We are creatures of habit. Our upbringing and societal influences affect our attitudes and behaviour.
How our parents and friends behave has a profound influence on our lifestyles. If they smoke, it is highly likely that we will start smoking as well.
If they regularly socialise with the use of alcohol, we will mostly likely become a regular drinker. If they get relaxation from watching TV, or gathering around a braai, or partying late into the night, then we will probably fall into that lifestyle as well.
ALSO READ : Turning the Tide – Sleep is more important than you may think
We like to believe that chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, even obesity are genetically determined, and have little contribution from our choices in life.
That belief gives us an excuse to avoid the challenge of facing our unhealthful behaviours and taking responsibility to implement changes.
Of course the enormous power of industry, advertising and marketing also conspire against us. We are led to believe that enjoyment and happiness comes from satisfying our cravings for tasty foods, relaxed lifestyle and freedom from restraint. But these are all short-term gains.
We soon start to suffer the complications of these choices – brain fog, feelings of lethargy and lack of zest for living, aches and pains, heartburn, fatigue carrying around extra weight, poor self-image, sleep difficulties, depression, forgetfulness, loss of interest in life.
These are all a far cry from the view we had of what we wanted to get out of life. Someone has said “obesity is not so much caused by the inheritance of genes, as it is by the inheritance of recipes”. In other words obese parents teach their children what to eat and how to live by example.
It is really difficult to opt out of the lifestyle in which we have grown up. It takes enormous resolve and commitment to move out of the furrow of learned behaviour, particularly when we are faced daily with social pressure to conform.
One of the bright lights in the Lifestyle Medicine world is Chef AJ, who shares a story of coming out of a long family and personal history of obesity and diabetes. Her great-grandmother lost a leg to diabetes and obesity. Her grandmother and mother both suffered from obesity.
As a child she thought she was destined to the same fate. In the following written interview she shares her journey to reversal of premalignant colon polyps and lasting reversal of obesity. She exudes vitality and zest for living also in any of her many videos you can find on the internet. Here is a comprehensive interview probing her inspiring life journey.
This series now will look at the challenges of changing our behaviours – the why and how in order to benefit from the incredible power of the body to heal/reverse the effects of damaging life choices.
Of course it impossible to erase the damage that has been done completely, but there is more that can be accomplished than most people, including doctors, would admit.
Dr Dean Ornish, back in 1990 reported opening up of narrowed coronary arteries, in patients with symptomatic heart disease, after one year of focused lifestyle interventions, compared to usual care for people with heart disease.
I believe Dr Caldwell Esselstyn has more than 200 patients in his series who have experienced reversal of symptomatic heart disease or improvement of the disease. The same can be said for diabetes type 2.
Even people who have been diabetic for 40 years have experienced reversal of even neuropathy, fatty liver disease, kidney failure, and even some reports of diabetic retinopathy that have been significantly improved.
Lifestyle interventions can prevent or arrest the progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Lifestyle interventions can prevent many if not most cancers, and in many cases reverse certain early cancers, or at least prevent recurrence of cancers after therapy.
Lifestyle interventions have been shown to have dramatic effects on auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, (SLE), multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, etc.
Next week we will look at the factors that prevent us from accessing the information, and from implementing the necessary changes to experience the bonus of improved health and vitality.
Until then, stay safe. Remember, even though the numbers of Covid infections are going down, there are still scores of people dying every day from Covid infection in South Africa, and around the world. We need to maintain our vigilance in prevention.
Dr David Glass graduated from UCT in 1975. He spent the next 12 years working at a mission hospital in Lesotho, where much of his work involved health education and interventions to improve health, aside from the normal busy clinical work of an under-resourced mission hospital. He returned to UCT in 1990 to specialise in obstetrics/gynaecology and then moved to the South Coast where he had the privilege of, amongst other things, ushering 7000 babies into the world. He no longer delivers babies but is still very clinically active in gynaecology. An old passion, preventive health care, has now replaced the obstetrics side of his work. He is eager to share insights he has gathered over the years on how to prevent and reverse so many of the modern scourges of lifestyle – obesity, diabetes, ischaemic heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, common cancers, etc. He is a family man, with a supportive wife, and two grown children, and four beautiful grandchildren. His hobbies include walking, cycling, vegetable gardening, bird-watching, travelling and writing. He is active in community health outreach and deeply involved in church activities. He enjoys teaching and sharing information.
HAVE YOUR SAY Like the South Coast Herald’s Facebook page, follow us on Twitter and Instagram