2006 IS here. Where has 2005 gone? If you think back, what have you achieved of your 2005 New Year’s resolutions? Did you quit smoking? Did you lose weight? Did you really exercise as much as you said you would this time last year? Are you going to start all over again this year exactly the same way and fail – once more – exactly the same way?
Boring, frustrating and very disappointing. Shall we then stop all of this nonsense about resolutions that we can never keep, reflect on the past 12 months and look ahead to a more realistic approach in changes that we can really make to improve our quality of life and health this New Year and all the New Years to come? We must look at it as a whole, not as separate parts.
Metabolic syndrome isn’t a disease
Lifestyle changes are viewed as more and more important, now that so many people are overweight and obese, diabetes is turning into a real epidemic and cardiovascular diseases and strokes are killing and incapacitating ever more. We are now aware of the newly called metabolic syndrome that considers all these as an overall threatening health problem.
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of disorders of the body’s metabolism and describes a high-risk population having three or more of the following clinical characteristics: upper-body obesity, hypertriglyceridemia, low HDL (the good cholesterol), hypertension and abnormal glucose, all associated with increased levels of C-reactive protein (CRP). People who have these are more likely to develop diabetes, heart disease or stroke.
Each of these disorders is, by itself, a risk factor for other diseases. In combination, though, these disorders dramatically boost your chances of developing potentially life-threatening illnesses.
Sometimes, the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts and such is the case with metabolic syndrome, which is common and becoming more prevalent. As many as one in four American adults and 40 per cent of adults aged 40 or older have metabolic syndrome, an increase of 61 per cent over the last decade.
Actually, this powerful predictor of disease is a valuable preventive tool. Doctors have defined the syndrome more clearly and developed guidelines for diagnosing it, giving people the opportunity to make aggressive lifestyle changes today that can delay or derail the development of serious diseases.
Make healthy lifestyle choices
The president of the American Medical Association says: “It is important that we develop positive lifestyle habits that we can work on in 2006 and carry with us throughout our lives” – very good advice and the best for everybody.
When making healthy lifestyle choices take lifestyle habits as a whole enhancing quality of life, not just considering one or two things that will not work in an isolated way because they are integrated factors – and because the full motivation is not there.
Healthy living includes daily exercise, a well balanced diet and staying away from tobacco and excessive drinking. But, before beginning any new exercise programme, it is a good idea to consult with your physician.
These resolutions are simply a few of the things that can be done to make positive, healthy lifestyle changes.
The futility of dieting
There is still no compelling evidence that dieting by itself produces permanent weight loss, rather the ongoing debates that serve only to distract the ever-increasing population of overweight in the world from making the changes that could result in permanent weight loss or at least a reduction in the rate of weight gain.
Back at least 180 years, French attorney Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin warned consumers of high-carbohydrate diets that they would “die in your own melted grease”.
Even diets that don’t completely prohibit categories of food often ignore the fact that people are eating larger quantities of whatever foods are allowed. In addition to the super-sized portions offered at fast-food restaurants, portion sizes served at home have been increasing. For example, one study found that homemade cheeseburgers were 25 per cent larger and contained an additional 136 calories compared with typical cheeseburgers 20 years earlier.
The focus of diets on what to eat and not to eat ignores the reality that we eat for reasons other than nutritional replenishment. Eating is often used as a method for coping with stress and negative emotional states such as depression, anxiety, anger, boredom or loneliness. Since dieting doesn’t address these issues and may actually increase negative emotions, it isn’t likely to produce permanent weight loss and very often may result in weight gain!
Rather than concentrating on the relative merits of different diets, physicians must correct the black-or-white thinking implicit in dieting and help patients to understand the different reasons why they are over-eating and under-exercising. It would then be possible to suggest practical changes that would reduce unnecessary eating, increase routine physical activity and help patients regulate their weight.
A better understanding of the role of genetics in determining fat distribution could avoid some of the demoralisation that occurs when weight loss doesn’t result in an ideal physique. In addition to individual changes, a more comprehensive strategy would include social and environmental changes that would help prevent obesity. At the very least, improving eating and exercise habits should slow the rate of weight gain that typically comes with ageing.
Please do not let yourself die prematurely
In this New Year, thousands of people will become ill and many will die prematurely for reasons that are entirely preventable. In 2006, without question, you should continue to turn to your physician to provide the highest quality of care for you and your family. If that’s the case, perhaps you will have better luck if you look at your resolutions as something the doctor ordered.
Get a life, a good quality one, and do not go through it ignoring reality. Not to let ourselves die prematurely should be everyone’s New Year’s resolution.
Best health wishes for 2006 … and all the New Years to follow!
Dr. Maria Alice