Read the Transcript Below the Bio
Dean Ornish, MD, is the founder and president of the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, Calif. He is the clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Ornish received his medical training in internal medicine from the Baylor College of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and the Massachusetts General Hospital. He received a BA in Humanities summa cum laude from the University of Texas in Austin, where he gave the baccalaureate address.
For more than 32 years, Ornish has directed clinical research demonstrating, for the first time, that comprehensive lifestyle changes may begin to reverse even severe coronary heart disease, without drugs or surgery. He directed the first randomized, controlled trial demonstrating that comprehensive lifestyle changes may stop or reverse the progression of early-stage prostate cancer. His research showed that comprehensive lifestyle changes affect gene expression, “turning on” disease-preventing genes and “turning off” genes that promote cancer and heart disease. In collaboration with Nobel laureate Elizabeth Blackburn, Ph.D., he also showed that these lifestyle changes can lengthen telomeres, the ends of chromosomes that control how long we live.
He is the author of six best-selling books, including New York Times bestsellers Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease; Eat More, Weigh Less; Love & Survival; and his most recent book, The Spectrum.
The research that he and his colleagues conducted has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, The Lancet, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Circulation, TheNew England Journal of Medicine, the American Journal of Cardiology, The Lancet Oncology, and elsewhere.
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Reena Jadhav: Hey everyone. It’s Reena Jadhav here from bootcamps and today it is my true honor to have with us a brilliant physician, bestselling author, creator of the famous scientific program to reverse heart disease through diet and lifestyle. Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Dean, welcome.
Dr. Ornish: Thank you. It’s a great pleasure to be here.
Reena Jadhav: Definitely share a little bit more about you and now Dr. Dean Ornish is also the President of the nonprofit preventative medicine research institute in Sausalito, but do you know what he’s most famous for is being the personal physician, consultant, and former President Bill Clinton, who? Exactly. All right. Let’s dive into chapter one. So chapter one, you literally start off by saying it works. What’s the essence of that chapter?
Dr. Ornish: Well, as I mentioned, we’ve been doing for 40 years that the more you change, the more you improve and the more diseases we study and the more mechanisms we look at, the more reason to be happy to explain why that’s the case. So what I did and I’ve also learned that even more than being healthy and being one and feel free is that there’s a whole language of behavioral change has this kind of fascist, moralistic, humiliating quality to it. You know, the whole idea of hatred, compliance, like getting to another or you know, if you’d go on a diet, chances are you’re going to go off the Diet and then you have all that shame and guilt and anger and humiliation which are really much more toxic than the, than the food itself. And so what I realized is that you know, instead of making this a diet, it’s just a way of eating and living.
Dr. Ornish: So now food is just food, but some foods are healthier for you than others. So I categorize foods for the most healthy, what I call group one, which was basically the whole foods plant-based with group five, the most unhealthy, which are the foods that are high in animal protein and sugar and things like that in groups two, three, four and immediate. And so it’s a personalized diet, not based on what I’m telling you to do, but rather you decide how much you want to change, how quickly, how many things we support it. We track it at that degree of changes enough to accomplish your goals. Great. If not, it’s radically simple, so you can’t fail because if you indulge yourself one day, it doesn’t mean you treat or you failed or you’re bad. Pejorative words, you’d help you in the next. You don’t have exercise.
Dr. Ornish: One day you’re a little more than x, what you like and you know it’s going to be much more successful that way.
Reena Jadhav: All right? Chapter two. Why does it work?
Dr. Ornish: It works because these different chronic diseases shared very similar chronic underlying mechanisms and they’re all influenced by the Diet and lifestyle choices that we make each day. And to the degree that you make them, and so the more you change, the more you improve and uh, and, and then it comes out of your own experience so that you don’t have to wonder if it’s true. You can actually see that. So let’s say you wanted to lose 10 pounds or get your blood pressure down 10 points or get your cholesterol level down, 50 points or whatever it happens to be. So you can say, what say, what are you eating? Now I’m eating mostly unhealthy stuff.
Dr. Ornish: Okay? Instead of saying, well, here’s your diet. And then they had that pushback. Now I’m feeling control. This is how much are you willing to change? It’s like, oh, no one’s ever asked me that before. Oh, I don’t know. I’ll eat less sugar and less red meat and more fruits and vegetables. Great. How much exercise are you doing now? Not so much. How much are you willing to do? Oh, I dunno, I’ll walk 20 minutes a day. How much meditation and the other, you’re doing a zero. How much are you willing to do? I’ll meditate 10 minutes a day. How much love and support do you have in your life? Well, not enough. Okay. Well, what are you wanting to do? Well, I’ll spend more time with my friends and family. Great. So we track it and we see how you do it. So after a month or so, let’s say you wanted to lose 10 pounds.
Dr. Ornish: Have you lost six? We want to get your LDL cholesterol down. Fifty points a game down 30. It’s a great look how much you improved yours on the right track. Now if you do, even more, you’re going to get the rest of the way. Now that’s different from someone who’s got a life-threatening condition. It needs to reverse it and you really do have to be pretty strict about it. But even then by doing those choices with meaning, we’re finding paradoxically we’re actually getting bigger changes to the lifestyle changes. Then the Montessori, which sounds counterintuitive, but I suppose people think, oh, I can get my patients to take their status, their cholesterol-lowering drugs was that way. They’re going to change their lifestyle. It’s too hard, but most people are not taking their steps. You know a 30 to 40 percent of people are taking them after six months to a year, 25 percent of people never even filled the prescription for them and status or proven value, and if you have heart disease, so why aren’t people taking them?
