How to Reduce the Risk of Nutritional Diseases

Published April 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 reprinted with permission 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).

The unstoppable campaigns to convert the entire American population to the so-called heart-healthy, low-saturated-fat, high-carbohydrate diet and to treat rather than prevent the modern nutritional diseases are folly.

At best, the heart-healthy diet is not effective in preventing atherosclerotic diseases, including heart disease, and at worst, is causing the very diseases that it is supposed to prevent. At the same time, the policy that supports early detection and treatment rather than prevention of the diseases is also flawed. Treatment is only partially effective, includes serious side effects, and is so costly that it threatens the national budget.

The scientific evidence cited and discussed in our book, The Modern Nutritional Diseases, shows that individuals would be better served by learning how to prevent, or at least delay, the modern nutritional diseases by means of dietary and lifestyle changes. The following is our suggested outline of how to get started and what to do in order to embark on and implement a preventative program.

Consult Your Physician

Make your doctor your partner. If you are an older adult or if you have some sort of medical condition, talk to your doctor before starting any kind of health program, including increased exercise, changes in diet, or changes in use of nutritional supplements.

If you are taking prescription drugs, ask your doctor or pharmacist about their potential for adverse reactions and nutrient depletions. Reread the section on adverse drug reactions in Chapter Three so that you will be prepared to ask the right questions. Also, discuss with your doctor about how your use of prescription drugs might be reduced or eliminated as you progress with your planned nutritional and lifestyle changes.

Take a Good Look at Your Lifestyle

Examine your lifestyle as objectively as you can with the view toward eliminating unhealthful habits. Your habits and daily routines are very important determinants of the quality of your life in older age.

  • Stop smoking. The harmful effects have been clearly demonstrated. Stopping will be rewarded with easier breathing, more pocket money, and the peace of mind that comes with knowing that a serious cancer and cardiovascular risk factor has been eliminated.
  • Stop excessive use of alcohol. Everyone knows that one or two drinks per day are not harmful and probably healthful. Indulging in more than a few drinks each day is not only costly and unhealthful but also offensive to your family and friends. A happy relationship with family and friends is conducive to good health.

Start a Health Diary

Start a health notebook or diary. Make it as simple as possible so that you do not become a slave to it. If a diary is a chore, it will not be maintained and will be of no value.

Do not trust your memory. No matter how sharp you are mentally, if you do not make a record of an occurrence, the next time it happens you will not remember the specifics of it, especially if weeks or months have intervened.

Your diary need not be filled in every day, but it should be used regularly to store information relating to your health. It should be kept in a place that is convenient and easily accessible for recording new information or checking back on previously recorded information.

Examples of items to record are body weight measurements, tables for listing vitamin, mineral, and prescription drug use, and any changes made in these or any other aspect of your lifestyle or nutrition. Also make brief notes of any physical or emotional signs or symptoms you have that are out of the ordinary, either positive or negative. The former is very important because positive signs or events are as instructive as negative ones.

The notes you make in this diary will be of great value in helping you determine probable relationships between how you feel and the changes you make in your health program. It is amazing how useful such a record can be in revealing a pattern of association. Also, your diary will be of great assistance to your physician.

Next issue: Learn to calculate your Body Mass Index and review your current food habits.