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Experience with Lifestyle Medicine

{Editor: Thanks Andrew for sharing your story so that others can hear}

Seventeen years ago, I missed out on an opportunity to learn.

A group of us were having our blood pressure taken as part of a routine screening and I was flagged for extra monitoring. It was pretty annoying because the nurses would wake me up and check my pressure while it was still dark out and everyone else got to sleep in. Eventually they were able to confirm that it wasn't just a fluke: I had hypertension.

At first I thought it was a mistake. I was one of the most chilled-out dudes I knew and I thought it meant that I was really tense. I told my therapist about it and she laughed. No, it meant that my blood pressure was higher than it should be. But she was surprised at my diagnosis. I was only 23 that was quite young to have hypertension.

Eventually, I was in the office of a medical doctor, and he wanted me to take drugs. I didn't like the sound of that. I told him it sounded like the sort thing that I could change on my own. I thought maybe the readings were off because I drank too much Mountain Dew and the caffeine was skewing the results.

He told me that my hypertension was genetic and that taking pills was the only way to fix it. But he would let me have a couple weeks to cut down on soda to see if it changed anything. I did cut out most of my Dew intake, but the hypertension didn't go away. I agreed to take pills for the rest of my life.

He had lied to me.

He was probably a really busy guy. Doctors are really important and they have lots of patients, and if a patient just wants to argue it probably doesn't make their day any easier.

If I had known the truth about the cause of my hypertension, I and my family would be a lot better off today.

Doctor visits became a regular part of my life. I was put on medication for what I thought was a long-term chronic illness. My prescription needed to be renewed every few months. A nurse would weigh me, take my blood pressure and a doctor would spend about three or four minutes to ask me which pharmacy I wanted to pick up my pills at. 

Basically, they were charging me nearly two hundred dollars to take my blood pressure, and this went on for 13 years.

As the years went on, I began to get worried. It was getting worse. They had to keep increasing my dosage of enalapril, and eventually I was on the highest dose they could prescribe me. I didn't know what would happen if things went on.

One day I heard about a doctor that was helping lots of people by teaching them how to make healthy choices in their diet and lifestyle. He was doing so as part of a non-profit organization, and he was donating all his proceeds to charity. His name was Dr. Greger, the founder of Later I learned that he also worked closely with the Humane Society, an organization through which my family had always adopted our pets.

There were a lot of people that hated Dr. Greger, but many of my online friends thought very highly of him. I didn't understand nutrition very well, but I found his Daily Dozen checklist and tried to follow it as best I could.

I began to learn that some foods may actually have a positive impact on health. Some of them might even reverse chronic diseases. His reasoning was simple: many of the dietary interventions only cost a few pennies, and even if they don't work, at least the food tasted great. Why not try it?

Eventually, I learned that many claimed to have cured hypertension through their diet. That sounded amazing! At the same time, I wondered why I had never heard of this before.

I began to apply Dr. Greger's advice and dug deeper into his specific recommendations. At the same time, I was still taking my hypertension meds.

Ideally, I would have been doing this with my doctor's help, working together as a team. Making large lifestyle changes without a doctor's supervision is never recommended, especially for those with a chronic condition. But doctors are expensive and food is cheap and I was broke. There was no way I could afford to see a doctor just to talk about food.

I began to apply specific strategies to overcome hypertension,  something that I had formerly thought of as a chronic, incurable condition. I only used common ingredients that can be found at nearly every grocery store in America.

Then one day I felt sick. Something just wasn't right with me, and I was far from home and it was so bad that I couldn't drive. I pulled into a parking lot and tried to sleep it off. Eventually I made it home safely.

I began to suspect what the problem was, and went to a Walmart to confirm it with one of their free-to-use blood pressure monitoring stations: my nutritional interventions had worked so well, along with my prescribed medication, that by blood pressure was now lower than I had ever seen it: the top number was 105.

I had no, and still do not have, medical insurance and there was no way I could afford another $200 five-minute visit to the doctor's office. So I did the only thing I could: I began to break little pieces off of my enalapril, and the dizziness and nausea went away.

Monitoring my blood pressure became a daily obsession. Sometimes I would check it even more than once a day. I would visit different stores and use different machines to confirm that the readings were accurate. What I was doing was extremely dangerous, but I had no other choice.

I found out that healthy populations tend to have a blood pressures with a top number, or systolic pressure, of 105. So every time my blood pressure would get that low I would reduce my medication a little more. Rinse and repeat. Again, the high cost of healthcare made consultation with a doctor completely prohibitive and I had no other choice. If I didn't reduce my meds, it definitely would have been harmful, possibly fatal.

Eventually, the lifestyle interventions that I had learned about worked so well that my hypertension was completely reversed, and I was forced to stop taking all of my medication. After increased dosages over a period of thirteen years, lifestyle-based medicine, i.e. nutrition, helped me to reverse a chronic disease in only a few weeks. This was years ago, and it still hasn't returned.

I'm not going to list the specific recommendations of Dr. Greger that I followed. They can be found on his website, and in his book, "How Not to Die."  But I can tell you that they are inexpensive, and that healthy food can taste great, even better than junk food once your tastes adjust to it.

If the advice of lifestyle doctors like Dr. Greger don't work for you, the only thing you will lose out on is a few months of junk food. If lifestyle medicine works, it can protect you and those you love.

KenJaques 12 days ago 0 119
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