• Catherine Hansen MD, MPH

Choose your medicine wisely.

“Let food be thy medicine and let thy medicine be food.” - Hippocrates

“No disease that can be treated by diet should be treated with any other means.” Maimonides – scholar and physician of the middle ages

It’s time to recognize that we are killing ourselves. As a nation, the choices we make day-to-day have an impact on our quality of life, the expense we impose on the healthcare system, and even the date of our death.

While we are choosing the drive through lane, our children are watching like hawks and becoming obese in unprecedented numbers.

While we choose TV over walking the dog, our children are being diagnosed with diabetes in record proportions. While we spend thousands on doctor’s visits and drive up national healthcare costs, this generation of children will be the first in all of history to die younger than their parents.

Although we are presented with not-so-good options in our environment (and, I agree, this MUST change at a societal level), it is truly up to US to make the hard choices when it comes to living our lives. I’m assuming most people want to be healthy or, at least, don’t want to get sick.

I have yet to see a patient come in and ask, “can you make me sick, doc? I want to feel tired, drained and short-tempered and, while you are at it, I’d like to live a shorter life and miss seeing my grandchildren grow up”.

Quite the opposite, people want to be well, full of energy, vibrant and professionally productive, returning home with presence & patience for loved ones. We all want time to explore our passions, share milestones with our children and our children’s children and the freedom and mobility necessary to explore the world.

How do we get there? We decide! And when we don’t have the resources or the information, we find them. It’s never too late to make those daily choices that will help us feel more alive, healthier and perhaps live longer.

If lifestyle factors are so darn important, why has your doctor never sat you down to explain this to you? The answer is, sadly, she doesn’t have the time and may not have the knowledge base. The dismal reality of our healthcare system is that it treats disease and does very little to prevent illnesses from occurring. While this is changing slowly with new incentives for doctors, prevention of disease will never be the focus of your visit to the doctor because it doesn’t pay the upfront expenses of a struggling healthcare system. Insurance companies make it difficult or impossible to be compensated for talking to a patient about how far they walk daily, what they ate for breakfast and how their marriage is going. The rewards of this type of comprehensive wellness-care are hidden years down the road where we can’t see them.

But there are some things you could start doing TODAY that will improve your quality of life and possibly save your life.

The American Heart Association, AHA, set out seven health goals for us to reach, as a nation, by 2020 and, while we have missed this deadline, this is a distinct realization that our future is in our hands.

1. Stop smoking! If you haven’t heard, smoking causes heart disease, stroke and cancer. It’s time to quit.

2. Exercise regularly. This is more than just running around after the kids or walking to the photocopier. Your body has adapted to do whatever it is that you do daily so, in order to make noticeable improvements in your heart, you must increase your effort at least 3-4 times/week so that you get physically out of breath for 45-60 minutes. Do it with your spouse or kids and you will reap the added benefits of the emotional connection.

3. Achieve normal cholesterol numbers. Utilize your doctor to help you interpret your annual blood work and educate yourself about the difference between “good fats” and “bad fats”.

4. Achieve normal blood pressure. The best way to attain and maintain a healthy blood pressure is through regular exercise but consider salt intake and body weight too. If you need medications to reduce this strain on your heart and blood vessels, take them until you can get things under control naturally.

5. Achieve normal fasting plasma glucose (blood sugar). Any increase in blood sugar from eating simple sugars or carbohydrates like bread or desserts causes the body to increase insulin levels from the pancreas. When the body no longer responds to the insulin or the pancreas cannot make enough, Type 2 diabetes results. The chronic complications associated with diabetes are extensive and include heart attack, stroke, decreased circulation, vision and kidney problems. Talk to your doctor about monitoring your blood sugar, especially if you have other risk factors like obesity, high cholesterol or smoking.

6. Achieve a normal weight and Body Mass Index (BMI). This is easier said than done, of course, but working on all of these goals together will result in weight loss over time. Even an extra 5-10lbs creates extra work for the heart, organs and joints that, over time, leads to faster deterioration and aging. If you want to stay younger and live longer, you must find a way to get thinner.

7. The last metric is, in my mind, the most important because it impacts all of the others. A healthy diet is, by far, the best change you can make for yourself and your family. Current medical evidence is in favor of a Mediterranean-type diet that includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains (not whole wheat or bread) and lean proteins like legumes and fish. Good fats are included like olive oil and nuts but animal fats are significantly reduced including dairy and red meat. Eating this way over the long-term will help stave off a heart attack, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and early death, not to mention make you feel better overall.

While all of these changes at once may seem overwhelming, pick one a month to really focus on this year. It takes 21 days to establish a habit so working on 1 issue per month will create healthier habits for the rest of your life.

“The doctor of the future will give no medication, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.” - Thomas Edison

If you would like more resources, focused specifically on helping you achieve your goals, do your FREE HEALTH ASSESSMENT at: www.Healthylives.IDLife.com and become part of our Empowered Women's Circle community at: EWCirlce.com or on Facebook HERE.

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