Meet The Koronas, all-American husband and wife duo living near the West Virginia-Pennsylvania border and living all too close to the threat of heart disease. While Frank and Kathy Korona have lost many members of their family to complications of heart disease, they’re determined to fight their way to health and recharge their ‘ol tickers. How? Through a plant-based, meatless diet, meditation and regular exercise, under the coverage of Medicare.
At 65+ and grandparents to be, signing up for the Dean Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease gave the Koronas a new lease on life, having already lost 85 lbs between the two of them, and gaining a new sense of wellbeing. (yoga foreshadowing).
“If I was going to be able to participate as a grandparent in his life, that gave me another incentive, that really did,” Kathy explains. “But in order to do that, I needed to feel good about myself first.”
The program, which was officially recognized as an intensive cardiac rehab program in 2010, had its first patients in May 2011, and is based around not just exercise (as was the case with many of the former programs developed in the 50s and covered under Medicare since the 80s), but also nutrition, stress management and group support. And so yoga and meditation has become a regular part of the Koronas’ routine, and has helped fulfill the aspect so often forgotten in traditional western healing: human-ness and connection. Also, preventative medicine, anyone?
Eating better + relaxing better + feeling better + connecting better = health and happiness. Makes sense to us! And the opposite? Well, sounds like it sucks. But not even the fear of death seems to be enough to get people’s hearts pumping and get on board.
Ornish believes that fear cannot motivate lifestyle change in people long-term. Change has to be about feeling better and having more zest for life. The greater the change, the better the feeling, he says.
And so it also has to come down to the bottom line. Annoying as it seems! Dr. Ornish believes “if it’s not reimbursable, it’s not sustainable” and has been working for the past 16 years in Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to obtain Medicare coverage for the program because most insurance companies will follow suit. (Dr. Ornish’s lifestyle changes cost Medicare about $70 per hour, and patients can receive up to 72 one-hour sessions. Which is still a bucket load cheaper than the alternative: operations and years of medication.)
So is the cost of living more active, less stressful and healthier, albeit less meaty, lives worth it to health insurance companies? The sad part is we even have to ask that question. Especially when the results can be priceless.
“Usually at the end of the session, the instructor will say, ‘Now the reward, get into the total relaxation pose,’ and we do that, and it just feels so good,” Kathy says.
We hear you, Kathy. And we can feel that in our heart.
ps. This reminds us A LOT of the message behind documentary Forks Over Knives. If you haven’t already watched it, we encourage you to check it out.
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