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Lifestyle Medicine for Diabetes and Hypertension

June 30, 2020

COVID-19 and current events have all culminated into a proverbial stress-test for the American nation. This stress has increased not only on the mental-emotional level of the collective, but has also revealed weaknesses in many social structures, including American healthcare and the nation’s chronic disease burden. This is evident as statistics are starting to reveal that those who are more susceptible to severe illness from COVID-19 include older adults and people who have serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, obesity and lung disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2017-2018 the prevalence of obesity among U.S. adults was 42.4%; 40% among younger adults aged 20-39, 44.8% among middle aged adults aged 40-59, and 42.8% among older adults aged 60 and over. Obesity increases risk of developing other chronic diseases such as heart disease, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes. Nearly half of adults in the United States (108 million, or 45%), have hypertension. Only about 1 in 4 adults (24%), have their condition under control. Additionally about 54% of strokes and 47% of coronary heart disease, worldwide, are attributable to hypertension.

About 32 million Americans have Type 2 diabetes, and 88 million American adults have pre-diabetes. Type 2 diabetes increases risk of developing high cholesterol, heart disease, kidney disease and obesity.

The chronic conditions mentioned above are interrelated, arise from similar root causes and can put one at further risk for developing another chronic condition. For many Americans, reducing risk for severe health complications of both the acute and chronic nature starts with awareness, prevention and early chronic disease intervention. Many integrative physicians are knowledgeable and willing to help.

It must be called to attention that a disproportionate burden of illness and death has occurred amongst racial and ethnic minority groups in America due to COVID-19, particularly amongst black Americans. Historical and modern issues relating to systemic racism, such as chronic underlying health conditions, health care disparities, and lack of health insurance, all increase the vulnerability of minorities to this pandemic.

Know the Signs and Symptoms
Medical evaluation is key in order to be aware of health risks. If possible, schedule yearly visits with a PCP in order to get necessary check-ups. Many chronic diseases are “silent” for many years before they cause overt issues. Some symptoms are more obvious than others.

Type 2 diabetes: Frequent infections, fatigue, frequent urination, increased hunger, increased thirst, blurred vision.

Hypertension: Headache, chest pain, fatigue, difficulty breathing, irregular heartbeat.

Know Your Numbers
How does one know he or she may be at risk for developing chronic disease if many of the symptoms may be silent? The answer lies in being familiar with blood work numbers and what risk they may pose. If possible get blood work run at least once per year upon visits with a PCP, request an explanation behind the meaning of the blood work. Keep a binder in order to stay abreast of personal health trends.

Numbers to know: Blood pressure, heart rate, fasting glucose, hemoglobin A1c, fractionated cholesterol, Vitamin D3, TSH, free T3, free T4, thyroid peroxidase and thyroglobulin antibodies, hormone levels.

Stress Reduction
Chronic stress has been shown to be associated with prevalence of coronary heart disease, stroke and major CVD risk factors including diabetes, hypertension and smoking. Many integrative physicians will recommend stress reducing techniques and tools to mitigate the havoc stress wreaks on the body. These interventions may include deep breathing, counseling, exercises, herbs, nutritional therapy, homeopathy, acupressure or acupuncture.

Try this: 4-7-8 Breathing by Dr. Andrew Weil.

 
Food as Medicine
In this world with so many options, it can be difficult to pursue a new health journey. The best way to start any journey is to keep it simple.

  • Shop the perimeter: Upon entering many major grocery stores it is evident that much of the processed foods are positioned in the center of the store, while the nutritionally dense produce and protein options exist in
    the perimeters.
  • Looking to reduce exposure to pesticides? Start with the “Clean 15, Dirty Dozen” from the Environmental Working Group.
  • Increase low glycemic foods, decrease high glycemic foods. The glycemic index is a measurement of how much a food increases blood sugar. The higher the glycemic index of a food, the more harmful it is to the cardiovascular system.

Increase Exercise
Physical activity has the ability to lower blood pressure, increase blood glucose control, promote weight loss, and lower stress levels. The addition of both aerobic and resistance exercise into a daily regimen can drastically improve health outcomes (consult with a physician to learn what is individually safe).

Tip: Studies show at least 150 min/week of physical activity is optimal. Start with walking!
 
Start slow and remember health is a journey!

 
Dr. Tracey sees patients in both West Hartford and Manchester at Collaborative Natural Health Partners. She is an in-network provider for most insurance companies and is accepting new patients. For more information or questions, please call 860.533.0179 or visit: www.ctnaturalhealth.com.

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