Do you want to be healthy? Dentally healthy? Is it important to you? Relevant questions, I believe, in a world where many of us want to be fixed or repaired by taking medications or having problems surgically repaired rather than make the daily decisions that will help us get or stay healthy.
I’m reminded of the all too familiar line that I suspect many of us have heard: If I’d known I was gonna live this long, I would have taken better care of myself!
In the early 1980s, my wife Sharon and I were introduced to a book titled “Human Life Styling--Keeping Whole in the 20th Century”. It was written by John C. McCamy, M.D. and James Presley. I provide all of that information because I just discovered that it is still available, so if you want it, you can get it. We were so impressed with that book that we bought a bunch of copies and shared it with our patients who had an interest in it. Many of them did, and many of them tell us they still apply some or all of the principles that were discussed in the book.
Sharon and I were reminded again of this book recently when we attended a course entitled “Six Patient Focused Nutrition Strategies for Health” presented by Margaret Connor, M.S., R.D. Marge is one of the best presenters I’ve heard in a long time, and her message reminded both of us how relevant our choice of lifestyle habits still are today. Her sincerity, humanity, together with her researched-based information, was extremely compelling.
One of the things that she focused on was that “HEALTH” is far more than the absence of disease. It is “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being” (as defined by the World Health Organization). People achieve health by combining multiple approaches including good nutrition, regular exercise, stress reduction, and some type of spiritual practice. Nothing really new there, except for the way she packaged the information, and how well she supported each point with well documented facts.
I appreciated that she didn’t talk about “diets” but rather “eating patterns” and / or “lifestyle patterns”. That resonated with me. For me another significant point she shared was that practicing seated yoga for 10 minutes daily resulted in a 45% drop of fasting blood sugar over a three month period in a research study group. WOW!! That translates to significantly lowering a person’s risk of developing diabetes. In the US 1.4 million cases of Type 2 diabetes are diagnosed each year, and more than 1 in 10 adults has the disease. Perhaps even more frightening is that over 1 in 4 people over the age of 65 has it!
If we acknowledge that diabetes, heart disease, and cancer cause the majority of deaths in our country, and that all of them are related to inflammation (as is gum disease, to bring this around to dentistry), then anything we can do to reduce the inflammatory process in our bodies has a potentially huge impact. Guess what eating more vegetables and whole fruits does for us...? Yep, my mother was right!
She suggested five steps for improving eating patterns:
- Build a strong base with plenty of vegetables and include whole fruits.
- Power up with protein from beans, legumes, nuts, lentils, and fish.
- Make your grains “whole” and nix the added sugars. [As a dentist I’m all about the idea of nixing sugars!]
- Lose your fear of fat (with cold processed extra virgin olive oil and nuts being her top choices).
- Celebrate wellness with friends who support your positive choices (enjoy meals with those friends, be physically active with them, practice yoga, etc.)
Perhaps the most important thing I heard was a simple concept – create your environment to be successful. If you want to quit drinking pop, don’t have it at home. If you want to change your dietary intake, start shopping when you are not hungry, and only buy the items that you have decided you want to eat to improve your health. If you want to begin exercising, start. I’m reminded of another saying I’ve heard before: “That a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.”