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August 19th, 2011
11:48 AM ET

These changes will make you live longer, Tweets Dean Ornish

Dr. Dean Ornish, founder and president of Preventive Medicine Research Institute and a clinical professor of medicine and the University of California in San Francisco,  designed a program to reverse heart disease.  Rather than pills or surgery, he supports using lifestyle and diet modifications to undo damage related to cardiovascular health.

In a 45-minute chat hosted by CNNHealth, he answered a series of questions about diet, lifestyle and heart health from @cnnhealth's Twitter audience, using #LastHeartAttack. Here are some of the questions he answered.

satya33: Is it important to have Omega 3 + 6 everyday? How much & which food sources would you suggest?
DeanOrnishMD
: Omega-3 fatty acids are remarkable– they can reduce sudden cardiac death by up to 80%, reduce risk of cancer... even raise your baby's IQ! Take 3-4 grams/day of fish oil or plankton-based omega-3's, ones that take out bad stuff.

Ornish: Asking the right questions about health care

debsmith211: Does beef really put a strain on your heart?
DeanOrnishMD
: Beef increases your risk of heart disease as well as colon, breast, & prostate cancers. And increases global warming.

The 'heart attack proof' diet?

ChanchalSHayr: Is there a vegetarian option for omega-3, instead of fish oil?
DeanOrnishMD: Yes, several brands of vegan omega-3's including Martek. Fish get omega'3's from eating plankton.

NWAngel: Heart disease is #1 killer of women. Are the risks & or treatments different than for men?
DeanOrnishMD
:  Even more women die from heart disease than men. Lifestyle choices to prevent & reverse heart disease are about the same.

Learn more from the American Heart Association

reidiculous1: Will flax-based omega-3 supplements do the trick?
DeanOrnishMD
: Flax provides DHA but not ALA, so it's good but not as beneficial as fish oil which provides both.

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil supplements.  Alphalinolenic acid (ALA) is a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in plants.

kenleebow: What are your thoughts on being heart attack proof by having a total cholesterol of 150 or less?
DeanOrnishMD: It's a good start but not enough to be heart attack proof. Also need moderate exercise, meditation, and love/support.

What causes a heart attack?

spinningvitamin: What do you think about soy protein supplement powder?
DeanOrnishMD
: Soy is good in diet but you can get too much using the soy supplement powders, so I don't recommend them.

RPG80 asked: Eating like a vegan takes planning. Where can i get good tasting recipes to eat like this every day?
DeanOrnishMD
: “Everyday Cooking with Dr. Dean Ornish" has hundreds of easy-and-quick-to-make delicious vegan & vegetarian recipes.

DrFinke: Are there risks of too much soy for women?
DeanOrnishMD
:  You can get too much soy from powders/supplements but not in a normal whole foods diet. Soy reduces breast cancer risk.

RecoveringFoody: Dr. O's view on olive oil contradicts what we hear. Is olive oil really terrible for you?
DeanOrnishMD
: The Lyon study showed that a Mediterranean diet high in canola oil (not olive oil) & low in meat reduced heart attacks.
What your cholesterol number really says

SuzZenCrow asked: Can I keep my iron up & go vegan? I have chronic anemia, high cholesterol, ulcer.
DeanOrnishMD
: An ulcer will cause you to lose microscopic blood & iron, so most important is to treat that (more). You can take iron supplements if needed, but most people have no problems getting enough iron in their diet.

Viartist_23 asked: Is it true that cholesterol can cause blind spots in eye?
DeanOrnishMD
: Amaurosis fugax is temporary blindness in 1 caused by reduced blood flow, which too much cholesterol can promote.

goodskinla asked: Are avocados really OUT?
DeanOrnishMD
: Avocados are high in fat so they're high in calories; if you don't have heart disease, they're fine in moderation. If you don't have heart disease, you have a spectrum of choices– check out www.ornish.com for more info.

DrFinke asked: Vegan assumes no fish. Is it better to supplement DHA/ALA or eat fish? Is there a difference?
DeanOrnishMD
”  Fish oil supplements are better if they remove the bad stuff (mercury, dioxin, PCB) that are found in almost all fish.

Will you have a heart attack? These tests might tell

spinningvitamin asked: Are there some non-soy protein powders that u feel are beneficial & safe? Feel protein deficient.
DeanOrnishMD
:  Most people aren't protein deficient; eat more high-protein foods (soy, rice & beans, etc.) Whey powder not soy.

Neal56 asked: In a vegan diet, where do you get your protein and fat? Both are necessary for rebuilding your body.
DeanOrnishMD
: If you eat a variety of vegetables, whole grains, and soy, you'll get enough protein on a vegan diet. And legumes (beans, etc.). If you're not ready to be a vegan, eat a few vegan or vegetarian meals each week.

DeanOrnishMD: Thank you so much– these lifestyle changes make you feel better as well as live longer, which makes them sustainable.

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.