Thursday, September 15, 2011

More Meds Due to More Laziness?

These days the amount of prescription drug use is at an all-time high.  Between 1999 and 2008, the number of Americans who take at least one prescription drug rose from 43.5% to 48.3%.  And nearly 11% of Americans take five or more prescription drugs.  The numbers continue to rise – it seems that no matter what ails you, the easiest solution is to pop a pill rather than tackle it head-on.  Among the most commonly prescribed drugs are central nervous system stimulants (ADD/ADHD meds) for youths age 12-19, antidepressants for people age 20-59, cholesterol lowering drugs for adults 60 & older, and diuretics & beta-blockers used most often to treat heart problems & high blood pressure in adults of all ages.

There are two primary concerns I have about this finding.  1) The average number of side effects for a prescription drug is 70, but for those listed above can range from 100-500 side effects.  2) Studies have been shown that lifestyle changes and healthier habits can do nearly as much or even more to combat the original condition. 

So, why on earth are we spending so much money and putting ourselves at risk of side effects (some are pretty darn unsavory and quite scary), when all we have to do is take better care of ourselves – lose weight, exercise, eat well?  Here’s some proof in black-and-white that with a little effort, we could reduce our dependency on the script pad. 
·         Many psychologists prescribe exercise to children & adults with ADHD.  Exercise almost immediately elevates dopamine and norepinephrine and keeps them up for a period of time so that it acts like Ritalin or Adderall.  It also helps to lower impulsivity and still the cravings for immediate gratification as it wakes up the function of the frontal cortex, which in turn allows for delay, better choices, and more time to evaluate consequences.
·         Brain researchers & ADHD experts say added protein (including beans, cheese, eggs, meat, and nuts) to improve concentration, limited simple carbohydrates (such as candy, sugar, products made from white flour, white rice, and starchy potatoes), more complex carbohydrates (such as vegetables & fruits), and more omega-3 fatty acids (such as tuna, salmon, walnuts, and olive oil) can alleviate symptoms of ADHD. 
·         Exercise stimulates the brain and releases endorphins – the feel-good chemicals that leave you feeling happier and more relaxed.  A 20-minute sweat session can be enough to perk up your mood for a whopping 12 hours, reports a University of Vermont study.  It may also be as effective as medication for treating depression.  And exercise can lead to changes in the brain that strengthen your resolve against stress. 
·         Research from Florida State University reports that pectin (found in apples, carrots, plums, citrus, cherries, & strawberries) reduces the body’s absorption of cholesterol.  In fact people who ate the pectin found in two fresh apples each day for a year saw a 23% drop in LDL (bad) cholesterol. 
·         Regular physical activity boosts HDL (good) cholesterol while decreasing triglycerides (fatty blood lipids).  
·         Findings in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health show that just 30 minutes of walking three or more times a week can lower your blood pressure by five points.
·         A recent study followed 32,000 subjects for 18 years and found that those who ate the most whole grains (about 46 grams per day) were 19% less likely to be diagnosed with hypertension than those who ate the least.

These are only a few of the hard facts about how exercise and nutrition can help us avoid spending our hard-earned cash on prescription drugs and also help us avoid serious, risky, and unpleasant side effects that come with them.  So, help your kids combat ADHD by getting up and running around the yard with them, then go in and cook them a wholesome meal.  Avoid heart disease and high cholesterol by getting up off your tookus and rake some leaves then help your family make a meal full of whole grains and produce.  You will truly enjoy all the extra time and money you’ll have without prescriptions...especially minus dry mouth, nausea, dizziness, and constipation!

If you’re trips to the pharmacy outnumber your trips to the gym or walks around the neighborhood, or if your pills outnumber your servings of produce, it’s time to combat the condition with some sweat equity.  I will help educate, encourage, and motivate you to reduce your dependency on meds, and increase your quality of life.  Go to to see all the ways I can help you and those you love.  Obesity is 100% preventable – let’s combat the condition today! 

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