Walk With the Doc
 Saturday August 12th, 7:00 am

    What is Lifestyle Medicine?

     The medical practice of prevention and
wellness has a new name.  It’s now recognized
as a certified specialty called Lifestyle
Medicine.  In essence, it is a specialty that
takes a scientific approach to decreasing
disease risk and illness burden by utilizing
lifestyle interventions such as nutrition,
biblioherapy, weight loss, physical activity,
stress reduction, sleep, smoking cessation,

      Perhaps you are thinking, “Why a new
specialty, isn’t that what my doctor already
does?”  Unfortunately, an increasing emphasis
over the last fifty years on training doctors to
understand and use the latest technologies
diminished the time doctors had to study natural

     While technology has brought progress it
has often been at high cost and to the exclusion
of time to practice more natural approaches that
can often produce better results.  Until more
widely understood by the public and insurance
companies as a valuable medical intervention,
lifestyle medicine is unlikely to be widely
practiced.  As with most changes in society, this
will take time.   Fortunately, an abundance of
quality research now supports the science of
lifestyle medicine.                        

      Lifestyle medicine is about helping you
identify habits that have created illness or will in
the future.  Creating a partnership to change
these long held habits is the goal.  Typically this
begins with a diagnoses and an explanation of
alternative treatments.  With the will to change
and a positive partnership with your doctor,
amazing results are often possible without
advanced technology and with fewer side

     As you read the short list of lifestyle
suggestions below, ask yourself, “which area of
my life would I benefit from changing?”

               Prepare Food at Home

     Home is where you have more control over
food quality.  Enjoy home food preparation with
in season fruits and vegetables.  When they are
out of season, frozen vegetables and fruits are
fine.  When properly stored, frozen vegetables
and fruits have an advantage.  Fresh produce
can lose nutrients after several days of storage,
while frozen produce doesn’t suffer that fate.  

     For a special treat, shop at one of the many
local farmers markets.  While there, select a
bouquet of locally grown flowers for a gift. It’s the
guaranteed way to make someone’s day

                   Eat whole grains.

     Be aware that few products claiming whole
grains are quite as healthy as they would like
you to believe.    Real whole grains are seeds
and that’s what they should look like. Once
milled, they take other forms like cut oats and
flour. The problem with milling grains smaller is
that each stage of milling increases the
glycemic index.  Cooking with whole grains
offers opportunities for delicious meals with a
lower glycemic index plus many nutritional
benefits.  If you have never seen a wheat berry,
perhaps it’s time for a cooking adventure.  Try
them all – wheat, oats, quinoa, barley,
buckwheat, etc.

 Reducing portion size

     Reducing portion size and eating lower
glycemic foods are among the top ways to take
off pounds, live longer and enjoy those years
with a higher quality of life.  Unfortunately, few
food labels show the glycemic index.  To find
the glycemic index of your favorite foods just set
your search term to ‘glycemic index.’

 Include Nuts in Diet

     Include nuts in your diet unless you are
allergic to them.  Eating a small amount of nuts
a day (about 8 almonds or 6 cashews) can
lower the risk for heart disease, respiratory
disease, and cancer according to studies of
people aged 55-65.  The danger is that eating
larger quantities of nuts will likely lead to weight
gain. If you find it hard to only eat a few then
switch to raw unsalted nuts.  They may be a
better choice to avoid overeating.  As an
alternative, only bring home the quantity you
plan to eat before the next shopping trip.  

   Stronger Relationships

     Having strong ties to friends and family is
good for health.  In contrast, loneliness can
weaken the immune system, raise blood
pressure and increase risk for heart attacks and
stroke.  Face to face social interactions often
provide the most benefit.  For some, pets
provide a social interaction benefit.  If more of
an introvert, online social networking can
provide some of the same benefits.

     Reading provides a health benefit.  When a
doctor recommends a book it’s called
bibliotherapy – and often the best medicine
available.  Depending on the book you may find
reading a source of mental stimulation,
relaxation or simply a diversion from problems
of life with no immediate solution.  Books seem
to provide the most benefit with newspapers
and magazines a close second. A half hour a
day of reading is usually about the right dose for
health benefits.


     Walking is good.  There is no pill that comes
close to having all the healthful advantages
exercise can provide.  Just 10 minutes of brisk
walking a day makes a difference.  If needed,
start slow and build up to 20-30 minutes a day.  
When out and about, avoid the easy way.  Take
the stairs instead of the elevators.  At the store,
park in the farthermost parking place so you can
walk more.  As a bonus, you and your car will
both age more slowly.  Well, at the least your car
should look newer for having fewer door dings.

                      Home Safety

     Know what to do if there is a fire in your
home. Based on routine stories in the news, not
everyone understands the importance of this
advice.  Most underestimate how fast a fire can
envelop a home. The key is preplanning escape
routes. Can you open a window if needed?  Are
doors blocked or locked  in ways that would
make them difficult to open? Most important,
have you checked the battery in your smoke
detector. If your smoke detector is over ten
years old, it’s time to replace it. If you have a
non electric heater, check the status of your
carbon monoxide monitors. And of course know
the radon level in your home. These are among
the most common causes of unintentional

 Attention to Changes

     See your family doctor before problems put
you in the hospital.   Don’t wait for annual
checkups to ask about a health concern.  Small
problems sometimes morph into a life-
threatening illness. In one study, researchers
found that less than 60 percent of people who
developed unusual symptoms in the previous
three months had seen a doctor. For example,
symptoms that might point to cancer include
unexplained weight loss, fever, extreme fatigue,
changes in bowel or bladder habits and unusual
bleeding.  A patch of rough, dark skin could
indicate diabetes, and a strange color on your
tongue could signal acid-reflux issues.

     There is much more to Lifestyle Medicine.  
Having the best health involves many aspects of
life. In a quest for better ways to help patients
appreciate better eating habits, I recently
completed training in “Chef Coaching” though
an innovative Harvard University program.  You
may reasonably expect to hear more from me
about preparing nutritious and healthy home
cooked foods.  While becoming a better home
chef may seem a small part of the quest for
health, it’s actually one of the major pillars of
good health.  

     Positive lifestyle changes can help improve
the quality of life now and for the rest of our life.
If you picked one lifestyle change, what would it
be?   For myself, I’m choosing a walk Saturday
morning. Why not join me?

     Nancy Neighbors, MD

                  Let’s take a walk

Saturday, August 12h

  Location: Jones Family Park (see map)

 Time: 7:00 am (Meet in front of Yogurt Mt.)

Yogurt Mt. is the last store at the end of Valley Bend
Shopping Center).  If cloudy, bring an umbrella, we walk
come rain or shine.  

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ideas about healthy living from Dr. Neighbors
please phone (256) 882-6085.