Dr. Ornish: And the reason is that they’re a fear-based pill. The doctor says it’s not going to make you feel better. Hopefully, it will make you feel worse for something really awful from happen years down the road that you don’t want to think about so you don’t think about. But when you make your lifestyle changes, if you really make big changes because these underlying biological mechanisms are so dynamic, most people find that they feel so much better so quickly. It reframes the reason for making these changes from fear of dying, which is not sustainable to joy and pleasure and love and feeling good.
Reena Jadhav: Well, I have an insight on why people don’t fill prescriptions because I never felt my pregnazone prescription and it’s because if I filled it, it meant I had given up that I was choosing this band-aid and as I had been told, I may be on it for life. I looked at the prescription a whole bunch of times because I was told, you know what, just a couple of BS and boy, every symptom will be gone. And Yeah, of course, there is, you know, here’s this long laundry list of symptoms of um, side effects I could never fill it. And I think that’s why a lot of people don’t feel the status because it’s, well,
Dr. Ornish: you’re right. And the same thing as why people, you know, if you have to take a medication two or three or four times a day for the rest of your life, every time you take it, it reminds you that you’re sick forever, forever. Now what we’ve learned is that if you turn off the faucet, if you treat the cause that the need for drugs and surgery often greatly reduces and often eliminated. So under your doctor’s prescription, under your doctor’s supervision, let’s say you have high cholesterol, say, okay, let me try changing my lifestyle and make big changes. We found that for example, a 40 percent average reduction in LDL cholesterol comparable to what you’d get with drugs, but the only side effects are good ones you know. And so ask your doctor, can you start to wean me off these medications? And then as you start to be able to do that, not only do you get the benefit of not the side effects of the cost, but it reminds you for the reasons you’re talking about, hey, I’m really getting better.
Dr. Ornish: I don’t need as many of these pills. And that’s a really powerful virtuous cycle that people get into.
Reena Jadhav: Chapter three, how it works.
Dr. Ornish: It works because these underlying mechanisms that we’ve talked about are all influenced by diet and lifestyle choices to the degree that you make them. And so as you begin to change your lifestyle, you start to feel better in every metric that we look at objectively gets better as well. And then you get into this mindset of saying, oh, I really can do something about this. And I started to feel better. I mean let’s take someone who’s got a chest pain due to heart disease, angina, and as they start to make these changes and it starts to go away and like, Oh wow, I can walk across the street without getting paid. I can make love with my spouse, I can play with my kids, I can go back to war.
Dr. Ornish: And then it’s like, okay, well that I like eating cheeseburgers but not that much, you know because what I gained is so much more than what I give up because these mechanisms are so dynamic. It’s not about preventing something bad from happening, you know, years down the road. It’s not about living to be 86 instead of 85. That doesn’t really motivate most people. It’s about I can feel much better very quickly with a day and certainly within weeks by cause I’m making these changes. What I gain is so much more than what I give up. And that’s what makes it sustainable.
Reena Jadhav: Next chapter, Chapter Four, you are unique. So what’s the essence of that?
Dr. Ornish: Well, you know, it’s unique in the sense that, um, you know, some people are willing to make different degrees of lifestyle change, but one of the things that we’ve actually learned is that with all this interest in personalized medicine, so on, that it wasn’t like we found there was one diet and lifestyle program for reversing heart disease and another one for reversing prostate cancer or for getting your cholesterol, your blood pressure, your blood sugar, your genes or telomeres, your angiogenesis. It was the same for all of them. And the more people followed it, the more they improve at any age. So there are individual differences. Some people, for example, can metabolize dietary sugar is better than others, but as it turns out that if you’re not eating that much sugar anyway, then those differences don’t matter so much.
Dr. Ornish: And so even though you know, we like to think that our individual differences are really so much different than everyone else’s, we found that these same lifestyle changes can actually benefit almost everyone and to the degree that you make and there’s a corresponding benefit. Now what’s personalized in the spectrum is that you decide how much you want to change so you know you say, okay, I’m willing to make this theory of change, but not that and to whatever degree you make a change, there’s going to be a corresponding benefit which hopefully will then motivate you to make even bigger changes, which is different than if you’re actually trying to reverse a life-threatening condition. But even there we found it was the same program that could reverse all these conditions and you find this in other countries. Let’s look at Asia. Fifty years ago, heart disease was and most forms of cancer or colon cancer which you dealt with, prostate breast cancer were whereas rare there is, malaria is here 50 years and they started at like us and live like us and now die like us.
Dr. Ornish: Genetics are there. They have a very wide diversity of genetics just like we do in this country, and yet those diseases were very low because everybody pretty much was eating diets that were low in fat, low in sugar, low in animal protein as well as they have a lot of social support. They were exercising and they had some kind of spiritual basis in their lives. And so, you know, from a Dan Buettner’s blue zones work, we find those kinds of commonalities you find everywhere. So even though our genes there are genes were different, they didn’t get expressed until they started to eat horrible western diet lifestyle. And so to the degree that people are willing to move in this direction, we find there’s a corresponding. And so I’ve put red meat and group five chicken and group for fish and group three, you know, plant-based foods that are higher in fat and group two and lower in fat and group one.
