Achieving Health GoalsJanuary 28, 2010 Written by JP [Font too small?]
The most cost effective way to reduce medical spending is to require less of it. This isn’t a commentary on what the government or private health insurance companies should or should not cover. What I am suggesting is that we can, in large part, control the number of medical interventions that we’ll need over a lifetime. This is primarily the domain of preventive medicine, but I think it extends beyond that. The lifestyle decisions you make affect more lives than just your own. Like it or not, we all set an example whether constructive or destructive for those around us. There is no escaping that reality. The good news is that we’re all capable of changing the way we live and becoming better role models. It is that very notion that can empower us all to participate in reshaping the current medical system.
This is the first segment of a new series of columns that will focus on 5 natural steps that can improve your life and the well-being of those around you. My hope is that you’ll personally incorporate some of these alternative and complementary options into your daily routine. However you’ll undoubtedly come across some information that doesn’t directly relate to your health concerns. In those instances, please pass along those tips to anyone you know who might benefit from them. Share the information with colleagues, family, friends and especially your physicians. I think we can make a considerable impact if we all commit to implementing and/or sharing at least one tip from each of the 5 step blogs.
Tip #1 – Achieve Your Goals – Researchers from Duke University and the University of Georgia recently announced the completion of a series of studies that prove that self-control can be contagious. Five different experiments were conducted to determine whether exposure to good examples or simply thinking about them could alter harmful behavior in those with poor self-control.
- In experiment # 1, 36 volunteers were asked to think about a friend with either bad or good self-control. They were then asked to take part in a “handgrip task commonly used to measure self-control”. Those who thought of friends who set good examples performed better on the handgrip test.
- Experiment # 2 involved 71 participants who were split up into groups. One group watched as people selected and ate a carrot from a plate that contained both the carrot and a cookie. The second group of participants viewed people choosing the cookie rather than the carrot. Later on, the observers were tested to see which group demonstrated the greater level of discipline in the presence of food. Those who were exposed to the carrot eating exhibited more self-control than the cookie group.
- Experiment #3 required that 42 study volunteers create two lists of friends that they considered as having either good or bad self-control. After which, the volunteers sat at a computer terminal and were exposed to subliminal (10 millisecond) flashes of names of friends from both lists. At the same time, they were given a “computerized test designed to measure self-control”. The researchers noted that flashing the names of friends that were classified as having good self-control positively impacted the test results and vice versa.
- The fourth experiment was a bit more involved. 112 participants were asked to write about a friend who possessed one of the following qualities: a) bad self-control; b) good self-control or; c) an outgoing personality. At a later time, the writers themselves were given a self-control test. The men and women who wrote about friends who were bad examples scored the poorest on the test. Those who described friends who were extroverted tested better than the “poor example group”, but not as well as the “good example test subjects”.
- The fifth and final experiment discovered that writing about friends with good self-control helped a group of 117 study volunteers identify words relating to positive self-control (achieve, discipline, effort, etc.) more quickly than those focusing on friends lacking self-control.
One of the co-authors of the summary, Dr. Michelle vanDellen, concluded that: “The take home message of this study is that picking social influences that are positive can improve your self-control”. She went on to add that “by exhibiting self-control, you’re helping others around you do the same”. (1,2)
Tip #2 – Protect Yourself from Chemical, Dietary and Environmental Damage – A Spanish study published in the January edition of Clinical Nutrition examined the effects of eating 30 grams of mixed nuts in a group of 50 adults with metabolic syndrome (MetS). Over the course of 12 weeks, half of the participants were asked to add the nuts to their typical diet while the remainder ate normally. The MetS patients consuming the mixed nuts were found to have lower rates of DNA damage as measured by urinary 8-oxo-dG. DNA damage and inadequate DNA repair has been linked to a whole host of chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, macular degeneration and premature aging. (3,4,5,6,7)
Tip #3 – Balance is the Key to a Longer Life – Avoiding falls is one of the most important strategies for remaining active and healthy well into your senior years. A newly published study from the University of South Carolina supports the use of Feldenkrais exercises for this express purpose. The Feldenkrais Method is a program that combines attentive, gentle movements that are intended to improve mind-body functions such as balance, coordination, flexibility and range of motion. In the present study, 47 seniors were enrolled in a 5 week Feldenkrais exercise program or asked to join a “waitlist” which was used as a comparison group. Those in the Feldenkrais group attended 60 minute classes three times a week. The results of the trial noted several benefits in those participating in the Feldenkrais intervention: improved balance, mobility and a reduced “fear of falling”. In addition, the participants also reported greater “balance confidence” and mobility when moving around and simultaneously performing a mental task. (8)
Tip #4 – Walk Away from Nicotine Addiction – Dr. Harry Prapavessis is the researcher of the month at the Canadian Cancer Society. This honor was bestowed upon him because of his ongoing inquiry into the role that exercise can play in improving smoking cessation outcomes. Dr. Prapavessis and his team at the University of Western Ontario have shown that physical activity not only assists with nicotine withdrawal, but it can also reduce relapse rates and minimize weight gain that often accompanies it. (9,10,11,12)
Tip #5 – Reduce Carbohydrates to Reduce Blood Pressure – The most recent issue of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine features a study that compares the effects of a very low carbohydrate diet (less than 20 carbs per day) vs. a common weight loss drug (orlistat/ALLI). Scientists from Duke University assigned 146 overweight or obese patients a carb-restricted diet or a low-fat diet that included orlistat therapy (120 mg before the 3 main meals). Orlistat is a medication that partially inhibits the digestion of dietary fat (see image above). It can result in weight loss because it essentially reduces the amount of fat calories available to the body. Weight loss in both groups was similar by the end of the 48 week trial. The low carb diet resulted in -9.5% weight loss and the low-fat/orlistat plan reduced weight by -8.5%. However, there were some specific benefits only found in the carb-restricted group: lower blood pressure, glucose, insulin and hemoglobin A1c (a measure of long term blood sugar control). 47% of the low carb group was able to discontinue use of anti-hypertensive medication as compared to 21% in the low-fat/orlistat participants. The primary author of the study, Dr. William S. Yancy, commented that “It’s important to know you can try a diet instead of medication and get the same weight loss results with fewer cost and potentially fewer side effects”. (13,14)
I hope that at least one of the above tips will apply to every one of you. If nothing else, the first tip about self-control ought to be relevant to us all. But please do try to choose at least one of these tips and share it with someone that you care about. Send out links to this column or mention a tip or two at the dinner table or perhaps during your next round of golf. Everyday we have a chance to make a difference in relatively simple ways. This new 5 step approach will be my way of contributing to the cause.This is me inviting you to join me.
Tags: Feldenkrais, Low Carb, Nuts
Posted in Alternative Therapies