Management and maintenance of a healthy weight is central to cardiovascular risk and health. Many of the cardiovascular ‘risk factors’ which predict your future health are linked and driven by an unhealthy diet, lifestyle and excess weight. This insidious process starts in early adulthood — as demonstrated in autopsy evidence of young men from the Vietnam war which showed early fatty streaks in coronary arteries — and slowly but silently progresses in the background until you develop the early signs, usually in middle age.
I try to encourage my patients not to consider high blood pressure or cholesterol an inevitable consequence of aging or an isolated illness. A better view point is to see these numbers as a ‘thermometer’ (or gauge) of your general health . . . a pre-illness that can be reversed — the gauge can swing in both directions but will naturally progress if not addressed. If you have just been diagnosed with high blood pressure it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to treat the symptoms or sign with tablets (although these are important treatments) but more importantly the underlying cause — in most cases that you are out of shape (are not exercising enough), are eating poorly and are overweight. If you are further along this health pathway and require important tablet treatments then its still not too late — you can reverse the journey.
Many of the patients that we now see with heart disease have had these silent but progressive pre-illness diagnoses for some time but unfortunately did not identify or address the problem appropriately. ‘Metabolic syndrome’ refers to the individual who is overweight, has high blood pressure, borderline or overt diabetes and an unhealthy cholesterol profile — this is a powerful cocktail for atheroma formation (fatty plaque deposits in arteries). If you want an image of ‘metabolic syndrome’ think of a middle aged man with a large beer belly — he probably also snores loudly at night and has ‘obstructive sleep apnoea’ (expanded on in due course, see READ). Therefore for many of us weight management will improve blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and overall risk. Also it makes you feel better about yourself, improves energy, fitness, reduces breathlessness, arthritic pains (by reducing the load on your joints and your bodies general inflammation) etc. etc. . . not only does it improve your prognosis (i.e. how long you live), it also improves your quality of life.
If you want to lose weight and improve your blood pressure and cholesterol (without committing to a future of long-term and escalating tablets) then you can make dramatic and exciting improvement in the short term as long as you are consistent. Many of us in the specialist medical and scientific community are massively frustrated by all the misinformation, spin and propaganda that exists in this arena — it’s a huge industry and many unqualified sources have forged a whole career around this subject without any expertise. If you think about it, its not in their interest for you to find a long term simple solution that leaves them out of the loop. The food industry has made things worse via marketers ‘adding value’ to diet products or foods or deciding how they can exploit the latest health fad.
The following is not a ‘plan’ or ‘programme’ — it is simply a list of basic and fundamental dietary and lifestyle rules, based on contemporary evidence (and I’m not talking about an obscure new ‘ground breaking’ bit of lab research that the media love to report or ‘cherry-picking’ of research studies to prove a pre-conceived opinion) that if followed will lead to guaranteed weight loss without too much effort but needs motivation and commitment.
One month to change your life . . .