Beebe to fight heart disease without surgery

Ornish Program emphasizes diet, exercise, stress relief
January 15, 2015

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women and Beebe Healthcare is poised to become a regional force combating it. But the solution does not involve surgery. Instead, a renowned program places emphasis on the body's own capacity to reverse heart disease.

“The human body is an amazing thing and it has the ability to heal itself,” said Lindsay Schmidt, senior regional representative of the Ornish Program.

Created by a California doctor, the Ornish Program is the result of decades of work to reduce heart disease through exercise, healthy eating and stress management.

Schmidt said 30 years of research back the program developed by Dr. Dean Ornish. Studies have shown severe heart disease can be reversed by adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle, which can decrease blockage in arteries without the need for drugs or surgery. After a year, adherence to the program reverses heart disease and even more improvement is achieved after five years, program literature states.

The program focuses on four areas: diet, managing stress, support and physical activity.

Switching to a whole food, plant-based diet is a key part of the program, Schmidt said.

“It's not a completely vegetarian diet, but more vegetables are included in it,” Schmidt said.

Participants work with a dietician to prepare healthy meals and at each session participants share a group meal. Eating together forms a bond among participants while offering participants a wealth of support, she said.

Groups range from 10 to 15 participants who meet for 18 four-hour sessions over about three months.

“Having a bond and support is a huge piece of the program,” Schmidt said.

Another big piece of the program is exercise: Participants undertake at least 30 minutes a day of moderate aerobic exercise or an hour every other day for a total of three to five hours a week. Activities include walking, jogging, aerobic dance, bicycling, swimming or rowing.

More intense exercise is allowed if medically approved, according to the program description.

Resistive or strength training exercise is also crucial to maintaining good health, and if medically approved, participants are encouraged to strength train two to three times a week. Program literature shows strength training includes free weights, barbells, ankle weights, machines, resistance bands, calisthenics and even using household items such as water jugs or canned food for resistance exercises.

Weight loss is not the purpose of the program, Schmidt said, but it is definitely a by-product of it. Participants lose an average of 25 pounds through the program, she said.

Many patients also end up using less medication, Schmidt said. Program administrators work with a participant's physician, who ultimately makes the decision to adjust or remove medication, she said.

Schmidt said by improving one's health, many people not only feel better, they also avoid expensive medicines and surgeries, resulting in healthier people and lower healthcare costs.

There are several ways to enroll in the program. They can consult with their physicians who can give a referral, call 1-877-888-3091 and speak to an Ornish Program specialist or visit Medicare and insurance is accepted at Beebe Healthcare for approved patients. In addition, anyone interested, however, can sign up but they may have to pay out-of-pocket expenses to attend the program, said Kelly Griffin, director of marketing and communications for Beebe.

Schmidt said the program requires that participants have been tobacco free for two months. In cases where someone is interested in joining the program but are using tobacco products, she said, program specialist will refer them to a cessation program.

Once a participant completes the Ornish Program, Schmidt said, there is a nearly 90 percent adherence rate.

Schmidt said program officials are excited about bringing the program to Beebe Healthcare.

“Beebe's exceptional on what they're going to do,” she said, referring to the facility Beebe is outfitting for the program.


Eastern Shore option

Beebe joins 34 hospitals, that have instituted the Ornish Progam since the 1990s. Overall, Schmidt said 5,000 people have partipated in the program.

Schmidt said the Ornish Program and Beebe have built a relationship and bringing the program to Lewes was a natural progression.

“It was an ideal fit to partner with Beebe,” she said.

Lynn Amey, executive director of cardiac and vascular services at Beebe Healthcare, said Beebe is offering the Ornish Program in an effort to reverse heart disease. Beebe's location makes it the only one on the Eastern Shore to offer the program. The closest locations are Morristown, N.J. and New York City.

“The program really teaches people how to take control of their lives and be healthier,” she said.

The support element is important because people realize they aren't alone, she said.

Beebe plans to roll out the Ornish Program by late-February or early March, but interest in the program has reached as far as Philadelphia, Amey said.

“The program won't be just for community members,” Amey said. “We expect regional participants as well.”

Classes will be held at the Medical Arts building on Route 24, which already has a gym for the exercise component. Yoga will be part of Beebe's program, providing an exercise and stress relief component, Amey said.

In a newly built and aesthetically appealing kitchen and dining area, a nutritionist and chef will show participants how to prepare food before they all sit down to share a meal.

Meals are prepared with whole foods to provide a plant-based diet naturally low in fat and refined carbohydrates.

Top-rated recipes include flavors and specialties from around the workd, such as roasted ratatouille, mushroom stroganoff and lavash veggie rolls. Recipes are available at

“I'm looking forward to it, and am hearing that the food is terrific,” Amey said.



For more information on the Ornish Program, call 1-877-888-3091 or visit



18 total sessions x 4 hours per session = 72 total hours

one hour supervised exercise

one hour healthy eating lecture and group meal

one hour group support, discussion

one hour stress management, relaxation techniques


RECIPE (with photo)

Baked spaghetti squash


one spaghetti squash

8 ounce red pepper roasted

1 cup canned Italian Plum tomatoes

1 cup tomatoes diced to 1/4 inch
1/4 cup garlic roasted, finely minced

1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon stevia
optional, depending upon the sweetness of the plum tomatoes

as desired fresh basil chiffonade (thinly sliced ribbons)
optional as garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  2. Cut squash in half from stem to flower (top to bottom).

  3. Remove squash seeds. Place squash, cut side down, onto a baking dish and add little water in the dish.

  4. Bake the squash for about 40-50 minutes, or until middle of squash halves are soft.

  5. While squash is baking, in a small bowl, mash and stir the remaining ingredients together into a coarse sauce. Taste and adjust this sauce according to your preference and transfer it to a small pot to be heated and poured over the squash just before serving.

  6. When the squash has finished cooking, gently pull the spaghetti-like squash into a serving dish. Add the warm tomato and pepper sauce. Garnish with the basil chiffonade and serve. Serves 6-8 depending on size of spaghetti squash.


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