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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Lifestyle changes proven to reverse, prevent diseases

According to well know medical doctors Dr. Andre Weil and Dr. Dean Ornish, simple changes to your lifestyle can not only reduce the risk of certain diseases, it can cure many common illnesses and prevent others from occurring as well.
This was the basis of a lecture the duo gave on Nov. 15 at the Trustees Theater in Savannah as part of Gulfstream’s Live Will/Be Well community education series.
For more than three decades Dr. Ornish has promoted his lifestyle driven and holistic approach in helping people control and reverse coronary artery disease and other chronic illnesses.
“The limitations of high technology medicine is becoming clearer…The treatments we use for high blood pressure, diabetes, prostate cancer and others, well they don’t work as well as we once thought,” Dr. Ornish told the audience. “Yet at the same time the simple choice we can make in changing our lifestyle work even better than we once realized.”
Dr. Ornish explained that most doctors these days don’t have the time to spend with each patient to get to the underlying root of their medical problems. They spend a few minutes, have the patients take a few tests and offer some pills to treat the current symptoms.
“Sometimes drugs and surgery can be lifesaving in a crisis but we need to determine the cause (of these diseases) of which to a large degree are the lifestyle choices we make every day.”
As an example he said people placed on high blood pressure medication are often told they have to take it for the remainder of their lives.
“What we find is that we when we can treat the underlying cause and people change their lifestyle our bodies have this remarkable capacity to begin healing and much more quickly than we once realized…and we also found that the more people changed the better they got ant any age,” he said adding research and expert studies have found lifestyle changes to cure people of high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, diabetes and even prostate cancer, to name a few.
Dr. Andrew Weil, the founder, professor and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona and author of several books agrees adding the current health care system is managed more by greed than healing.
“We have to start asking ourselves why as a society we can’t do a better job of prevention and health promotion, “ Dr. Weil said. “And I’m afraid that has a very simple answer, they don’t pay. And until we can figure out how prevention and health promotion pay we are not going to get anywhere.”
Dr. Weil cited an example that was written in a Time Magazine article several years ago regarding type II diabetes. In the research one part of the focus dealt on the economic impact of the disease and it mentioned that in recent years many diabetes research clinics had closed.
“For every preventive foot consultation offered by one of these clinics, for every preventive eye consultation offered by one of these clinics, for every preventive nutritional consultations offered by one of these clinics they lost, on average, $60 per patient. For every amputation of a diabetic limb, they made $6,000…now how are we possibly going to ever change this.”
Weil added that it becomes increasingly difficult to change the current state of health care because the big pharmaceutical companies often pump big money into political campaign funds to keep things status quo.
“No real change can come from our government and our elective representatives is a grass-root movement in which enough people get upset about things as they are and we begin to elect different kinds of representatives who do not hold any vested interest.”
In the meantime Weil said the best way to stay healthy and avoid being another statistic within the broken health care system is to implement the basic lifestyle choices he, Dr. Ornish and many in the integrative approach to medicine share.
They seem simplistic but because our society is always looking for the quick miracle cure or pill these basic tenets are often avoided.
The first thing is looking at your diet, not in the sense of just counting calories but what types of food you readily consume.
Dr. Weil and Dr. Ornish both agree that people tend to eat more processed foods, consume more fat calories and consume food stocked with artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup. All which are bad for our bodies and influence the ease of illness occurrence.
Dr. Ornish advocates a diet comprised highly of plant based whole foods. Similarly Dr. Weil said he like to follow a Mediterranean style diet which is also predominantly plant based, small portions of lean protein and heavy on extra virgin olive oil.
Both men say exercise is another form of lifestyle change easily attainable. They both added people should find ways to cope with stress such as meditation or yoga and people need to surround themselves with others who offer acceptance and love.
The easiest way to begin is walking a little every day Weil advocated.
Dr. Weil said finding a way to make these lifestyle changes fun instead of an added chore will increase the likelihood that you stick with the program. Lifestyle changes come gradually but the better once a person starts to look and feel the easier it is to make it a life time commitment.
“We are learning how powerful and dynamic these changes can be,” Dr. Ornish said. “When you eat healthier, exercise, manage stress and love more your brain gets more blood flow and more oxygen…Your skin gets more blood flow so you don’t get wrinkles as much, your heart gets more blood flow, reversing heart disease, it also helps in turning on the good genes, the disease preventing genes and turning off the bad genes, the disease causing ones.”
Dr. Ornish has developed a personalized program that focuses on the four elements of what you eat, activity levels, stress response and support called the Spectrum. It allows the individual to pick how much they commit to each element based on their needs and preferences.
Dr. Weil has expanded his research to include the aging baby boomers and found research and study that correlate how an anti-inflammatory diet helps prevent or reverse degenerative diseases like arthritis and Alzheimer.
For more information on the Spectrum visit:
For more information on the anti-inflammatory diet and healthy aging visit: