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The Lifestyle Revolution That Works
Author: Cleaves M. Bennett MD FACP
Monday, January 07, 2008

We all know that we need to take better care of ourselves. We all know that involves eating more healthfully, exercising more regularly and learning how to relax more often. Boring. There are hundreds of programs out there promoting such lifestyle improvements. There are millions of people struggling to follow them and improve their health. And yet, as you read these words, the nation’s health is circling the drain.

Not to worry, Big Pharma promises good health in a bottle. With their multitude of prescription medications they promise much but deliver much less than is wanted and needed. They’ve got great ads on TV. Most of the doctors follow their lead. You see an ad on TV for Beneficion®, your doctor will probably write you an Rx for it because it is easier than arguing with you about it. Most likely he’s got samples in the back the sales rep left to pass out to people just like you.

But I am sorry to bust your balloon, the pills just can’t compensate for an unhealthy lifestyle indefinitely and completely. Pills can delay the onset of heart attacks and strokes and many of the other miseries of aging. But eventually you’re going to end up in a nursing home anyway. Imagine the look on their faces when the poor nurses have to go through and make sense of all the pill bottles in the shopping bag that your family brought in to your doctor to look at.

Only a major lifestyle optimization can be truly preventive. You need to start this as early in life as possible, preferably when you’re still a teen or young adult. The longer the wait, the more the permanent damage.

I have done this as a total program myself. In my 20’s and 30’s I was a sedentary, stressed out, pack-a-day doctor eating a typical high fat/salt diet with a few too many inches around the middle. My grandfather, after whom I am named, was also a doctor. Tragically he had died of a hypertension induced heart attack at age 60 when I was still a baby. In fact, none of the males in my family made it to collect Social Security. I had a just-in-time epiphany which most probably has saved my life, and enriched my senior years.

I quit smoking at age 35 and after 2 or 3 years to clear out my lungs I started jogging. In the late 70’s I worked with Nathan Pritikin, of the lowest fat diet fame, as his first medical director. After a few months of dancing around the edges, I went on his diet very strictly. Over a period of about 12-18 months I dropped my cholesterol 100 points, from 240 to 140. I was jogging 6 to 10 miles a day, lifting weights 3-4 days a week, my waist size was down to about 31 in. and I was in fine shape.

When I turned 50 I ran 2 marathons, during the second improving my time by > ½ hour. With other professionals I directed an outpatient program at the InnerHealth Center in downtown Los Angeles for 10 years. Our mentor and coach was Tim Gallwey, creator of the Inner Game technology for accelerated and successful learning of physical skills such as tennis and golf. His strategy for coaching people in a fitness program was as innovative as it was impactful. We kept the program going for nearly 10 years.

The diet was not as strict but the results were just as impressive. I watched many 100’s of people earn and enjoy the same benefits as I had at the Pritikin center. I wrote and Doubleday books published Control Your High Blood Pressure Without Drugs and a companion cookbook. I am self-republishing them again in 2007. They are even more relevant today than they were 20+ years ago.

Nearly 100% of us become hypertensive before we die. One out of three come down with diabetes, some while still in childhood. It is one out of two in Hispanics and Afro-Americans. One out of four comes down with the deadly triad of high cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar. This combination is associated with a lot of internal inflammation and abnormal clotting of the blood. Doctors call it the “metabolic syndrome”.

This syndrome is deadly. This syndrome kills. People with the metabolic syndrome, beside having more heart attacks and strokes, become diabetic and end up with senile dementia and kidney failure on dialysis in a nursing home. Oh yes, and likely blind with one leg amputated too. This is every senior citizen’s worst nightmare. And 23% of adults have the metabolic syndrome right now. That’s almost one in four Americans. Many of them don’t even know they have it.

I have decided to take on this. I’ve kept my blood pressure and cholesterol low over the next 20+ years and avoided the family genetic curses, high blood pressure and cholesterol and diabetes. I still walk twice daily, seven days a week with my dogs. Mentally I am at the top of my game. I face the world with the same enthusiasm and confidence I had in my 30’s and 40’s. If I can do it, so can you.

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