When people tell me to stop promoting drugs and start promoting lifestyle
When people tell me to stop promoting drugs and start promoting lifestyle changes, I say: "I wish I could. I truly and sincerely wish I could. But I have to promote both."
I enthusiastically tell my patients that they can reverse and cure their disease with diet and exercise but often they tell me in so many words, “I’d rather die a premature death than live that lifestyle.” One woman used those exact words.
Studies have confirmed that patient counseling does not result in consistent, long-term lifestyle changes.1 It is sad, but true. We cannot force people to change no matter how bleak the outcome looks.
I still preach the benefits of diet and exercise. I know diet and exercise can reverse damage to the pancreas in as little as 2 weeks.2 I know that strict diet and exercise can reduce plaque build up in blood vessels and restore blood flow to vital organs like the heart and brain.3 I practice a healthy lifestyle of strict diet and exercise myself, but I know that the majority of Americans need drugs to extend their lives and help them live better.
I see Americans on a health continuum. On one end of the continuum are the healthy people who have an optimistic attitude, eat whole foods, and exercise. They are resistant to diseases, experience health miracles, and physically look good. It is my sincere wish that all Americans experience this state of being.
On the other end of the continuum are the IV drug users and chronic alcoholics. They are frequently in our hospital facing death with illnesses that often correlate with lifestyle choices--illness such as disseminated MRSA infections, GI bleeds, and liver failure. Yet many often cannot change their lifestyle even to save their life.
In the middle of the continuum is the average American. They eat comfort food like mash potatoes loaded with butter. They take vacations on cruise ships with all you can eat buffets. Their favorite pastimes are watching TV and playing video games. They are happy, wonderful people who give back so much to society.
I enthusiastically talk about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and encourage progression to the healthy side of the continuum. I tell my patients to choose their pastimes and food carefully. I tell them they don’t have to be perfect, just make whole foods and fun exercise their goal. I tell them to point their compass in the direction of wellness. Maybe one day they will get there. But I plead with my patients never to give up on being healthy and living the best life that they can.
I want the best for my patients. I want them to live a long happy life. I always recommend that they take the drugs their doctor has prescribed for them while they concurrently pursue a healthy lifestyle with lasting changes. With supervision from their doctor maybe one day they can go off their medications. But not until it is reflected in their diagnostic tests and their doctor has given them the official “okay."
1. Godino JG, Van Slujis EMF, Marteau TM, et al. Lifestyle Advice Combined with Personalized Estimates of Genetic or Phenotypic Risk of Type 2 Diabetes, and Objectively Measured Physical Activity: A Randomized Controlled Trial PLOS Medicine. 2016; doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.100218
2. Lim, EL, Hollingsworth, KG, Aribisala, BS, et al. Diabetologia. 2011;54: 2506. doi:10.1007/s00125-011-2204-7/
3. Jula A, Marniemi J, Huupponen R, Virtanen A, Rastas M, Rönnemaa T. Effects of Diet and Simvastatin on Serum Lipids, Insulin, and Antioxidants in Hypercholesterolemic Men A Randomized Controlled Trial. JAMA. 2002;287(5):598-605. doi:10.1001/jama.287.5.598