Healthy Lifestyle Changes Reduce Healthcare Dependence – Part 2

Commit To Learning

About Healthy Lifestyle Changes

Read Part 1

PET Scan of a human brain with Alzheimer’s Disease

Our collective need for healthy lifestyle changes may be nowhere more compelling than with the unending growth in Alzheimer’s Disease.

The latest estimates are that the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s Disease will triple by the year 2050.

There’s plenty of evidence that the best way to avoid Alzheimer’s Disease is to keep your mind active and engaged as you get older. There are all kinds of suggestions for doing so: read more, do crossword puzzles, travel, learn a new language or a new skill, etc.

Wouldn’t learning more about Alzheimer’s and other medical conditions that may very well be part of your future be a worthwhile activity that would keep your mind engaged? Isn’t learning how to avoid a heart attack or stroke a more productive way to keep your mind engaged than crossword puzzles?

It doesn’t have to be unproductive engagement of your mind to be effective against Alzheimer’s.  Why not “kill two birds with one stone” by using that process of keeping your mind engaged to learn what you can do to avoid Alzheimer’s and other threats to your survival.

And don’t think your need for healthy lifestyle changes isn’t about exactly that – survival. In your 20’s or 30’s, healthy lifestyle changes are often about making a statement. In your 50’s, 60’s, and beyond, it’s more about “stayin’ alive” than making a statement.

This should make it more urgent, but it generally doesn’t. Those in most need of healthy lifestyle changes to be healthy – and stay healthy – are usually least likely to try them.

Banish Unrealistic Expectations

Part of this has to do with unrealistically high expectations of what’s required in terms of healthy lifestyle changes to gain any health benefit. Doctors and patients alike have responded to surveys in ways that suggest their idea of what’s needed for healthy lifestyle changes to produce real health benefits is much greater than it actually is.

For example, doctors surveyed thought patients needed to lose 10-14% of weight to benefit medically, while patients surveyed thought it took 25%.[2] But even 5-7% weight loss has been proven to dramatically reduce disease risk for the overweight and obese.

5-7% is a lot less intimidating – and a lot more doable – than 14-25%.

In fact, a mere 5% weight loss been shown to produce significant health benefit. Even a measly 2.2 pound weight loss has been found to reduce the 10-year risk for type 2 diabetes by 33%.[3]

This may represent 1% or less of weight loss for many people – talk about leverage!

The same is true across the gamut of healthy lifestyle changes. Small, incremental improvements compound over time to exert tremendous benefit in terms of staying healthy or recapturing lost health.

If you sleep only six hours or less a night, getting into the 7- 8 hour safety zone of sound sleep will have tremendous impact on your future health. Chronic stress is reported to increase type 2 diabetes in men by almost 50%, making stress reduction techniques like meditation, yoga and deep breathing of paramount importance for staving off disease.

These small, incremental healthy lifestyle changes can have huge cumulative payoffs in terms of reduced disease risk and future need for medical care.

This video of Jillian Michaels interviewing Dr. David Agus offers further insights into the role of healthy lifestyle changes in preventing disease.

Best Practices
Beat Cutting Edge

One goal here is to provide you with evidence of exactly which healthy lifestyle changes have the best track record of success – “best practices” in each of the major lifestyle categories. “Best practices” means “tried and true”, proven effective – and safe – for different populations and for both men and women.

Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease (Photo credit: AlzheimerHelp)

This excludes innovation and “breakthrough” ideas because they are, by definition, not yet “tried and true”. This inherent limitation in applying a “best practices” approach to lifestyle reform has benefit as well.

Medicine is littered with examples of medical “breakthroughs” that were subsequently disproven or even proven harmful. It wasn’t long ago that women were routinely counseled to undergo hormone replacement therapy after menopause, only later to find out it increased their risk for heart disease and stroke (see Our Healthcare Sucks for more examples).

Today cholesterol-lowering statin drugs are the medical darlings, with scant attention paid to their proven adverse effects. There’s even less attention paid to potential ways to use them smarter with select supplements like fish oil and CoQ10 shown to enhance their benefit and/or permit lower doses without sacrificing effectiveness.

And older blood pressure (and other) drugs are often more effective at lower cost than newer and riskier drugs that cost more because they’re not yet available as generic drugs.

The public’s insatiable appetite for the very latest is often a bad idea when it comes to what you put in your body.

“Buyer Beware”

As consumers, we need to be more cautious and prudent in our willingness to adopt every new lifestyle theory that emerges. Not everything that sounds good in theory works in practice. Not every animal study translates into humans. Not everyone responds the same way to the same pill or procedure. Unintended consequences abound.

In other words, new lifestyle fads often don’t represent healthy lifestyle changes. It’s a much safer bet to stick to the tried-and-true than the latest new wrinkle being pushed by those who stand to profit from it.

Even when the gurus offer products of decent quality and merit, their prices are usually grossly inflated over what you’d pay elsewhere for comparable or better products. “Buyer Beware” remains prudent advice – perhaps nowhere more prudent than when it comes to your health and your healthcare.

This doesn’t mean we can’t experiment where it seems prudent to do so. But it should be kept within the bounds of moderation – no megadoses or extreme diets – and monitored to make sure there are no adverse effects.

Motion Works Memory Magic

As for Alzheimer’s, the “Related articles” below link to several Alzheimer’s-related stories, including one about how the drugs used now for Alzheimer’s are essentially useless. We spend about $3 billion a year in the U.S. on them, mostly to appease family members and doctors who want to “do something” for these patients – even if it’s no better than a placebo.

Which makes prevention of Alzheimer’s even more imperative. And old-fashioned physical activity seems to be the only thing with any evidence of helping prevent Alzheimer’s by strengthening the synapses between nerve cells.

In general, there are plenty of opportunities like this to upgrade to healthy lifestyle choices without taking unreasonable risks. We’ll explore more of these in posts to come.

In the meantime, are you ready to make some healthy lifestyle changes to reduce your need for future medical attention?

[kc_background type=”1″]If so, why not share what you’re up to by commenting below?[/kc_background]

[1] Primary Care Physicians’ Attitudes about Obesity and its Treatment. Obesity Research.11(10):1168-77.10/ 03.
[2]Relation of weight gain and weight loss on subsequent diabetes risk in overweight adults. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2000 August;54(8):596-602.
John Lynch: John Lynch was founder and CEO of Medical Diagnostics, Inc. - twice named to Business Week's "Best Small Companies" in America. He's since founded MedSmart Members to publish consumer health education publications.
Related Post