How To Become “Disease Proof”
A Preventive Medicine “How-To” Guide that May Help You Avoid Chronic Conditions
Despite our body’s complexity, health rules are surprisingly simple. Study after study seems to confirm this. For a layman’s guide, one need look no further than Dr. David Katz’s “Disease Proof: The Remarkable Truth About What Makes Us Well.”
Katz, a preventive medicine specialist at Yale University, says health risk can be reduced by 80% by addressing four conditions: smoking, body weight, physical activity and diet. Referring to these factors as “lifestyle as medicine,” our behavior can out-perform even the most expensive pharmaceutical options, and one of the best kept open secrets in the health industry.
Starting with the role of food and nutrition, the author’s stay-healthy list includes the following:
1. Eat a wide variety of macronutrients: complex carbohydrates, lean proteins and healthy fats
2. Create a health plate with proper ratio of foods: half vegetables, one quarter grains, one quarter lean protein
3. Don’t drink your calories (soda, fruit juices, etc.)
Creating the right environment is key. Whether shopping in grocery stores or choosing from a restaurant menu, be selective about what ends up on your plate. Over time, your tastes will shift, and you will prefer healthier options. This well-documented change can take many months, but persistence pays off; the author himself has observed this shift in his own patients. As an added bonus, by reducing sugar and salt, in particular, your taste buds will become more sensitive. Food will taste better.
Beyond eating the right things, Katz warns against not only a lack of exercise, but also sitting for too long. He cites an article in The Lancet, as well as other studies, that point to the hours spent sitting correlating to increased mortality risk of any causes. As little as 8 hours of sitting a day can make a difference. As for exercise, a study reported in JAMA cited 20 minutes of exercise, five days a week as a deciding factor for type-2 diabetes in at-risk kids. To stay healthy, Katz needs us to stand up and move.
Finally, the author wants us to not miss the forest for the trees and includes a chapter titled “The Whole(istic) Truth.” Stress, sleep, chronic pain, social networks of family and friends, and other factors play tangible roles in our health. The author includes sections on each.
While the health community still struggles to address thousands of rare conditions, prevention is increasingly viewed as the most reliable route for avoiding many chronic conditions. To help us along, Katz asks we reject the idea “the power over health resides mostly with doctors and the health care system.” Instead, we can shape our health through a handful of little things that collectively make a big difference.
Thanks for reading. Comments and suggestions for other topics welcome.
Below are a few other posts on health:
And here are my reviews of popular book titles in the health space:
· Dr. Eric Topol’s “The Patient Will See You Now: The Future of Medicine is in Your Hands” here.
· Athenahealth Co-Founder and CEO, Jonathan Bush, “Where Does It Hurt: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Fixing Health Care” here.
· Dr. Marty Makary’s “Unaccountable: What Hospitals Won’t Tell You and How Transparency Can Revolutionize Healthcare” here.
· Dr. Atul Gawande’s “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End” here.
· Dr. Robert Wachter’s “The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine’s Computer Age” here.
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