Dr. Ornish: So all of these things is not, you know, there’s this big debate as you know, low fat is that it’s all sugar. You know, Americans will less fat. We’re fatter than ever. You know, it’s not, it’s all sugar. Well, it turns out we may have been told those things, but I went to the US Department of Agriculture database actually tracked the entire us food supply and every decade since 1950 we’ve been eating more fat, more sugar, more and more calories. So not surprisingly fat or not because reading too little fat because they’re eating too much of everything. It turns out it’s not this or that. It’s an optimal diet, is low in fat and low in refined carbs and low in animal protein. It’s mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, soy products as they come in nature. Um, and the same is true for these, uh, for these other things we do.
Dr. Ornish: It’s debated Dr Atkins a number of times before he died of heart disease. And, and so what’s important is not just weight loss are one thing, but what’s happening to your arteries, what’s happening to your health? And when you go on a, you know, the Atkins or I’ve really thought that would be over after he died. But then it became as the Paleo and Ketogenic guy and all these things and they just, you know, it’s just telling people what they want to hear, you know, the tell people that Bacon and sausage or health foods and they’re not, you know. And there was an article in the journal, internal medicine a few years ago by Steven Smith and he said, what actually happens in your arteries on different diets and on a whole foods plant-based either essentially clean on a standard American diet. They’re partially clogged on an Atkins Ketogenic Paleo.
Dr. Ornish: Whatever latest iteration of that is you’re severely clogged. Even if they lose weight, even if their cholesterol blood pressure isn’t that different. And so it’s important that when people are assessing how they want to eat and live, that they not only look at these so-called risk factors like cholesterol and blood pressure and weight, what’s actually happening to your health itself. And that’s why in our studies we’re not just looking at risk that we’re looking at the actual underlying disease process and we’re finding that the arteries get that blood flow improves after a month. After one year, the arteries are less clogged. After five years we’ve been for improvement, even fewer blockages. The same is true for their prostate cancer and their diabetes better conditions. The more you change, the more you improve at any age.
Reena Jadhav: And I think it’s back to, you know, our culture kills. We’ve created this industry about fads and diets with different names, different titles then invest millions of dollars, fines, doctors to propose it to support, to give the media the attention that these diets need in order to sell more guns, Diet. And so we’re living in this sort of perpetual cycle of diet failure, diet failure, and again, significant obesity until each of us starts to pull back from it and no longer react to the new cool fad diet that’s helping. So and so lose 20 pounds in two days or you know, the usual crazy advertisements that received. We’re just going to continue in this, this viral, this downward spiral. And so I think the point you’re making is we have to stop being a culture of extremes and culture fads and come down to just being in balance. Because I think if we just lived in normal life the way our ancestors lived, heck when I see ancestor, I mean my grandparents,
Dr. Ornish: extremism is in the eye of the beholder. Of course. I mean some people would say that eating a whole foods plant based diet is extreme. I don’t. That’s the way that most of our, the world aid until they started to get enough.
Reena Jadhav: Overindulgence?
Dr. Ornish: Yeah, I mean it follows the money. I mean if you’re a magazine right now, look at him to Time magazine. It used to be the number one magazine in the world and now it just. It’s almost in the trashcan because of this disruption in those areas and. But medical journals are no different. They have something called the impact factor and the more an article is picked up and general media, the more impacted. How so like the New England Journal of Medicine Jama are among the highest impact factors and lance it because of they. They’ve published articles that the headlines pick up, but unfortunately, sometimes they published studies that are really badly done just because they’re provocative like saturated fat isn’t bad for you or meat as good for you or those kinds of things.
Dr. Ornish: I mean, there was one study that came out in the British medical journal that said that, uh, let’s say Cuba, the second study, they said, saturated fat not bad for you. Okay. And they actually looked at the data two ways. One way was the so-called adjusted day there would actually kind of manipulating the data that they, you know if you’re eating a lot of cholesterol, they adjusted the saturated fat would go together, kind of cancel each other out. But with the unadjusted data, the raw data, which is to be the most accurate because they did find that saturated fat was associated with heart disease, diabetes, prostate, breast, colon cancer, etc. All the way down the line. And that didn’t even make it into the abstract. So because they knew that if they had something provocative, they will be picked up worldwide when she was, even though it ends up harming people and information that can really damage.
Reena Jadhav: And it was a pretty famous study that just got redacted after decades of being in
Dr. Ornish: the little bit of training and die. well, perfect example. Okay. In fact, I wrote a letter to the editors and say published and I just sent him another one yesterday about this new version of it and the pediments study said the conclusion was people eating a Mediterranean diet had lower heart attacks or death from all causes and strokes. Then those eating a low-fat diet. Well, you know, it just makes me want to pull out my stuff to my hair because that low-fat diet group was. They went from 39 percent fat to 37 percent. That hardly any change at all. I mean within the range of, around here. The, it turns out that there was no difference in heart attacks, no difference in premature death from heart disease, no differences in premature death from all causes.
