“We’re sorry, but there is nothing more we can do for you.”
With a death sentence from her doctors, Connie Thebarge, at age 59, didn’t know what to do next. Ottawa Heart Institute issued her a prognosis that came as no surprise. Her health record showed the following:
- History of hypertension
- Two heart attacks followed by triple coronary bypass surgery
- Diagnosis with diabetes in 1985
- Unsuccessful angioplasty in 1988
- Diabetic neuropathy in legs making walking extremely painful
- Taking approx. 27 pills a day
But 12 years later, she walks 3 miles a day, swims twice a week, goes dancing, and takes trips to Florida and Europe. With her new lifestyle came the absence of depression, and fewer pills to consume. All thanks to CHIP…
Connie’s story may seem unreal, but by following the basic principles of the Complete Health Improvement Program (CHIP), the health improvements become endless.
“A community-based lifestyle intervention program designed to drastically reduce coronary risk and improve and achieve optimal health.”
Is this community-based lifestyle change possible? Yes, but it’s a lifestyle change that requires commitment. Drug and surgical therapy often provide an easy way out, but not a permanent solution. It has been recently proven that lifestyle centers that adhere to a holistic approach (natural foods, diet, exercise, therapies), can successfully fight and in some cases reverse negative health effects we face everyday.
Based in Loma Linda, California, CHIP (Complete Health Improvement Program) was started by cardiovascular epidemiologist, Hans Diehl. The success of the Lifestyle Medicine Institute (LMI) can be seen in over 150 North American cities, as well as Bangalore, India, Australia and Switzerland.
LMI strives to reveal to the public the good news that being healthy is a personal right. The CHIP program is not a profit-seeking program, but rather a community-based initiative designed to provide an education about how to live a healthy and realistic lifestyle.
At age 19, Hans Diehl was a trained executive for a German kitchen appliance company. He came from Germany to Montreal in 1965 and quickly learned of the opportunities presented in the area of health in North America. When he completed his education at Loma Linda University (LLU) of Public Health and University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), he had the following qualifications:
- Doctorate in Health Science (LLU)
- Masters in Public Health Nutrition (LLU)
- Post Doctorate in Epidemiology (UCLA)
Nathan Pritikin was an individual passionate about lifestyle changes as an approach to improving all areas of health. Although his approach was from a non-medical background, the 80% success rate of his 4-week intervention program attracted the attention of Diehl. His program consisted of the following elements:
- 4 week program designed to improve heart disease, hypertension, gout, arthritis, and obesity
- diet low in fat, sugar, salt and cholesterol
- progressive, monitored exercise
- addressing other areas of health, such as smoking
Diehl decided to jump onboard as the first director of research and education at the Pritikin Longevity Center. He proved through Pritikin's 225 patients an 83% success rate, 3% higher than the margin that was first estimated. Together the two created a program that would forever change the lives of people around the world.
The staff also consisted of two physicians—Dr. Denis Burkitt and Dr. Hugh Trowell. The two were advocates of high-fiber diets and unrefined grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
As the data was compiled, Diehl spent 2 years at LLU in the National Institute of Health in cardiovascular epidemiology analyzing the data from the longevity center. Diehl also spent time at the center giving lectures on how to avoid the diseases of the western lifestyle.
Success Story: Wisconsin woman
A woman from Wisconsin had a line of disease in her family history. She was overweight and had nowhere else to turn. After the 4-week program, she began her own lifestyle change.
- Lost 40 pounds
- Continues to lose weight today
- Blood pressure is 120/70
- Cholesterol is the lowest ever at 139% mg
- Walks as a regular exercise regime
- Depression has ceased
- Has the physical endurance she felt at age 21
A Larger Audience
Sidney Kettner, chief-of-staff at Creston Valley Hospital in British Columbia, Canada, invited Diehl to conduct a 4-week CHIP program in his area. In a community of 3,000 adults, 400 came and 40 hours of lectures were given. The program included:
1. HeartScreen – a coronary risk assessment done before, during and after the program (4 weeks, 3 months, one year)
2. 4 weeks of lectures conducted Monday – Thursday on various topics
b. clinical management
c. lifestyle interventions for coronary heart disease
3. Examination of medical history, blood chemistry, medication history
4. Testing of cholesterol (LDL & HDL), triglycerides (fats), glucose (sugars), blood pressure, overweight determination, smoking, stresses, heart rate, exercise, and food frequency
5. Assistance from physicians and dietitians
6. Specials on fruits and vegetables from local health produce markets
Success Story: Fred MacKay
Prior: 70 years old, hypertensive, 2 heart attacks, and a diet that substituted chicken for beef and a reduction in dairy. His lifestyle change after the program consisted of:
- 2 hours of walking daily (instead of 30 minutes)
- A cholesterol drop of 13% in just 2 weeks
- 4 pounds lost
- normal blood pressure
Eight years later, he has lost 25 pounds, and his cholesterol has decreased from 202 to 120 mg%.
An Even Larger Audience
The program continued to grow in size and was conducted in Vernon and Kelowna, Canada. These projects involved 1500-2500 people. As the initiative grew, Diehl and his team did more prep work in the areas of media, medical societies, city councils, the mayor, and providers of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
“Eat a mango instead of a candy bar,” became the motto for the project. Coming from a community who didn’t know what a mango was, 7,000 mangoes were sold.
- 10% decrease in blood cholesterol
- 6-8 pounds average lost in 4 weeks
- After one year only 7% were unable to keep weight down
- Decrease in blood pressure and blood sugar
- Triglycerides dropped 15% in 4 weeks
Participants said, “We’ve never eaten so much food in our lives.” And as Diehl stated, “For every 1% drop in cholesterol, heart attack risk drops 3%.” The people were eating healthy, feeling good, maintaining weight loss, and eating more than ever before. All of these results gave proof that the change in lifestyle played an integral role in the success of their health.
CHIP participants are encouraged to join CHIP alumni programs which feature health lectures, cooking classes, stop smoking classes, stress management classes, etc. The continuing success in the health and lifestyle of the participants in this community-based program serves as a profound testament to its achievements.