Tufts Health Plan Teams with RI Rehab Program Proven to Reverse Heart Disease Progression

Heart disease remains among Southern New England’s leading causes of death; Nine-week Dean Ornish Intensive Cardiac Rehab Program is the only one of its kind in New England

August 20, 2018  

Providence, RI – There’s a kitchen for whole-food, plant-based cooking demonstrations, a yoga and meditation room, an indoor walking track, and a space for resistance training and cardiovascular exercise equipment. There’s also a team of medical professionals, from nurses to stress management specialists, all working to help patients significantly improve their heart health.

This life-changing program is the Lifespan Cardiovascular Institute’s Dean Ornish Intensive Cardiac Rehab Program in East Greenwich, now collaborating with Tufts Health Plan. During a time where cardiovascular diseases and stroke are among the leading causes of death in Southern New England, more Rhode Islanders now have access to the only program of its kind in New England reversing heart disease progression.

“This program is more intensive than a traditional cardiac rehab, and has demonstrated incredible results in clinical trials,” said Claire Levesque, MD, chief medical officer of commercial plans at Tufts Health Plan. “We want our members to have access to the best support available, and look forward to helping more Rhode Islanders living with cardiac disease get stronger and healthier in collaboration with the Dean Ornish Program.”

The rehab program not only focuses on improving the physical health of patients, but also their behavioral and social health. Patients commit to participation in a group with others experiencing similar cardiac issues. Together, the group participates in activities designed to improve physical activity and nutrition, develop stress management techniques, and build a social network for support.

“The Dean Ornish Intensive Cardiac Rehab Program offered through the Lifespan Cardiovascular Institute has already proven beneficial to a number of our patients,” said Wen-Chih "Hank" Wu, MD, medical director of the Center for Cardiac Fitness. “We are delighted that we will be able to assist more patients in achieving better cardiac health through the Ornish program, thanks to coverage from Tufts Health Plan.”

The nine-week program consists of two sessions per week, each lasting four hours. The program has helped patients with cardiac disease:

  • Lower their cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar;
  • Decrease the frequency and severity of angina (chest pain);
  • Lose weight and decrease depression;
  • Reduce cardiac events and the need for medication; and
  • Lower chances of future surgery.

According to the program, nearly 90 percent of participants continue following the program one year later, and just 30-50 percent of those prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs were still taking them after six months.

Tufts Health Plan members interested in the program should check with their doctor to see if the program is right for their condition.