Dr. Ornish: That’s the only difference. Was there was a significant reduction in strokes because on the Mediterranean diet you have been more of the omega three fatty acids which we’ve been adding in the form of fish oil or flax seed oil for decades and that helps to keep the blood from clotting and since 90 percent of strokes are caused by blood costs of thrombus formation, they did show reduction in strokes, but they pooled the data, there was so when they average the data of the stroke and the heart disease and these other things, there was a net decrease, but it was all driven by the reduction in stroke and yet the headlines and even the abstract itself made it seem like the Mediterranean diet had lower rates of heart attacks there. They had no difference at all. Right? And compared to people who didn’t really make much change much like a, as opposed to people will make big changes, which we found, which would actually reverse it.
Dr. Ornish: And in the vast majority of people.
Reena Jadhav: All right, chapter five in your sector, what is the nutrition spectrum?
Dr. Ornish: Well, that’s what we’ve been talking about that, um, I categorize foods from the most healthy group, one, at least healthy group, fine but matters most is your overall way of eating and living. You decide how much you want to change and what your goals are and if start by making modern changes that that’s an upgrade, if not more, but again, it’s worth mentioning again, then sometimes actually making big changes all at once is actually easier than making monitoring changes because you feel so much better so quickly and you see so many great results on your cholesterol or blood pressure, blood sugar that makes sense. Say, okay, this is, you know, a big change, but boy, it’s really worth it. Again, not a fear but a joy and pleasure and feeling good
Reena Jadhav: and that’s actually why the hell camps, which is our online virtual program in partnership with doctors like yourself, it works. People have across the board, incredible results and
Dr. Ornish: you’ve probably seen him in the first few days, right?
Reena Jadhav: Then at the end of the 14 days, now what I feel great, I want to continue with this and we say, great, you have access. Keep going. Don’t stop now, but that’s why they work.
Dr. Ornish: That’s Why I have a nonprofit institute, a five, one c, three called the preventive medicine research institute which I founded back in 1994 after finishing my medical training in Boston, moved to San Francisco and through that we trained 53 hospitals and clinics around the country at Harvard, at Beth Israel, New York use CSF and scripts and in community hospitals and all older advice and we got again, bigger changes in lifestyle, better clinical outcomes, bigger cost savings, better adherence, but some of the sites closed down and I said this was the best program we’ve ever had like this. We have to close it down because you don’t have insurance and Medicare reimbursement. And so that was the painful message is how so much of health care, which is really often diseased here is because of you know all about the Benjamins as the rappers would say, follow the money.
Dr. Ornish: So that sent me on a 16-year journey with Medicare because I realized I could do a thousand studies with a million people and they will always remain a footnote unless we change reimbursement. So I had no idea how it was going to take to do that, but we did and we at one point we even had to get a whole committee from the national heart lung blood institute to prove that it was. It was not a dangerous behavior for people to walk. Eat guys are those meditating, quit smoking compared to having their chest cut open. her parents are being done
Reena Jadhav: by asking them to eat well and walk a little
Dr. Ornish: but, but parenthetically eight randomized trials and stents and angioplasties and they don’t work. They don’t prevent heart attacks. They don’t prevent both for a long life. and we spent tens of millions of dollars every year on these procedures that are dangerous, invasive, expensive, and largely ineffective.
Dr. Ornish: And if you’re in the middle of having a heart attack, but the vast majority of people are not and they don’t work. So anyway, I’m very grateful to medicare because they created a new benefit category to cover our program and so we’ve been training, I’ve been working with a company called sharecare to train hospitals and clinics and physician groups around the country and it’s working. Again, we’re getting bigger changes in lifestyle, better clinical outcomes, bigger cost savings, better adherence, but because it’s reimbursed at a, at a fairly high level, get enables doctors to make a living doing this and they’re not really spending most of their time doing it. It’s done is the doctor is the quarterback but he or she is working with a meditation teacher and exercise physiologist and registered dietitian, a nurse and they work together as a team and the doctorate oversees that, but he or she isn’t spending much of their time doing it and Medicare is going to pay for 70.
Dr. Ornish: They aren’t paying for 72 years of training, not just a 10-minute visit. We don’t really have time to talk about much, so people will come twice a week for nine weeks. they get for four hours at a time. It’s a lot, an hour of exercise and our stress management and our support group and now have a group meal with a lecture and after they finish there, their uh, their nine weeks there, there are 72 hours they continue to be just like we’re doing today with zoom, video conferencing. So the one they can say, okay, every Thursday from five to six, we’re all gonna have our support group, which is what enables to get such high levels of adherence. So you know, as you’ve experienced, when people go through a boot camp, they have these incredible experiences and transformations and now by meeting once a week of virtually we can sustain that.
Dr. Ornish: So that, you know, 85, we’re finding that 94 percent of these 72 hours are completed, which is ridiculous. And a year, even though it’s only nine weeks long, a year later, 85 to 90 percent of the people are still following the program. And every cycle we trained around the country.
Reena Jadhav: That’s remarkable. Remarkable. Congratulations because it’s a long haul. Alright, next chapter, chapter six, stress management spectrum. What is the stress management spectrum?
Dr. Ornish: So same idea. The more you meditate, the more you do yoga, the more you improve, so you decide how much to do it, uh, and you know it, it improves you in a number of ways. One is you manage stress better. Your fuse gets longer, things don’t bother you as much. So people say things like, you know, they didn’t change, but I did the same job, the same family, the same work environment, the same hope.
