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Healing Hearts

State of American Wellbeing Report Highlights Lifestyle Medicine as Prescription for Heart Disease 

BY BRYCE WILLIAMS – This week, Gallup and Healthways released a State of American Wellbeing report on heart attack incidence in 190 U.S. communities. Not surprisingly, a large proportion of communities with the lowest rates of heart attack were in California. Yet cardiovascular disease remains the number one cause of death with over 600,000 Americans dying from heart disease each year.

While pharmaceutical interventions and medical treatments such as bypass surgery and cardiac stents can both save and prolong life, they primarily treat the symptoms of heart disease rather than addressing the underlying causes. Over the past several decades, Dr. Dean Ornish and colleagues have published a series of groundbreaking clinical trials demonstrating that diet and lifestyle changes can not only prevent but actually reverse coronary artery disease.

Over the past year, Wellvolution, a well-being solution for Blue Shield members, has partnered with Dr. Ornish, St. Jude Medical Center and UCLA Health to offer lifestyle medicine options to Blue Shield members wishing to reverse heart disease, often with minimal reliance on drugs or surgery. The clinical results are nothing short of amazing with the average participant experiencing:

  • 5-7% reductions in weight, blood pressure and Hemoglobin A1c

  • 30% decrease in LDL (bad) cholesterol

  • 40% improvement in exercise capacity

  • 60% decrease in depression scores

Over 85% of participants not only complete the program, but are making lasting lifestyle changes because they feel so much better physically and emotionally. But clinical outcomes represent only a piece of the picture – our members’ stories speak for themselves. A few St. Jude’s/Blue Shield of California participant journeys can be found here.

Throughout the course of this program, we’ve received some phenomenal feedback from our members who have had life changing experiences and positive customer experiences with Blue Shield as a health plan and partner.

We often think of diet and lifestyle changes solely in terms of their ability to prevent chronic diseases, but lifestyle medicine can be curative as well. In fact, lifestyle medicine is often times the most clinically effective, cost effective, least risky, least invasive treatment alternative.

Bryce Williams is vice president of wellbeing at Blue Shield of California