Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Do It Yourself Health

I am a big fan of the “Do It Yourself” and “Home and Garden” networks. These stations constantly air shows that provide homeowners the knowledge and courage to make lasting improvements to their home and yards. By simplifying the steps and providing detailed information about the process, these shows invite reluctant individuals into an uncharted territory and guide them through the terrain. The individual is still required to complete the task, the hard work has to be done at home; but the confidence from having a detailed plan, available resources, and a guide form the valuable base that is the successful starting point for any project.

The pursuit of health is always a “do it yourself” project. It has become shockingly obvious that individuals can no longer just walk into a doctor’s office and expect in 15 minutes to have their health concerns addressed and fixed. Health requires a proactive approach and the belief that the individual can direct their own healing with the support of a holistic medical team and the most up to date information.

Realizing that shift from the passive observer simply watching on the couch, to the active creator manifesting the vision for health and wellness is a beautiful phenomenon. It may not happen suddenly, but instead be the collaborative result of glimpses of health, gleaned initially through personal research – online, through books, from friends, from attending a health talk around town, shopping at the local health food store, etc. Any of these can prove to be the initial catalyst that sparks a more profound change in health. These opportunities are the “Do It Yourself” health shows all around you. If your health, if your life needs improvement, turn these channels on and let the information begin to flow. When the time is right and you are ready to invest in your health, the pieces will fall together. The more preparation you do, the smoother your journey will be.

Don't wait... Get started today.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Blood Sugar Screening - what the numbers don't say

I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work at multiple health fairs throughout the year in my surrounding community. I always enjoy meeting other healthcare providers and talking with the various employees and participants about their journey to health. It feels particularly good to reach so many individuals during a single day.
A couple weeks ago while spending the day at a health fair, I was concerned by something I overheard a employee say. I thought it would provide a useful and educational anecdote for people concerned about nutritional health.

The story happened something like this:
There was a nurse down at the other end of the room. She was doing finger sticks and checking employee's blood sugars as a basic diabetes screening. It was a simple test and most of the participants that weren't afraid of needles were having their numbers evaluated. A group of women, having just had their blood sugars checked, progressed across the room towards my table. While standing in front of me, a particular woman boasted of her food choices for the day: "Pancakes from McDonalds, hashbrowns, 2 soft drinks, and a cookie from the insurance table just across the way. Guess what? Her blood sugar was only 78." She smiled and gave herself a nod of approval at her excellent number.

In retrospect, I would have slowed my immediate response, but I was so upset by the inefficiency of this test in this particular moment that I jumped right in with an assessment of the situation. The woman was overweight and quite typically carrying the majority of her excess adipose tissue around her abdominal area. What I let her know, was that in order for her body to produce a blood sugar of 78 on this day following the food choices she had made, her pancreatic beta cells had to produce significantly more insulin than required had her food choices been different. Based on the blood sugar reading, it succeeded. But the extra insulin required to control the sugar spike from the foods consumed conveys a message to the body. The abundance of insulin tells the body, we have an excess of easy energy right now, the best thing to do is store it as fat for a later use. In addition to causing the body to store the consumed calories as fat, the insulin is also pro-inflammatory throughout the body. When this message and these signals are repeated day in and day out the end result is always the same => the individual is overweight and on the road to becoming a type II diabetic.
This is the risk with isolated screenings that do not consider the individual within the context of the big picture. Even though the number may look good today, the long term risks are compiling because the lifestyle factors are being neglected.