Being Overweight – Part IV: Vital Signs and Fixes

Doctor Test Results

As I have noted in previous posts, there are many downsides to being big and overweight.  I hope to cover some of these in terms of Lab Test Results and some other outward appearing things.  Indeed, one of the major reasons for going to vegan, plant-based diet is not the weight loss as much as it is to get my vital signs fixed.

One of the major tenets of going to a plant-based, predominantly oil free diet is the ability to only prevent heart disease, but to actually reverse the negative.   According to Caldwell Esselstyn, MD, the author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, Dr. Esselstyn convincingly argues that a plant-based, oil-free diet can not only prevent and stop the progression of heart disease, but also reverse its effects.

Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease

His wife is also involved and has some suggestions as noted below:

 

Ann Esselstyn’s User-Friendly Rules & Strategies for Making the Heart Disease Prevention & Reversal Diet Work (from HappyHealthlyLongLife.com)

  • No meat, no poultry, no fish–not even salmon
  • No dairy of any kind–not even skim milk or non-fat yogurt.
  • No eggs–not even egg whites or Egg Beaters.
  • No oil–not even virgin olive oil or canola oil
  • Aim for 100% Whole Grain products. Ingredients must say, Whole Wheat, or Whole Buckwheat, Whole Rye,etc. 100% stone-ground wheat is not Whole Wheat unless the word Whole appears.  Forget about semolina flour in pasta.  Forget about white rice.  I thought my Barilla Plus multigrain pasta was fantastic–turns out, semolina is the number one ingredient.
  • Do not drink juice. Fruit is fine.  A little juice used to saute, or season recipes or for salad dressings is fine
  • Do not eat nuts, even walnuts unless you do not have heart disease.
  • Do not eat avocados, if you have heart disease.
  • Do not eat coconut, if you have heart disease.
  • Eat soy products cautiously.  They are high in fat (40% +) and many are highly processed.  Only use Lite Tofu (like Mori-Nu or NaSoya Lite Firm Tofu).  I also use Soy Boy Organic 5 Grain Low Fat Tempeh.
  • Reduce sugar as much as possible.  When you do use it for recipes, stick to the more unprocessed varieties.  But don’t fool yourself, maple syrup, agave, and honey are still sugar. I use stevia.
  • Read all labels, especially THE INGREDIENTS!!!

Honestly, I am nowhere near 100% on this.  I don’t have heart disease, so I do indulge in nuts and avocados. I also use Almond Milk.  We also use brown sugar and some honey in things.  But, we are close in many other aspects.

It is well known that former President Bill Clinton, who was a hamburger snorting fast food junkie, changed to a plant-based diet.  In 2004 he had a heart attack and a quadruple by-pass.  He had stints put in back in February 2010.  He said the following:

“I live on beans, legumes, vegetables, fruit. I drink a protein supplement every morning — no dairy, I drink almond milk mixed in with fruit and a protein powder so I get the protein for the day when I start the day up.

I did all this research, and I saw that 82 percent of the people since 1986 who have gone on a plant-based, no dairy, no meat of any kind, no chicken, no turkey — I eat very little fish, once in a while I’ll have a little fish — if you can do it, 82 percent of people have begun to heal themselves.”

You can read his entire interview with Wolf Blitzer from CNN on the Fanatic Cook blog.

NOW FOR THE HARD STUFF!!

Back in November I visited the doctor for some lab work, a requirement to refill my Synthroid.  I got the lab work done on November 28.  There were a number of surprises and it really made me rethink things….

  • Blood Pressure – My Blood Pressure was something like 162/95.  I had NEVER been that high.  I thought for sure there must have been a mistake.
  • Glucose Level – My Glucose level after the tests was 133 MG/DL.  Once again, the highest I had ever had.  According to my doctor, anything over 126 indicates the onset of Type 2 Diabetes!!  Another real shocker!!  I do not want to become diabetic.
  • Cholesterol – This has been a continuing problem for a number of years.  I was actually surprised that it was lower than it had been in the past, but it was still high at 217 MG/DL. Optimal is 150.
  • HDL Cholesterol (the GOOD stuff) – This should be between 60-120 MG/DL.  Mine was way down there at 37.
  • Triglycerides – Once again, very high at 183 MG/DL.  Should be less than 150
  • LDL Cholesterol (the BAD stuff) – This too was high.  Optimal is nothing more than 99 and the doctor said it really should be below 75.  Mine was a stiff 143 MG/DL!!
  • Glycohemoglobin A1C – Mine registered at 6.5%.  New guidelines by the American Diabetes Association state that a hemglobin A1C level of 5.7-6.4% indicates an increased risk of diabetes.  6.5% or higher is a diagnostic of diabetes.

So, based on these tests I am practically on the verge of Type 2 Diabetes!!  This woke me up!!  Further, Heart Disease appears only a few steps away as well…   I must get out of the trap!

As doctors will do, I was prescribed medication for the “symptoms” of my Diabetes and my High Blood Pressure.  He insisted that I begin taking these, despite my arguments that I can change it through diet and exercise.

Meds: To take or not to take?

