McLanahan: She's actually the patient with which I opened the book, Surgery and Its Alternatives. The story is in there.
Redwood: I didn't recognize it. Some of the personal details were changed.
McLanahan: We've had many patients who have reversed their heart disease using the Ornish program, which is now available in 12 hospitals around the country, and Medicare is paying for it. There are four main components. They are a low-fat, high-fiber vegetarian diet, an hour of active exercise three to five times a week, one and one-half hours of yoga per day (which means half an hour of meditation and half an hour of yoga stretches in the morning, and half an hour of meditation at night), and then group support to stay on the program. The latest research project has been in Pittsburgh, with 500 patients. There has been a 90 percent success rate in reversing heart disease within one year. And some of them were very, very ill. That's funded by Blue Cross - Blue Shield; it's set up by them and run by them. It's our demonstration Medicare project, and it's been so successful that we feel that eventually this program will be available everywhere.
Redwood: That's wonderful.
McLanahan: We feel that the reversal takes place from each of these components, but in looking very closely at compliance with the four components, the most powerful, I think, is the daily yoga practice. Because we are not just what we eat, we are what we circulate. And it allows circulation to improve to each part of the body, so that the body can do better repair work.
In the beginning, nobody believed heart disease was reversible. Ask any cardiac surgeon. You cut open the heart, and that plaque is calcified, which is why you can see it on a whole-body CAT-scan. That's how Oprah [Winfrey] got her wake-up call; she had a whole-body CAT-scan which showed calcium in the arteries of her heart and it helped her to make her final transition to a healthy diet. Now, she is on a healthy diet and has maintained her weight loss for the last year. Before that, she was trying to do it by exercise alone. She was eating anything she wanted, and that didn't work.
So we feel that heart disease is reversible, because the body can get rid of this plaque through the activity of the body's white blood cells. White cells come in, remove the buildup of plaque and calcium, and do repair work. They've done some studies in dogs where they cut the lymph supply around the heart, and the dogs developed rampant coronary artery disease. It's the lymph that allows the white cells to go in and remove any blood clot, remove any buildup of abnormality in the cells. If you think of it, the buildup of the plaque in the arteries of the heart has a number of components contributing to it. It's not just how much fat you eat in your diet, although that is the main component because if you don't have the rust it won't build up in the pipes. The incidence of heart disease in people who have cholesterol levels under 150 is very, very low, so we aim to keep people's cholesterol under 150. If you take chicken soup, for example, and a couple of hours later you hold it up against the light, what do you see?
Redwood: Globules of fat.
McLanahan: When the globules of fat are in the bloodstream, the body in its wisdom tries to remove this fat, because it can't get good circulation, especially through the small capillaries, when there are big fat globules in the way. So it puts them in the wall of the artery, to try to get them out of the stream of the artery itself. But slowly, there is so much fat built up that it actually impairs the blood flow itself. So the treatment is to remove the fat from the diet. There are also components of inflammation and bacteria, but both of these risk factors can be reversed by excellent lymph flow. If the lymph is flowing well, you have the ability of the white cells to remove any inflammation, any bacteria, as well as any buildup of blood clots or excess fat. We don't have a pump behind our lymph [as is the case with the heart pumping blood]. We have more lymph in the body than blood, and it's the [muscular action of the] deep breath that helps to pump the lymph. That's part of yoga practice; the stretching and breathing of yoga practice also helps circulate the lymph.