Dean Ornish, MD

The 7 Original Heroes of the Movement

Featured Hero:   Dr. Dean Ornish

Dr. Dean Ornish is a US-based physician and researcher, and one of the physicians who’ll be sharing his voice with Hippocrates Docs and the Just 1 Thing 4 Health (J1T4H) program. He is the founder and president of the not-for-profit organization Preventive Medicine Research Institute, as well as Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. For more than 35 years, Dr. Ornish’s publications of scientific research have empowered million of Americans to make simple, baby steps lifestyle choices with significant implications in relation to their everyday health and wellbeing.

Dr. Ornish has built his reputation on advocating for a lifestyle-driven approach to the control of coronary artery disease (CAD) and other chronic diseases, promoting day-to-day changes that include whole foods, plant- based diets, quitting smoking, moderate exercise, stress management techniques such as yoga and meditation, and psychosocial support. Dr. Ornish’s approach has established a spectrum of food groups, ranked from the healthiest (“Group 1”) to indulgent (“Group 5”). Typically, an approach which prioritizes the former end of the spectrum ensures greater benefits in terms of weight loss and overall health.

“The Spectrum approach is all about freedom and choice.” Dr. Dean Ornish.

Dr. Ornish has worked with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for 16 years to create a new coverage category now known as intensive cardiac rehabilitation (ICR), one which focuses on comprehensive lifestyle changes. Since 2010, Medicare has reimbursed costs for his Program for Reversing Heart Disease, a 72-hour ICR for people who have had heart attacks, chest pain, heart valve repair, coronary artery bypass, heart or lung bypass, or coronary angioplasty or stenting. In 2011, Dr. Ornish was appointed by then-President Barack Obama to the Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health.

Reimbursement by Medicare has been little short of a game-changer for the Dr. Ornish approach: with such reimbursement changes, medical practice and medical education has been forced to catch up accordingly. In addition to his program to reverse heart disease, Dr. Ornish and his colleagues have been able to prove that lifestyle changes can usher in the following developments:

  • Slow, stop or even reverse the progression of early-stage prostate cancer, and possibly even breast cancer,
  • Lengthen telomeres, the ends of our chromosomes that control aging;
  • Change the way genes are expressed, by “turning on” (up-regulating) genes that are protective, and “turning off” (down-regulating) genes that promote heart disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic diseases;
  • Destroy tumors by inhibiting angiogenesis, which is less toxic and expensive than pharmaceutical drugs like Avastin.

“We’ve found that when you change your lifestyle, it changes your gene expression.” Dr. Ornish claims, “it turns on your good genes, turns off your bad genes and down-regulates the genes that cause heart disease, diabetes, prostate cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer.” A plant-based diet paired with moderate exercise, mediation and love, says Dr. Ornish, has the potential to lengthen chromosomes’ telomeres by a significant degree.

Photo Courtesy of The Center for Mind Body MedicineAs a well-known, well-loved, thought leader, professor, author and advisor to some of the world’s most powerful leaders, Dr. Ornish widely recognized as a leader in health, healthcare and medicine. His research findings have been featured in a range of national media, including cover stories in Newsweek, TIME, US News and World Report, as well as being featured in leading scientific and educational conferences throughout the US and the rest of the world.


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