Two hospitals in Omaha and one in Des Moines will be part of a federalproject to test whether diet and exercise are a legitimate alternative tosurgery and drug treatment for heart patients. The so-called “Ornish” diet of almost no fat or cholesterol helped 77percent of heart patients in a recent trial avoid by-pass surgery orangioplasty. The federal “Health Care Financing Administration” islaunching a nationwide study of 18-hundred Medicare patients to check forsimilar results. Dr. Diane McIlhon of the Iowa Heart Center says MercyHospital in Des Moines will have about two-hundred elderly patientsparticipate in the study. Dr. McIlhon has reviewed the previous Ornishstudy of using diet rather than surgery to treat heart problems.Dr. McIlhon says it’s not for patients in a life-threatening situation whoneed heart surgery to live. However, she says other heart symptoms can betackled with diet and exercise.Patients at Omaha’s Immanual and Bergen Mercy Medical Centers will be partof the test, too.