Dr. Ornish: And you know, you react to it in a different way. It’s just like when you’re tired and down, your fuse is shorter and little day to day aggravations can often be the most stressful things just bother you as much. It’s not like you have to hold it in or explode. It’s like, yeah, you know, I got and then you can actually function at a much higher level to deal with every whatever it needs to be done, but also as we talked about earlier and quiets down your mind and body. So you experienced more of an inner sense of peace and wellbeing, which you can then remain grounded. And even when you’re very busy out there, and if you take it even further, it gives you that direct experience of interconnectedness that on one level we’re separate on another level, we’re already interconnected. There was a wonderful study that was done by Nicholas Christakis at Harvard where he found that if your friends are obese, you’re 45 percent more likely to be obese herself.
Dr. Ornish: If it’s your friend’s friends is 25 percent of it’s your friend’s friends. Friends are 10 percent more likely, even if you’ve never met them. That’s how interconnected we already are. And it’s not just obesity, it prints, depression. It’s pretty much everything. So the support groups that we have, which we’ll talk about in a moment, um, are designed to recreate that sense of intimacy. That intimacy is really healing. Even the word healing comes from the root to make whole yoga comes from the Sanskrit to yoke, to unite union. These are really old ideas that were rediscovering and you know, 50 years ago, I mean, there’s been a radical shift in our culture in the last 50 years ago, 15 years ago, people had an extended family. And they saw regularly they had a job, they felt secure and they had a church or synagogue they went to regularly.
Dr. Ornish: They had a, uh, an extended family, but they saw regularly and today many people don’t have any of those things. The thing that happens When you have an extended family or neighborhood went through three generations of people that you’ve grown up with, is that they know you. They don’t just know your Facebook profile, a not. There was a study that came out last month and shows that the more time you spend on Facebook, the more a depressant and, and sick you gap. the reason is, is because it looks like everybody has this great life that you, you know, it’s like because people don’t post like, oh, I was suicidal when I was 19. My son’s on heroin or this dark stuff, right? Or gosh, I have all these self-doubts. It’s like, here I am at the front of the Eiffel tower, you know, perfect. What’s wrong with me?
Dr. Ornish: And so it’s like a James Cameron though, you know, legendary director in avatars. Like I see you, you know, it’s not really an African Zulu proverb. What it means is that I just, I don’t just see your facebook profile or your bio sketch. I see you. I saw you grow up. I saw you messed up. I saw when you were doubtful. I saw when you broke that one I saw when you were, were so distraught over everything, and I’m still here for you or support groups or design and really do replicate that. We create a safe environment where people can let down their emotional defenses and just be open and authentic with each other and the focus on their feelings and communicate in their feelings because it was really our feelings and connected and so he’s going to make, oh, that sounds so touchy-feely. And I used to get defensive and say, oh no, no.
Dr. Ornish: Look at our pet scans and our angiograms one said, you know what? It is a touchy feeling. That’s what makes it work so well. We are a touchy-feely creatures. We’re creatures of convenience and bringing people together in a safe environment where they can let down their defenses. It’s not that you shouldn’t have the fences, but if you have nowhere that feels safe enough to be open and authentic and no one that you trusted enough to do that with than those in a sense, those walls are always up and if they were always at, they isolate you and if they isolate you, you’re more likely, ironically to get sick and die prematurely. So many people in our culture have no one to do that with and so when they could go into a support group, it’s incredibly transformative and then does. They can see how good that feels and then take that back into their other relationships and make them more intimate and to that extent, they become that much more here.
Reena Jadhav: And it’s all about finding your tribe. I mean, that’s a big part of what we do at health bootcamps. As we help you connect with the tribe. SO you get both together, bond together, and we have to do daily life calls that are afraid. So once you joined the tribe, every day, you can just jump on a free call and catch up with others, ask your questions, because to your point, there is nothing available today that gives people that level of support and so
Dr. Ornish: who’s now through what you’re doing and through what we’re doing with our, with our programs that we’re trading around the country. So often people say things like, oh, having a heart attack was the best thing that ever happened with you. Remember the first time I heard that sound like, what are you crazy? And they say, no. That’s what It took to get my intention. And so often when people are sick, we’re just trying to literally or figuratively bypass the problem or numbered or kill it as opposed to say, okay, there’s an opening here because change is hard, but if you’re in enough pain and suddenly the idea of change becomes more appealing and then as you make these changes to the pain gets better. Not just the physical pain, but the deeper depression alone in the doorway that we’re trying to change medical education so that people, when we’re trained as doctors or other healthcare professionals can see that suffering as a way, as an opening, as a doorway for helping people. You know, Leonard Cohen said, you know, the cracks are where the light comes up.
Reena Jadhav: Conventional doctors giving up on and saying you don’t know what to do with you take prednisone was the best thing that ever happened to me because it brought me here so I one of those people who says, getting this second not figuring out how to resolve, be forced to figure it out on my own was absolutely the best thing that ever happened to me.
Dr. Ornish: Do It on their own because they’ve got new and I’ve got me and other people out there doing this work.
Reena Jadhav: Absolutely. You shouldn’t have to do it on your own. All right, next chapter, guided meditations. What’s that all about?
