Dr. Katz introduces himself and shares great tips on ways women can prevent chronic disease.
Hi, I am David L. Katz. I am Director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center, which is a clinical research facility dedicated for the prevention of chronic disease, in particular obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases. We place a real emphasis on studies that aim at empowering people to improve lifestyle practices--diet, physical activity--we really see those as the cornerstones of health.
I am in internist, so I take care of adults. I have been doing that for about 20 years and for the past ten years of my clinical career, I have been practicing integrative medicine, evidence-based integrative medicine, which is, in essence, an effort to be holistic in clinical practice and to be, in equal parts, responsible about the use of scientific evidence and responsive to the needs of patients that all too often go on when the scientific evidence begins to run rather thin.
In my lab, we do a number of studies in the area of alternative medicine as well so that when we find that the evidence has run thin, our patients have needs that aren’t being addressed, rather than just trying to treat them, we also try to test our hypotheses in the lab to see if we can identify new things that work.
Among the tips I would offer to women about the prevention of chronic disease are these: First, the power is in your hands. As a physician, I often find that patients think I have the power. You know, there’s stuff I can do–I can prescribe drugs, I can recommend surgery, I can diagnose conditions that you couldn’t figure out on your own, but most of what I do, and really most of what health care does, is attend to disease.
At best, we prevent it with vaccines and we find it early with screening, but the real power of chronic disease prevention resides in the decisions you make every day, whether to take the stairs or the elevator, whether to park at the far end of the parking lot or spend an extra ten minutes prowling around for the spot closest to the mall, whether to think a little bit more about the food that you are eating or you are feeding your family, and realize we truly are what we eat.
The nutrients we extract from food are used to build the growing bodies of our children and they are used to replace the cells that our body sloughs off every day. So, decisions you make, the way you use your feet and your fork every day, powerfully influence your health.
Chronic disease prevention really is all about living well. So tip one, the power resides with you. Tip two, even if you have genetic predispositions to chronic disease, some recent research has shown that time-honored choice between nature and nurture, that it’s either our genes or it’s our environment, is a false choice. We can actually nurture nature.
You can even change the behavior of your genes. You can change gene expression by living well, by not smoking, by trying to get enough sleep, controlling stress, eating well, being physically active, and I am not saying these things are easy to do. They are hard to do and we need policies and programs to make them easier to do, but they are doable, and partly getting there from here resides in motivation and knowing how truly important this is. So, that would be tip two. Even your genes are not your destiny. The power to prevent chronic disease is overwhelmingly about how you live your life.
Tip three: No man is an island and no woman is an island either. There’s a very good chance you live with other people. You may be a wife, you may be a girlfriend, you may be a mother. You can pay health forward and when you pay health forward, it gets paid back to you, and what I mean by that is, if you engage the people that you love and the people who love you and the people you depend on and who depend on you in efforts to be more healthful, to live better every day, you will find that in unity there is strength.
If you are a mom, you can engage children in this. I know. I have been there. I have five kids of my own. I have been there with my patients innumerable times. You can talk to your kids about why this matters. You can engage their support for eating better. You can get them involved and if you do get them involved, you will be imparting to your children the gift of lifelong good health. There is no greater gift a parent can give a child.
So, think about your whole family. Don’t think about trying to go it alone. Women really are the gatekeepers to the health of the whole family. That may feel like extra work to you, but it’s not just that because if you engage your family, you’ll discover that in unity there is strength. They will strengthen you and make it easier for you to achieve this.
And then, the final tip is this: The things that we look at as chores and challenges and burdens with regard to chronic disease prevention can be viewed completely differently. They can be viewed as blessings. Yes, we want to enjoy food. It should be convenient. It should be economical. It should taste good. We want to love food, but don’t we want the food to love us back too?
There is pleasure that comes from eating things that taste good. There’s pleasure that comes from feeling good. You shouldn’t have to choose between the two. If you empower yourself with information, knowledge, you can learn ways to create food that you still will love and even your kids will love, but that loves you back, and I have extensive experience putting this theory to the test. It really can work, and similarly physical activity.
You know, we live in a society where we think about using pedometers to count our steps. Okay, that’s fine, and it seems to work, but shouldn’t we count our blessings that we can take steps? You see someone in a wheelchair; you feel sorry for them that they can’t use their legs the way the rest of us can and yet those of us who can use our legs, all too often simply squander that opportunity. Take joy in your native animal vitality. You have a body laden with muscles that were designed to move. Move them and relish it and look for activities that you enjoy, whether it’s walking or dancing, but that tip that we can get to health in the pursuit of pleasure and pleasure in the pursuit of health.
About Dr. Katz, M.D., M.P.H.:
David L. Katz M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.P.M., F.A.C.P., is an internationally renowned authority on nutrition, weight management, and the prevention of chronic disease, and an internationally recognized leader in integrative medicine and patient-centered care. He is a board certified specialist in both Internal Medicine, and Preventive Medicine/Public Health, and Associate Professor (adjunct) in Public Health Practice at the Yale University School of Medicine. Dr. Katz is the Director and founder (1998) of Yale University's Prevention Research Center, Director and founder of the Integrative Medicine Center at Griffin Hospital (2000) in Derby, CT, and founder and president of the non-profit Turn the Tide Foundation.