Doctor’s Orders

A friend of mine found out her blood pressure is higher than normal. Of course, the first conversation the doctor has is about medicine. Then suggests she check her blood pressure everyday for a few weeks and cut out sodium. But no mention of healthier diet or even exercise beyond that. In my personal experience, exercise is one of the easiest ways to bring blood pressure down, especially for someone young who isn’t exercising (she isn’t). And I thought I’d read that they were inconclusive on whether sodium even caused increased blood pressure. But maybe they reversed that reversal? Anyway, why is the only focus on sodium? I know her diet, and it’s not great. Far from it. Give her one or two goals: Eat fast food two less meals a week. Get at least two servings of fruits or vegetables a day (many people don’t get ANY!). Anything. Cutting down on sodium is so vague for many people. Most of us don’t realize which foods are high in sodium. Now, I wasn’t there. I can’t speak for how she responded or whether she guided the doctor’s approach by being closed off to change. But I feel like most people WANT to change, they just have a hard time figuring out which pieces are the most important to start with. We all eat so terribly and the media overloads us with drivel about even healthy foods being bad. So we assume we’re just as well eating fast food as to eating non-organic spinach. And maybe we are. But I doubt it.

The funny thing is, it seems like most doctors default to medicine. Why don’t they say, “OK, you need to do x, y and z for the next month, then come back for a follow-up.” Or if it takes longer than a month, three months, depends on the situation, obviously. Why aren’t doctors more actively involved in using natural remedies for our health problems? My doctor’s first response when I asked to talk to her about my cholesterol numbers was that she wasn’t ready to put me on medicine, yet. I love my doctor. I’ve found she gives me more time and attention and listens better than many of my friends’ doctors. However, assuming when I said I wanted to talk about my cholesterol meant I was ready to get on medicine irked me. And I know that’s her learned reaction, probably because most of America DOES want the quick/easy fix. So I can’t blame her for taking the path of least resistance. She seemed refreshed when I said, “Give me a starting point. The most important things I can do.” And then she really dug into my numbers, talking about how she can tell I’m eating healthy fats and working out since my HDL numbers were really high. She discussed ratios, and pointed out that my triglycerides were high, but that could have been because of diet (for example, maybe I drank alcohol or ate a fatty meal) the day before. 

Then, she discussed my numbers with family history and the things I should start doing now such as taking a lower dose niacin pill, replace processed and white foods with healthier/whole versions, and avoid higher fat dairy and meat products. She also said to continue taking fish oil pills, and it was especially important to continue working out regularly. These were very easy things for me to incorporate. And luckily my parents had already done some research on niacin, so choosing a niacin pill was easy. I was already trying to avoid the higher fat dairy and meat products (although I do have a penchant for cheese and breakfast sausage). And I rarely eat white pasta, bread or rice. I also am pretty good at not having processed foods around the house like cookies, cakes, chips, etc.

But, I do struggle with eating out. And when I eat out, making good choices.

So my goal was to consistently take my fish oil and niacin (consistency has been a problem), eat out LESS (meaning less than I was, not try to give it up all together), keep working out, and cut back on alcohol intake (which leads to eating more junk and not working out).

So far this year, I’d give myself a solid B. Could I have done better? Sure. But I’ve done pretty well. I’ve been working out consistently since December. I eat out a lot less. And I’ve been about 5/7 on taking my fish oil and niacin.

We’ll see how diet and exercise treat me in my upcoming cholesterol test! I have faith my cholesterol can be controlled by being healthier. And it was nice having realistic goals for changes for this year. And I plan to expand on those changes this coming year and already have some ideas in mind: having at least three vegetarian/vegan meals a week, only eating out two meals a week (including breakfast, which has strangely been my downfall recently), drinking no more than twice a week, no more than three drinks a setting. I’ve already been working on this third one and mostly only drink once a week, and I’ve surprised myself with how well I’ve done on a two or three drink maximum. In my past, I was drinking A LOT. More than once a week. And the resulting hangover was a huge hitch in being healthier, so I’ve been working on that one already but want to make it an official goal for the next year.

After I get my results, I’ll make a more specific list!

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