Dr. Ornish: Well, meditation, it can be used in a number of ways. One is just repeating a sound, and when you meditate, you can focus your awareness and in time and mental energy is really no different. The new kind of energy. Einstein showed that energy and matter were interconvertible, that’s what equals mc squared is all about, and so when you focus something, you gained more power just like a laser focus light, you can burn through steel or a magnifying glass. You can focus the sun’s rays, it know, burned a piece of paper, and so when you focus your awareness, it has your mind has a bigger impact on your body for better and for worse. Oftentimes people are focused when they get angry. That’s one of the reasons why anger is such a powerful risk factor for heart disease and some of the other conditions, but if you can bring your mind to a more neutral or peaceful focus, which is what meditation can be, and there are certain sounds that people meditate on that had been found to be soothing.
Dr. Ornish: You know, it’s like a. If you home to your kids almost intuitively or Ahmed or a salon or shallow home or whatever. These are words that often translated literally to the piece, and so when we teach people to meditate and guided meditation, it’s like bring your awareness to a sound and repeat this sentence I’d be like, or even the word one, if you want something more secular than when you run out of air, do it again. That’s all meditation is, and when your mind wanders, as it always does, everyone’s does. Even the Dalai lama’s mind wanders. Just bringing it back over and over again, and so when you do that, your mind begins to quiet down. You begin to experience for that inner sense of peace and joy and wellbeing and to realize that that’s her natural state, and so as we talked about earlier, it’s not that you have to get it is we just have to stop the serving it and then to remind yourself that you’ve already got that.
Dr. Ornish: If you take it even further, it gives you that direct experience. As I mentioned earlier, transcendence, but also something we didn’t talk about, which is really important, is that we all have our own inner teacher, our inner wisdom or inner guru. I enter whatever you want to call it, and it said voice that speaks very softly and clearly, but it gets drowned out by the chatter of everyday life. Do you know it’s a voice that wakes you up in the morning, says, hey, wake up, listen up, pay attention? You’re not. You need to listen to this, but I’m wondering that you can access that voice actually very directly and intentionally, so at the end of a meditation for example, when you are feeling more peaceful to ask that voice, to identify itself to you, to listen to it, and what I always ask is, what am I not paying attention to that I need to just listen and it’s aMazing comes out of that and because it’s coming from your own inner voice, you trust, it is authentic. You don’t have to like, well, maybe that’s true. Maybe it’s not true. If you hear someone else giving you advice is coming from within and I’ve learned to trust that and when I do, almost invariably it turns out to be. I’m glad that I did that.
Reena Jadhav: How many minutes a day do you meditate?
Dr. Ornish: It varies. Sometimes it’s an hour, you know, ended up at five and meditate because no one’s bothering me and I don’t get an email. It always have to look at my email. It’s a very peaceful time of day, but sometimes I just get overwhelmed with stuff, but I always meditate at least for a few minutes now. Like I, I had this whole game I play with my son. It’s like, okay, I don’t have time to meditate for an hour that time to meditate for a minute. If I have to tell myself I don’t have time to meditate for a minute, I have to admit to myself that my life is so out of balance and I’d rather just do the minute and once you do a minute, chances are you going to do more? It’s just getting started. It’s often the issue, but even a minute has real power. It’s like, have you ever found yourself listening to a song on the radio and the found yourself humming? I later in the day the conscious, your mind is still listening and so when you meditate in the morning, even if it’s just for a minute or two, your mind is subconsciously repeating that and it makes your fuse longer races the threshold of the things of bobby so you can often do more without getting stressed, without getting second
Reena Jadhav: and there’s actually a lot of science behind doing meditation first thing in the morning and fighter in our health bootcamps. We say don’T even jump out of bed set of hit play because we send curated three to five minute meditations and you don’t have the minutes in the morning because we know you’re going to jump on facebook or your social feeds and spent 20 minutes so you can take three minutes out at that time of four minutes. Setup time, press play, and there’s actually science behind the fact that exactly what you’re saying. When you are a day. That way with introspection, with your, your. You’ve retrained yourself distinct from the entire day. You will have, as you said earlier, more tolerance, more patients and all that stuff is fabulous to get your body into the hill zone. Next chapter is the chapter eight, the exercise spectrum. What is that all about?
Dr. Ornish: Do what you like and do it often. You know, I’ve learned that it’s not an exercise, a perfect example of what we were talking about earlier. It’s not like you have to do one exercise to reverse or prevent heart disease, a different one for diabetes, etc. It’s the same for all of them because exercise is also addressing each of these underlying mechanisms that we’ve been talking about and so when I tell people is, I mean there’s, there’s, there’s a real quick exercise like walking or running their strength training resistance bands or lift weights and there are flexibility exercises. So we ask people to do some of all three but pick the ones that you like. If you like it, you’ll do it. It’s a simple as that and we all know that exercise is good for us, but the more studies that come out just so it’s even better than you might realize.