For my Diabetes, the doctor prescribed metFormin HCL. This is an antihyperglycemic drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes. Possible serious side effects of Glucophage include shortness of breath even with mild exertion; swelling or rapid weight gain; fever; chills; body aches; or flu symptoms. Less serious side effects include headache or muscle pain, weakness or mild nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, gas, or stomach pain. This is not a complete list of side effects, and others may occur.  Not interested!!

I was also prescribed Lisinopril and Hydrochlorothiazide for my blood pressure. Zestoretic (lisinopril and hydrochlorothiazide) is a drug made from combining two drugs, lisinopril (an angiotension converting enzyme inhibitor) and hydrochlorothiazide ( a diuretic), to form a drug used to treat hypertension. Zestoretic is available in generic form termed lisinopril and hydrochlorothiazide. The most common side effects of Zestoretic are dizziness, headache, cough, fatigue, and dizziness on standing. Serious side effects that may occur with Zestoretic are hypotension (low blood pressure), chest pain, seizures, confusion, shortness of breath, swelling, irregular heartbeats, weakness, severe flu-like symptoms, decreased urination, shock, and gastrointestinal symptoms of nausea, vomiting, cramps.  Once again – Not Interested!!

So, I spent some time this past weekend looking at articles related to plant-based diets and reduction of these.  Dr. Esselstyn, along with Dr. Neal Barnard and Dr. John McDougall, all claim that a plant-based diet can have immediate impact in the reduction of all of these maladies.

Dr. Esselstyn has claimed through research he has done that “if you eat to save your heart, you eat to save yourself from other diseases of nutritional extravagance: from strokes, hypertension, obesity, osteoporosis, adult-onset diabetes, and possibly senile mental impairment, as well. You gain protection from a host of other ailments that have been linked to dietary factors, including impotence and cancers of the breast, prostate, colon, rectum, uterus, and ovaries.

And, according to research by the Total Health Institute, “a review of previously published studies shows that diet provides the protection. “It’s the diet itself, and it is clearly the diet of choice for people who want to get their blood pressure under control,” said Dr. Neal D. Barnard, president and founder of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and co-author of the report. Barnard, an M.D. and a nutritionist, concluded that a person who suffers from hypertension and has yet to switch to a vegetarian diet is “really trying to fight their condition with one arm tied behind their back.”

The reasons for the decrease in blood pressure due to a plant-based diet are many, but the article above points to three main factors:

  1. Weight Loss (which is already happening for me)
  2. Thinner Blood – oily and fatty food cause the blood to thicken (they call it blood “sludge”)
  3. Potassium to Sodium Ratio – A plant based diet is 5 parts Potassium to 1 part Sodium.  A meat based diet is just the opposite.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, has an article about Diet and Type 2 diabetes.  In this article they note that “long-term cohort studies have indicated that whole-grain consumption reduces the risk of both type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In addition, nuts (eg, almonds), viscous fibers (eg, fibers from oats and barley), soy proteins, and plant sterols, which may be part of the vegetarian diet, reduce serum lipids. In combination, these plant food components may have a very significant impact on cardiovascular disease, one of the major complications of diabetes. Furthermore, substituting soy or other vegetable proteins for animal protein may also decrease renal hyperfiltration, proteinuria, and renal acid load and in the long term reduce the risk of developing renal disease in type 2 diabetes. The vegetarian diet, therefore, contains a portfolio of natural products and food forms of benefit for both the carbohydrate and lipid abnormalities in diabetes. It is anticipated that their combined use in vegetarian diets will produce very significant metabolic advantages for the prevention and treatment of diabetes and its complications.

There are lots of big words in all of these, but the bottom line is that a plant-based diet, coupled with exercise, will reduce blood pressure, reverse heart disease and reverse Type 2 Diabetes!!  And that is my ultimate goal in moving in this direction.  I MUST KICK IT AND ENJOY THE BENEFITS without all of the terrible side effects I could experience from the meds.

OTHER POSSIBLE BENEFITS

Over the last few years I have had some bad discoloration on my shins.  This is chiefly due to poor circulation, which has also led to cellulitis. I have had many bouts of swollen legs and feet as a result.  Fortunately, I am still active, but, each night as I sleep, the swelling goes down and I must get up and go to the bathroom every couple of hours.

Nasty Legs

As you can see from the photo above, these legs are not pretty.  They are not painful and they don’t itch.  But they look terrible (only one leg is shown, but both are this way).

Both my wife and I believe that the benefits of the plant based diet will reduce this and perhaps even clear up my legs.  Exercise will help as well.

One of the greatest benefits of all of these other issues, is that as I do the plant based diet I will also lose weight.  I thought I would share something silly here….   I cannot bend down to clip my toe nails.  I can barely reach them thanks to a big belly.  So, I started getting pedicures.  These are quite nice actually and they do a great job.  My granddaughter asked me to get UK Blue toenails on the last trip…so I did.  But, bear in mind, these blue toenails are a result of my being overweight and they are another reminder to me as to why I am staying focused on this plant based vegan diet.

Blue Toenails

So, in review, I have much to benefit from this plant based diet.  As this article notes, the Top Five Benefits of a Plant-Based Diets are as follows:

  1. Lower Cholesterol
  2. Lower Blood Pressure
  3. Prevention of Cancer
  4. Reversal of Heart Disease
  5. Maintenance of healthy weight and fitness

So, this needs to be my new food pyramid:


Plant Based Diet Food Pyramid – Click to see larger


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