How to Reduce the Risk of Nutritional Diseases

Published September 1, 2005

The United States is experiencing an epidemic of diseases related to poor nutrition. Rates of heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, and obesity are all rising rapidly. No changes to public policy are likely to control or reduce spending on medical care so long as this epidemic continues.

In this column, public health scientists Alice and Fred Ottoboni describe simple dietary and lifestyle changes that can significantly reduce the risk of modern nutritional diseases and, at the same time, improve one’s health and sense of well-being. These suggestions are taken from the Ottoboni’s 2002 book, The Modern Nutritional Diseases and How to Prevent Them (Vincente Books Inc., [email protected], ISBN 0-915241-03-X) and appear here with the authors’ permission.

Review Your Use of Drugs

Make a table in your diary that shows the names of every prescription drug and nonprescription drug you are regularly taking. Include the amounts taken and exactly when you take each one of these drugs. Your diary records showing the dates and details of changes in your diet, dietary supplements, drug use, and your physical and mental status (symptoms) are very valuable to both you and your doctor for the following reasons:

  • Changes in diet and changes in the use of dietary supplements can increase or reduce your need for certain prescription drugs. Thus, drugs may be rendered less effective or symptoms of drug overdose may occur when you change your diet or supplementation program.
  • Prescription drug use can increase your need for dietary supplements, and symptoms of nutrient deficiency may occur. Ross Pelton’s Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion Handbook 1999-2000 should be in the library of every person who takes prescription drugs.

Beyond Nutrition

The way you live your life, your habits, and your daily routines have a profound impact on your state of health.

  • Listen to your body: Humans pay little or no attention to what their bodies are constantly telling them. We would do well to listen, because our bodies (and minds) have a greater and deeper wisdom than we realize.
  • Learn to say “no”: There comes a point in life when you must weigh your own health against the plans or desires of others. Say “No” to functions that are unpleasant to you. Say “No” to late evening dinners. Reschedule visits from grandchildren (or others) who have colds, flu, or sniffles. People who love you will understand; individuals who do not understand do not belong in your life.
  • Maintain awareness for adverse drug reactions: Work with your doctor and especially your pharmacist to ensure that you know the adverse effects, side effects, interactions, and drug-induced nutritional deficiencies associated with the medications you are taking.
  • Consider an exercise program: Walking is a beneficial exercise for most people past middle age. Housework, gardening, and reasonable home maintenance and improvement projects are not only beneficial exercises but also productive ones. People who have remained physically active since their youth and others who have no medical problems but want to start an exercise program should obtain a copy of Jay Lehr’s fitness guide for older people, Fit, Firm & 50. Lehr provides not only valuable advice on exercise programs but also includes inspirational stories of older-athlete role models. One of the most important rules for older people is to exercise intelligently. Your exercise program should be compatible with your physical ability.