Dr. Ornish: I mean, you can actually grow so many new brain neurons are a process called neurogenesis after just walking for half an hour a day for a couple months so your brand can get measurably bigger and particularly those parts of your brain that you want to get bigger, like the hippocampus controls memory, you know, so often people get older. They said like, what was that person’s name and where do I leave my keys? And so on reversible, unless again, must fast. When I was in medical school, we were taught you only got a certain number of brain cells and if you went and had a couple thousand of them, you’d never get them back, but you do, you know, some of my favorite foods actually increased neurogenesis, you know, like tea and blueberries and chocolate and so on. But so does exercise. So with exercise and if you could do it with a friend, you’re much more likely to do it. That’s why people pay trainers. It’s not necessarily because of it. Then once you learn how to exercise, most people still have their trainers come just because they’re likely to do it. If there’s someone there with them, so if you can have a buddy and do it together, you get all the social support and you’re much more likely to do it because you don’t want to on the other person that didn’t interest you.
Reena Jadhav: All right. The next chapter is about reducing cholesterol levels. Using the spectrum. Chapter nine,
Dr. Ornish: to change what your goals are. Make That degree of change. If that’s enough, great. If not, it’s real simple.
Reena Jadhav: Well, what’s the direct link between cholesterol? Is it just all of these changes when you make these changes, cholesterol goes down or is there any specialty?
Dr. Ornish: When you make these changes, everything gets better. Your cholesterol goes down, your blood pressure goes down, your blood sugar goes down, your arteries get more flexible. You can actually reverse blockages in your arteries, your change, you know, you turn on the good genes, turn off the bad genes. As we talked about earlier, telomeres get longer. You downregulate angiogenesis, which is a blood vessel growing tumors, you know the more diseases we study, the more mechanisms we look at, the more improvement we show, indirect proportion to the degree of change. So you know, the chapter is on, we can just combine them all here in one segment and lower your cholesterol. You know, it’s the same thing. The more you change, the more you improve. If you don’t want to make all these changes all at once, you decided what you want to change, do it for a month or so, the measure, whatever you’re tracking, whether it’s your cholesterol, your blood pressure, blood sugar, whatever.
Dr. Ornish: If that degree of change was announced and get it down to where you want, great. If not, we can make bigger changes and then you’re in complete control and you can’t fail because there’s no diet to get on. There’s no diet to get off. It’s just to the degree and makes these changes. If you indulge yourself one day, eat healthier the. If you don’t have time to exercise one day, do more of the next and so on, and then it’s all coming from you and I just find that then it’s much more sustainable because you can’t fail and you’re in complete control.
Reena Jadhav: Yeah, because you’ve got chapters that are sort of from nine to 14 and you talked specifically about the cholesterol, weight, blood pressure, type two diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and prostate cancer and breast cancer. Have you found a connectIon between all of these that sort of, you know, they are different manifestations of the same underlying issue.
Dr. Ornish: Exactly. That’s exactly what it is. And each of those mechanisms is directly influenced by diet and lifestyle. So in those chapters, I review the research showing why you think these things are worth doing. Again, it comes back to I’m a scientist first and foremost because science is a powerful way of helping people sort out all these conflicting claims, uh, it, you know, what works, what doesn’t, for whom and why and under what circumstances. And some of these chapters I reviewed the scientist saying, look, here’s the science that shows how much you can improve and why it works and how you can do it
Reena Jadhav: is all about your recipes, cooking essential. Then we’re going to condense all of that into this chapter, which is Dr. Dean Ornish’s meal plan. So what I want to know, Dr. Dean is, what do you eat? So describe your day for us. What’s your breakfast?
Reena Jadhav: What’s your lunch with your dinner? How much wine do you drink? What’s your indulgence?
Dr. Ornish: Well, uh, I don’t have any chronic diseases. Fortunately, I don’t have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and my weight are good. You know, I don’t have heart disease. In fact, I actually have
Reena Jadhav: your diet. Of course, you don’t.
Dr. Ornish: I’ve been doing this since I was 19, although I grew up in Texas eating cheeseburgers and chalupas and so on, a three or four times a day. So it was a big change when I, when I did make the changes, I actually had 6,256 slides. Ct angiogram, non-invasive angiogram when I turned 60 and they said that I had the arteries of a 14-year-old. So that may be. So it does work for me. I find that still eating the same whole foods, plant-based diet is, is what I recommend.
Dr. Ornish: So I have
Reena Jadhav: Are you a vegetarian or vegan
Dr. Ornish: vegetarian and not vegan, but mostly I’m close getting closer to being vegan. Um, my big indulgence is chocolate, so I try to limit the amount of that, but I, you know, good dark chocolate and, and my wife and is a brilliant teacher in many ways and the fact that the spectrum books, she did a DVD of guided meditations in the back of it and she’s the one on the cover with their arms and so she has a wonderful, uh, in fact, we just co-wrote this new book together that’ll be coming out in January called undoing and I talked about the science and she talks about how things should develop the learning management system for all the hospitals and clinics and physician groups that were training around the country. For breakfast. I might have, I, I’ve really liked steel cut oatmeal and I can just put that a cook that.
Dr. Ornish: And if I don’t have time I’ll use the microwave it in four minutes. It’s ready. I put a pint of blueberries on it because I love blueberries and there’s a lot of evidence that would. Mary’s actually does make you smarter, which is a good thing. And a little bit of a low sugar organic soy milk on top of that. So that’s my breakfast foods every day. Um, and for lunch or dinner, it just depends. I’ll have a big salad. There’s living here in San Francisco. We have such access to such great produce as, you know, in the bay area that you can make these incredibly beautiful salads that, that are, that are just incredibly delicious. Um, and uh, and uh, I have a steamer in my, in my stove, which makes it so easy to just steam up sad thing and people think, oh, broccoli, that sounds gross. But, you know, organic broccoli that’s just lightly steamed is incredibly good. You know, in fact, most of the vegetables are as well as for. And so it’s really easy for me to eat this way.
