rather than conventional cardiac rehab.

Rather than relying just on medications that treat the symptoms and effects of heart disease, the Ornish program tackles the root causes of the disease by helping you overhaul your diet, increase your activity level and reduce stress.

Participating in the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program

After experiencing a cardiac event, talk to your cardiologist or primary care physician, who can refer you to the Ornish program at Sentara for cardiac rehab. You start with an individual assessment and then join a group of approximately 10 other participants for 9 weeks of cardiac rehab. Each week consists of 2 sessions that are 4 hours each.

A complete approach to heart disease

Each 4-hour session focuses on helping you make changes in 4 key areas. The cornerstones of the Ornish program include:

  • Healthy diet: During each session, you sit down to a delicious, heart-healthy lunch while a registered dietitian discusses recipes, demonstrates food preparation and discusses topics like mindful eating and eating out on the Ornish plan. You also receive one-on-one support from a dietitian to help you continue making improvements in your eating. Find out more about the Ornish diet.
  • Exercise: You work with an exercise physiologist to find activities you enjoy and safely build up to at least 30 minutes of exercise daily.
  • Stress management: A stress management expert teaches you techniques to help you better manage stress – such as yoga, deep breathing and meditation. Get more information on how to lower stress and improve your heart health.
  • Emotional support: Each session includes a supportive group discussion designed to help everyone stay motivated and on track toward success.

Proven results for heart health

The Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program has been proven to stop the progression of heart disease and even reverse its effects. Patients who’ve gone through the Ornish program at Sentara have seen significant improvements during the course of the 18 sessions. Many of the most common risk factors for heart disease improved dramatically, including a:

  • An almost 8 percent decrease in hemoglobin A1c levels
  • Nearly 10 percent drop in systolic blood pressure
  • 25 percent decrease in LDL cholesterol
  • Nearly 5 percent reduction in body mass index (BMI)
  • 36 percent increase in exercise capacity (meaning greater strength and endurance)

The program has been proven so effective by numerous independent studies that it is now covered by Medicare and many other insurers.

Ready to take charge of your heart health? Call us at 1-757-507-8820 to speak with an Ornish program specialist.