It’s no secret that cardiovascular disease, hypertension and metabolic disorder are among the top chronic conditions in the U.S. today (CDC.gov). The Western diet of carbohydrate rich, processed foods combined with sedentary lifestyles are major drivers of these diseases. Cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and obesity are also significant risk factors (NIH.gov). Health spending in the U.S. is currently approaching 20% of GDP and growing (The Fiscal Times). Thus, properly preventing, delaying and/or managing chronic conditions is critical for the long term health and wealth of our nation.
Despite lip service to diet, exercise and life style modifications to
address chronic disease, many practitioners are quick to reach for the
prescription pad (TheGuardian.com). And
why not? It's tough to persuade patients to eat right, workout, quit
smoking and reign in alcohol consumption. Furthermore, a lot of the
medications used to treat chronic conditions are inexpensive, effective
and widely considered safe.
However, these various drugs are
not a panacea. First, although generally considered safe, many of these
drugs are associated with significant Adverse Affects (AEs) (HealthFreedoms.org and WashingtonPost.com).
Second, meeting lipid profile guidelines and controlling blood pressure
and blood sugar naturally (i.e. via diet and exercise) intuitively
seems more healthful than artificially (i.e. via prescription meds).
Western medicine appears to be in agreement with that intuitive
conclusion. For example, the almost universally embraced Framingham Risk
tool examines various data points to assess ten year risk of a cardiac
event. In order to earn a low risk rating, a patient needs to have a
systolic BP of less than 130 mm Hg. If the patient's BP is being treated
with medicines, the risk increases even if the below 130 mm Hg
benchmark is achieved. Finally, a patient who relies on prescription
medications might be more likely to avoid important lifestyle changes.
E.G. If my blood cholesterol is fine on the statin, why lose weight? If
my blood pressure is under control with the lisinopril, why quit
Chronic inflammation and poor gut health are both implicated as major contributors to chronic disease (CDC.gov and JAMA). Meanwhile an anti-inflammatory diet (FloridaHealthIndustry.com)
combined with a sensible exercise program can simultaneously address
chronic conditions synergistically and deliver a host of additional
health benefits with no AEs. A diet of healthy fats, lean protein and
lots of fruit and vegetables united with exercise (30 minutes a day,
five days a week, balanced between aerobic and anaerobic activity) will
naturally reduce systemic inflammation and restore gut health (Harvard.edu and NIH.gov and WebMD).
Anti-inflammatory supplements and probiotics can complement the
diet/exercise treatment plan. Benefits include improved cardiovascular
health (better lipid profile and reduced blood pressure), improved
gastrointestinal function, reduced cancer risk as well as improved
metabolic and sexual function. Such a treatment plan promotes healthy
weight, reduces tobacco and alcohol cravings, lessens joint pain and
supports restful sleep and general well-being.
patient has the determination necessary to adopt a disciplined diet and
exercise program. And not all patients will be able to completely
restore their health without prescription medications. But a huge
segment of our population could transform their health without drugs.
Most of the remainder could benefit by relying on lower dosages of fewer
medicines. Both healthcare practitioners and patients can prosper by
adopting diet and exercise as a first line of defense against chronic