Beth Brockenbush says she’s never thought of herself as an unhealthy person. But after she suffered her second heart attack earlier this year, she decided it was time to make some changes.
“That was quite an eye-opener,” said Brockenbush, who lives in Arlington. “Certainly I was not doing all the things that I should have.”
She’s now one of six participants in a brand new program at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital that has been shown not only to prevent future heart episodes, but actually reverse the effects of heart disease inside the body.
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“In this setting, we’re actually treating almost as if we’re giving a drug,” said Dr. Sunita Koshy-Nesbitt, a cardiologist at Arlington Memorial and the Medical Director of the program.
The program, which was developed by respected researcher Dean Ornish, treats patients who have had certain heart conditions using a four-pronged approach.
Participants exercise to help strengthen their hearts. They’re put on a strict plant-based diet to significantly reduce their cholesterol and fat intake. They do yoga and meditation to help relieve stress and take part in group therapy sessions to build confidence and improve their mental health.
The group meets twice a week for four hours each session.
“And all four of those pillars are equally weighted,” said Koshy-Nesbitt. “There’s not one that’s more important than another. And that’s what makes this program stand out more than others.”
To give them a better understanding of what their patients are going through, each of the clinicians involved with program went through it themselves.
“You find out a lot about yourself,” said Beth Arseneau, a registered nurse that serves as a case worker for the program.
Just two weeks into the nine week program, Brockenbush’s group says they’re already finding out a lot about themselves.
“The exercise is no problem for me and the relaxation is no problem for me,” said Jerry Hoodenpyle, who is also participating in the program. “But the diet has been a problem.”
But their persistence is paying off.
“In the last four to five days, I’ve felt my energy level picking back up,” said Brockenbush. “And that has surprised me.”
They’re hopeful more good surprises are in store as they work to reach their goals.
“I want to live a little longer,” said Earl Willis, another program participant. “So I want to be heart healthy.”
Arlington Memorial is the first and only hospital in Texas certified to offer this particular program.
To qualify, participants had to have experienced certain kinds of heart episodes like a heart attack, bypass surgery or valve replacement and then be referred by a doctor.