Reena Jadhav: You’ve had
Reena Jadhav: your taste buds sort of retrained from enjoying it, to loop back to enjoying the broccoli because that was a challenge for me. You know, I, I’m a sugar addict and so I was used to eating everything with gobs of sugar in it. And so when I transitioned to basically ignore sugar diet for 15 months, like nothing, I mean maybe to break the day was sort of the maximum sugar I was, I was getting because all the stuff is sort of almost on a no grains diet. IT took, I would say maybe a couple of weeks to completely get retrained. But boy you are so like when they did finding, finding broccoli. Sweet.
Dr. Ornish: Yeah. Well when you trade, it’s one of the reasons why it’s sometimes actually easier to make big changes in the small ones because we were always eating some sugar but not as much your palate and never get a chance to change just like people who assault or you go from whole milk to skim though. At first, the skim milk tastes like water. After a while, after a couple of weeks, we got to dinner and somebody gives you milk it cream. It’s super easy but it Wasn’t an account change. But your palate adaptive. And so making big changes in some ways makes sense. I’m witnessing this between sugar and that comes naturally in fruits and vegetables for example, from added sugars. Because the problem with sugar, besides the fact that you can eat so much of it without getting full, is that it gets so your blood sugar spikes, your pancreas makes insulin to bring it back down, but these repeated searches of insulin caused chronic inflammation and oxidative stress and other receptor levels, they downregulate and so you get what’s called insulin resistance, which over time can lead to metabolic syndrome and diabetes, but when you get it in like whole grains are very different than refined grains because whole grains are rich in fiber, we should get the or a whole apple is different than apple juice because the fiber it fills you up before you get too Many calories and it slows the rate of absorption.
Dr. Ornish: So you know, get these spikes in once slow elevation, it doesn’t go high enough to provoke a response and it goes down slow. So you don’t get these wild swings in blood sugar and carbohydrate cravings, you know, it’s like putting a Pendleton side. It goes the other way too high and it goes way too low. So in our program, we don’t eliminate carbs at all. In fact, it is mostly friends, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, products, international forum which are generally rich in fiber and even if some of the foods that are have a higher glycemic index, most of the time people reading them as part of a needle and a c overall glycemic index, how quickly your blood sugars and desserts and so I find that makes it much more sustainable and plus they’re literally hundreds of thousands of protective substances. Fruits and vegetables and whole grains and legumes, phytochemicals, bioflavonoids, carotenoids, retinol, Genesee and cancer and heart disease and even any Asian properties and the last thing I want to say about that is said, and then we have a difference of opinion on this, but there’s more and more evidence coming up and animal protein itself is really harmful or the whole fat versus carbs.
Dr. Ornish: One study came out in cell metabolism that found that people, a lot of animal protein had a 75 percent higher risk of premature death from all causes in a 400 to 500 percent. Increased risk of prostate cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, and Walter Willett. At Harvard we looked at 365,000 people in the physicians and nurses. How study found the same kinds of changes. So animal protein is inflammatory. it also causes oxidative stress and causes the fact that most of the mechanisms that we’ve been talking about are worsened by that. So again, it’s not all or nothing. The spectrum is meet people where they are to the degree that move in that direction. There’s a corresponding benefit, but I think, you know, it’s good to reduce your sugar intake, but it’s also good to reduce your intake of animal protein as well. And we find that’s optimal for most people. Just wanted to refer people to our website, which my wife, lovely wife and developed. It’s just worn is funding.com. Everything on there is free. Lots of recipes and science and information about what we’re doing. Uh, so again, I hope that again, it’s all about raising awareness and getting people to support it.
Reena Jadhav: Dr Ornish. Thank you so much for this incredible insights. Whether your amazing books, you have a new book coming up and we are going to be doing an interview. So for those of you, you know, stay tuned. We’re definitely going to be doing an interview with that’s focused on dr Ornish’s new book that’s going to come out, but give us a little teaser. What’s the book about? What’s the big aha?
Dr. Ornish: No, well, the book is called undo it. Uh, and uh, it’s a riff on just do it of course. But also my teacher who said, what are you doing? She said, no, I’m a, an undoable, but it’s there. It’s basically the idea that we’ve been talking about here that the same with all this interest in personalization, it’s the same lifestyle changes that can prevent and reverse all of these major chronic diseases and why and what ties it all together and it’ll be coming out in January next year.
Reena Jadhav: Really looking forward to it. Thank you so much for the rest of you. Make those changes. They’re not that hard to make. They just see that they’re hard to make. Check out how bootcamps please check out his psych. We’re gonna. Put a lot of links, a lot of stuff that’s free as well, so make sure you check out the show notes and check out. Lock the dean Ornish’s diet. Thank you so much.
Dr. Ornish: Great pleasure. Thank you for raising so much awareness of it.
Dr. Dean Ornish, MD
Phone: 415-332-2525, x-229
Phone: +1 (877) 888-3091
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