One day Bill had chest pain. The next week, his quadruple coronary bypass was all over the news, because Bill is President Bill Clinton. Yes, even American presidents can get heart disease. Since his wake-up call, Mr. Clinton has changed his lifestyle quite a bit. He is now off the ribs and fries and is working hard to do his part to prevent heart disease in this country.
Improving your lifestyle after a heart attack or bypass surgery is certainly a step in the right direction, but wouldn’t it be so much better to do so before you end up in the coronary care unit or surgical suite? Or worse, the morgue? Our guests at the Pritikin Longevity Center sometimes complain that they don’t have enough time to exercise. We remind them that they will have plenty of time to exercise, but not much inclination after they are dead.
Heart disease is a great barometer of a lousy lifestyle. Wherever heart disease is epidemic, so are obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, and diabetes. Obviously, few people are heeding the early warning signs, because I don’t know any fellow cardiologists looking for more work. We live in fear of cancer, but heart disease is still the number-one killer in America. I can tell you how to prevent most heart disease simply by changing your lifestyle. What you eat, how often you exercise, how you manage your stress . . . it all matters, and it’s all easier to improve than you might think.
A Long and Delicious Life
In The Pritikin Edge, you will learn the 10 essential ingredients of the Pritikin Program. These 10 Pritikin essentials deal with diet, exercise, and emotional wellness. By adopting these lifestyle practices, as thousands of our patients and participants have, you will get back the seven years of life you might otherwise lose to heart disease. (By the way, if seven years doesn’t seem important to you right now, imagine how much more important they will seem to you when you’re 75.) You will learn how to lose weight permanently without feeling hungry, to cook really tasty, heart-healthy food, the best ways to be physically active, and how to sidestep stress. You will be able to make choices every single day that will contribute to your wellness and enable you to live a long, delicious life.
Lifestyle Changes versus Medication
I love sushi. Almost every day while we had a sushi bar in our hospital, I would eat ahi along with a green salad. One day, without notice, the sushi bar disappeared; it seems it wasn’t making the hospital money. After all, why lose money selling tasty food that just might prevent heart disease when you can get paid a great deal to treat it? Sayonara, sushi bar. Did I complain? You bet! Now it’s back.
This story illustrates the paradox of our unhealthy culture and medical care. When we become ill, we immediately turn to drugs to fix the consequences of a poor lifestyle. We focus on fixing a problem after we’ve created it, rather than trying to prevent it altogether.
Pop a pill, or hop on the treadmill—which is easier? Taking a pill, of course. Which is better? Hands down, preventing the illness that mandates the pill in the first place. When we change our lifestyle, we not only negate the need for costly medications, we lessen our risk of developing a myriad of diseases, including diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and depression, not to mention heart disease, because these common afflictions share many of the same root causes.
I readily admit I will use medications in my practice to lower cholesterol in patients who will not change their lifestyle or for whom this change is not enough. But time and again, I’ve seen that my patients who do lower their cholesterol through diet and exercise rather than medication look and feel better. Yes, they have to put in a little more time and effort than it takes to pry the top off a pill bottle, but the quality of their lives is far superior. They are more physically fit, emotionally engaged, and energized by their ability to improve their well-being.
You May Not Be Ill, But…
Just like illness, health and wellness come in degrees. You may not be ill, but can you run a 6-minute mile—or even a 12-minute mile? You may not be depressed, but are you truly happy? You may not have had a heart attack or stroke yet, but do you really think that all those double cheeseburgers and French fries have not done you any damage?
We call heart disease the silent killer. You usually feel fine the day before a heart attack or stroke, but you are really a coronary time bomb. Did you know that 85 percent of 50-year-old people have blockage in the arteries of their hearts without any symptoms? It is a tragedy that high blood pressure and cholesterol aren’t painful until it is too late.
True wellness is not just the absence of known disease, but also the promise that you will remain well for some time to come. By following the 10 essential ingredients in the Pritikin Program, you are laying the foundation for a lifetime of health.
From THE PRITIKIN EDGE by Robert A. Vogel. Copyright
(c) 2008 by Dr. Robert Vogel and The Pritikin Organization, LLC.
Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.