- Kellie Blake RDN, LD, IFNCP
That sounds like a strange thing, dying healthy. Perhaps, it sounds so strange because we’ve all been sold this idea that we will inevitably age, develop chronic disease and die unhealthy. Or perhaps we have seen our own family members age and have poor quality of life in their later years. I personally saw my grandparents pass away, in their 80’s, in poor states of health. I had a grandmother die from Alzheimer’s disease and breast cancer, another pass away from gastric cancer, and my grandfather died of rheumatoid arthritis, depression and malnutrition. All of my grandparents were energetic and healthy earlier in life, but they all suffered and died unhealthy. It was painful to watch them develop these diseases and lose their quality of life. At the time, I just thought this was their predetermined destiny. We now know that all of these things and many more are largely preventable and reversible with lifestyle. Of course, there are genetic variations that make us more predisposed to certain diseases, but those really only account for 5-10% of what happens to us as we age. The vast majority of how we age is based on our environment and the way we live our lives.
No one, me included, wants to hear that how we live our lives, i.e. what we eat, how we move our bodies, how we manage stress, how we sleep, and how we interact with others, could create an environment of disease and lead us to an unhealthy death. Maybe we don’t want to have the responsibility or can’t handle the reality of all that power. I choose to think of it in a positive way. I have the ability to create health for myself every day. The choices I make day in and day out will help me feel great and I’ll have a better chance of dying healthy at a ripe old age.
What is dying healthy? Dying healthy to me means I can do the things I love even to my last breath. I don’t want to be chained to daily medication, confined to a nursing home bed, unable to feed myself or reliant on others to take care of me. All those things may actually happen to me based on unforeseen circumstances. But I do have the ability to prevent the preventable and that’s chronic disease.
So, how do we die healthy? We can start making lifestyle changes today that will improve our odds. Food is critical. It is information for your body. Your body needs the correct information to have peak performance throughout your lifetime. But, how do you know what to eat? There’s so much conflicting information, and everyone is a nutrition expert. We are all uniquely different, so there cannot be a one size fits all approach. Working with a qualified registered dietitian is the first place to start. As a dietitian, I have an enormous responsibility to provide you with accurate information that will improve your quality of life and prevent pain and harm. If I tell you to eat everything in moderation, I am lying to you. (Check out my previous post on why eating everything in moderation is a one-way ticket to destruction). The processed foods we consume are creating a chronic disease epidemic that is reducing our quality of life and killing us prematurely. I will not tell you it’s ok to just eat whatever you feel like eating, as long as you’re doing it in moderation. The serious diseases we’re facing (type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, etc) are not going to be prevented and reversed with the idea of moderation.
Changing what we eat is no easy task, but if your goal is to live a long life, free from disease, then big changes are necessary. I have discovered this personally in my quest to reverse my autoimmune disease. While, I still love gluten, dairy, junk food and candy, it’s no longer worth it to me to consume these foods. I have created an eating style that allows me to feel great every day and I don’t have to worry about my disease progressing.
The ugly truth is this: If you don’t change what you eat and how your live your life, your disease, whatever it is, will eventually progress. The body can only take so much. Let’s take type 2 diabetes for example. Our “everything in moderation” thinking tells those with this disease that it’s ok to eat any food, as long as you’re counting your carbohydrates and covering that blood sugar. But, while your blood sugar may be in “good” control, what’s actually happening inside your body? When you consume that 60 to 75 grams of carbohydrate per meal (as is taught routinely), the cells in your pancreas work overtime, in combination with your medication, to cover the glucose overload. Your blood sugar may appear “normal” and your HgbA1c may actually decrease, but over time, your pancreas will be unable to handle that load and you will require more medication or more insulin. This cycle continues until eventually you develop the complications associated with diabetes, including heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. You will likely die unhealthy. But, type 2 diabetes is actually reversible with the appropriate lifestyle interventions. You cannot only normalize blood sugar, but you can reduce that burden on your pancreas just by changing the types of food you eat. In many cases medications like insulin can be eliminated and diabetes related complications can be prevented. It’s amazing and powerful and will help you have a great quality of life as you age. And type 2 diabetes is just one example of a chronic disease that can be reversed with your lifestyle.
If you suffer from a chronic disease or are hoping to prevent one as you age, start with thinking about your lifestyle choices. Do you really want to succumb to temptations today at the expense of your health tomorrow? If you’re looking for real, practical solutions to your medical problems, contact me for a free 15 minute phone consultation. It is possible to prevent and reverse chronic disease and to die healthy at a ripe old age.
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