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Backpack or Bedpan?

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Backpack or Bedpan?

Health is always a choice.
Pamela  McDonald
Pamela McDonald More by this author
Oct 07, 2010 at 10:00 AM

I believe that we almost always have a choice between health and chronic illness. We can choose to be healthy and be out backpacking, or we can choose to be sick, possibly living out our days in an institution using a bedpan, our independence lost as a result of chronic illness.

Keep in mind that chronic illness does not just “show up” one day to cause problems. Some diseases take decades to develop, and many of them develop silently, often with few or no symptoms. Understanding this, and knowing that you do have a choice of taking action—or not—to safeguard your health, is the first step in preventing many chronic diseases from gaining a foothold. It’s much better to live your life in a way that will prevent disease, rather than learning that you have developed an illness after it’s too late to reverse the accumulated damage.

To do this, we need to become more focused on both our wellness and disease prevention—to look a little deeper than we have in the past, asking questions that will change our lives by enhancing our health and wellness.

Diabetes, insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, and heart disease can be well established without giving any major warning signs. Sometimes the first knowledge of such a condition arrives with a full-blown heart attack or stroke.

Being overweight or obese is one of the most obvious signs that one or more of these diseases is present (although even thin people can be over-fat). Keep in mind—being overweight is not only about your body image. Being overweight is a symptom of a serious underlying problem, not the problem itself. Many of us think we know what to do to be healthy, yet cannot seem to accomplish this goal. Why? Have you ever wondered why you have not been able to stay with a low-fat diet along with a rigorous exercise program? It could be that your body does not have the genetic makeup to be able to tolerate a very low-fat, or a low carbohydrate, or even a high-protein diet.

Remember, we have choices where our health is concerned, and we need to connect our lifestyle with its direct health outcomes. Some of these choices depend on our own individual genetic makeup. Personally, when I reach 75, I want to be outside backpacking, hiking, biking, or skiing with my children and grandchildren, not spending my days institutionalized, needing help getting to the bathroom.

Historically, health recommendations focus on what is right for the general public (such as: “Eat a low fat diet”), not for the individual. You do not want your health to be evaluated on the “average scale,” because what you will end up with is the “average” heart attack.

You will likely cause a chronic illness for yourself if you consistently create the wrong body chemistry through the wrong diet and wrong exercise regimen for whichever of the six different Apo E genotypes you happen to be. That’s why general diet recommendations such as “Eat a low-fat diet” or “Eat a low-carbohydrate diet” are not right for everyone.

For some Apo E genotypes, a low-fat diet can actually create heart disease. So, a logical solution is to learn about the Apo E gene and how it matches your diet and lifestyle.

With our new understanding of the human genome and the arrival of DNA testing, it is possible to recognize interactions between what we eat and how our genes function, and how these interactions may contribute to disease. Diet can change how different genes will express themselves and how they will adapt to different environments.

We now have the technological capability to look at our genetic type in order to determine the likelihood of our developing a chronic disease. If we know our genotype, we can make fundamental decisions for preventing the development of a particular chronic disease. While we don’t yet understand the purpose of all of the genetic information in our bodies, we know enough to apply how certain gene traits interact with particular dietary regimens. This will improve our health today, rather than waiting decades until a disease announces itself with a health crisis.

About Author
Pamela  McDonald
Pamela McDonald is a leading integrative-medicine nurse-practitioner who has devoted her life to the prevention of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and chronic illness. She has had special training in surgery, women’s health care, adult primary ca Continue reading