Participants in the Tucson Heart Disease Reversal Program share their personal experiences in these testimonials.

Holly Thorpe

“Even though I had the support of my friends and family when I had a heart event, they did not fully understand what was happening with me both physically and emotionally. I needed the support of people that had experienced what I was encountering.

“Through the Heart Disease Reversal Program, I not only came in contact with many men and women that were in different stages of recovery from a heart event, but also many professionals in the field of heart disease, nutrition, relaxation and exercise. It is a safe and non-threatening place to learn and practice a new, healthier way of living.”

Mark A. Dimmitt

“When I woke up in the hospital after my heart attack, I was sure that my productive life had ended at age 60. My doctors enthusiastically explained the heroic technical interventions they had used to save my life, and would continue to employ to keep me going. But I found this less than encouraging; I didn’t want to be dependent on external interventions. I was depressed.

“On the other hand, the nurses in cardiac rehab emphasized that patients could play an active role in their recovery by making deliberate lifestyle changes. That’s what I needed to hear – that I could do something about it. The H.E.A.R.T. course provided a wealth of actionable information. Edna Silva, Dr. Charles Katzenberg, and several guest speakers distilled oceans of information into several simple rules and practices that are proven to foster good health. The comprehensive course covered the whole range of health-related topics, including causes and risk factors of heart disease, exercise, relaxation, diet and nutrition, medicines, and supplements. Meeting other heart patients who were healthy and independent 20 to 30 years after their cardiac events was especially inspirational.

“The education I received in this course has given me confidence that I have considerable control over my life, and that my setback has not necessarily shortened my life expectancy. I heartily (sorry) recommend the H.E.A.R.T. course to anyone who is interested in leading a healthier lifestyle, whether or not they have heart disease.”

Joanne Amoroso

“My husband handed me the 16-pound watermelon he had purchased. “Lift this,” he said. I struggled to hold it. “We each lost twice that much weight, which we don’t have to carry around on our bodies now.”

“That was just one of the more dramatic benefits of attending Tucson hospital heart healthy program. We learned a new way of living, eating, communicating, exercising, meditating, and caring for ourselves mentally and physically. Edna Silva, RN, and Dr. Charles Katzenberg, the main presenters and providers for the program, care deeply about their students. They thrive on their students’ improvement and do all they can to assist in the growth. The now healthy, former students who visit to tell their health-related stories are most inspiring.

“The program is structured, includes a heart-healthy pot luck each meeting where you can taste new food and share recipes and learn from each other, time for individual check in, T’ai Chi, presentations on the best and latest tools to cover all the related issues with heart disease and prevention. As the wife of a heart patient, it was perfect for me to attend with my husband. He and I heard the same information. It was much easier for us to then come to decisions about what and when and how we would make health-enhancing changes in our daily lives. My well-being improved greatly as well as his. We are very grateful for the efforts of  those who make the program possible.”

Ann Kyger

“In September 2004, I found myself being taken by ambulance from my local supermarket to Northwest Hospital. The ensuing angioplasty with a stent put in place resolved the immediate problem, but it took me many months to regain my equilibrium.

“The cardiac wellness group provided by the Foundation for Cardiovascular Health made all the difference. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, I learned how to take better care of myself and improve my quality of life through healthy diet, exercise and stress reduction.  The information provided by specialists helped me to better understand what I needed to do, and the support of the group helped me start on a path of change in lifestyle.  I found this experience invaluable and highly recommend it.”

Janet D. Hooper

“When I had my mild heart attack in 2004, I was incredulous when my cardiologist said, “This is a good thing. You have an opportunity to do better.”

“I wondered how I could do better, as my lipid panels were the envy of many; regular exercise had helped me lose 15 pounds; my diet was good and my high blood pressure was controlled.  ith a diagnosis of diffuse small vessel coronary artery disease, it turns out I had to do better, especially when it came to the stressors in my life. I sought new information and was led to the 12-week heart series. Now I’m smarter about serving size, whole grains, real food, fat grams, label reading, combining weight training and cardio work, how my medications work, and techniques to relieve stress – my nemesis.

“The program worked! Last year during treatment for atrial fibrillation, another angiogram revealed that the diagnosis of 2004 is reversed with no blockages. With a huge grin on his face, my cardiologist said the combination of diet, exercise, medications and stress reduction resulted in this reversal, making it easier to treat the fibrillation.

“A bonus of the heart series is the group sharing aspect. These group expressions precipitated some serious self-examination that helped me leave behind old painful thoughts in exchange for attitudes of calm, steadiness, and gratitude for all the good in my life.

“Stress still happens. I’ve been tested during the past two years with cancer surgery and radiation, the death of my mother-in-law, a health scare for my husband, and a flood in my home, but I feel a serenity that wasn’t there before. I am more prepared to ride out the storms.  Attending Edna Silva’s once-a-month refresher evenings helps to reinforce my preparations for an active, fulfilling future. It helps to mingle with like-minded people!

John Siler, M.D.

Siler joined the heart program in August 1995 after developing angina and undergoing two coronary artery angioplasty procedures.

“Being a physician, I understood the medical aspects of my heart disease quite well and started the program with some initial skepticism. I found the program to be a good combination of medical information, diet and lifestyle modification. The Dean Ornish program was a significant part of the program, emphasizing a low fat diet and lifestyle modification through exercise and stress reduction techniques including yoga and meditation techniques.

“An essential part of the program was the group support with the weekly meetings. These meetings allowed individuals to share their experience with their heart disease and to experience the many ways different group members dealt with the challenges of the disease and the lifestyle modifications we were learning.

“I found the yoga and stress reduction techniques to be most helpful. And yes I did learn that a low-fat diet can be fun and flavorful as we shared some wonderful and creative foods each week. I watched my lab tests improve with each subsequent test and I was able to continue to lose weight following the Ornish diet.

“Despite all the benefits I was experiencing with the program, my coronary arteries had their own agenda and responded with repeat narrowing because of scarring from the previous angioplasty procedures. I underwent coronary bypass surgery in October 1995 with good results. The support I received during and after that event was great. I stayed with the program for many months afterwards. Increased demands from my full-time medical practice eventually made it difficult to continue participation with the program.

“Since leaving the program, I continue to use the techniques I learned to continue dealing with my heart disease. I exercise regularly and continue to use stress reduction techniques such as breathing exercises and some yoga. While I no longer follow a strict Ornish diet, I do apply many of the principles of the program in selection of lower fat foods and cooking techniques.

“I have used some of the techniques used in our group therapy sessions to help establish personal goals and priorities which helped me make some major lifestyle change decisions to alter the stressful work conditions that my full-time medical practice was placing on me.

“I feel my experience in the heart program contributed greatly to my ability to deal with and manage my heart disease. I am approaching the 13th year since the onset of my heart disease and looking forward to many more years.”

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