Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Genes or choices?

Quite a few emails land in my box every week, I try and answer them all, eventually. I like to hear what you are getting up to, and it's nice that my blogging efforts are appreciated. I've picked this one out to reply here, I know who sent it but I shall leave the name off, I don't need to identify the writer.

Hi Ilona,
I am almost 4 1/2 years older than you are and I am wondering if your diet and lifestyle are keeping you off all medications?  I am pretty fit but have had to take a statin to control my cholesterol and now fosamax to help my bones.  I also take vitamins.  I am also warned that I am pre-diabetic.
I know you eat a vegetarian diet and I do not.  Also you walk SO far.  I do 2 miles every day but that's it.
I am not sure if it is your lifestyle or your genetics which keep you so healthy!
Thanks.

Hi. So I am 65 and you are 69, not much between us. It's difficult to say why one person appears to be healthy and another has problems, there are so many variables to be taken into consideration. I suspect that genetics do play a big part in our makeup, we can inherit the wrong genes from our parents and grandparents, but they are not the whole reason why we become ill. There has been talk in the press lately that people should take more responsibility for themselves, because self inflicted illnesses brought on by unhealthy lifestyles are costing the NHS millions. You only have to walk down the High Street in any town or city to see that there are more overweight people around these days, and that can't all be put down to genetics. True, some people may be prone to put on weight through some malfunction of certain organs in their body, and those people do genuinely need help from the medical profession, but now they are talking about offering gastric bands to more and more people as a cost cutting measure, meaning they won't have to spend so much money at a later date when people become incapacitated through excess weight.

Leaving all the genetic reasons aside why some people are not as healthy or more healthy than others, I believe the rest is down to lifestyle choices. You've heard the saying, 'You are what you eat', which makes sense to me. The body is like a car engine, you've got to put the right fuel and lubricants in to get optimum performance out of it. You've got to drive it right as well. If you thrash it around and neglect the servicing, you get a shit ride and eventually it will grind to a halt, just like a body would, given the same treatment.

Another factor which I think affects how the body performs is how you cope with the stresses and strains of every day living. Some people don't give a stuff about anything, they sail through life with apparently not a care in the world. Others will worry about every minor detail, however insignificant it is. I am somewhere in the middle, leaning more towards not giving a stuff. I have been a worrier in the past, worried what people think about me, not any more. That was when I was young, I am older now and more able to cope. I do think about what is happening to the world, the violence, the nastiness going on all around us, but I can't do anything about it so I try not to dwell on it, and can only hope that what goes round comes round.That might seem like a 'burying my head in the sand', attitude, but I think of it as self preservation.

Of course, mental attitude can also be linked to genetics. I think I take after my father, he had a carefree nature, if anything bothered him his answer was to go to the pub. Mum on the other hand was a worrier, oh my goodness did she worry. I'm not sure if that was what sent her to an early grave, but it couldn't have helped. Father died too early as well, but that was mainly through alcohol and tobacco abuse, something that won't affect me.

I believe that most of us, and I'm talking about able bodied here, have choices. We can choose what we put in our mouths, and we can choose whether to get up off our backsides. Nobody force feeds us with crap, it is all out there in the shops, we don't have to eat it. Nobody ties us to the settee and tells us to watch TV hour after hour, we can choose not to switch it on, or in my case, not to have a TV at all.

To sum up, I can fall off the wagon, I am not perfect. I can have a packet of crisps, or an ice cream or a choc bar, but to keep things in perspective, these are treats and not everyday food items. Remember the advert years ago, A Mars a day helps you work rest and play'. Ha, they got that wrong didn't they. They should make an up to day advert now, A Mars a day will make you fat, rot your teeth, give you spots, and bring on the diabetes.

Regarding my level of fitness, I was always active. I did a manual job for many years. As well as sitting in a lorry cab I also loaded and unloaded it. I physically lifted five hundred bicycles out of box trailers. I roped and sheeted wagon loads of timber or beer barrels. I chained massive lumps of machinery down on my low loader. I multi dropped fifty parcels, or catering deliveries a day. I delivered three piece suites and carpets to furniture shops. I was up and down inside tipper trailers pulling the fly sheet over and fastening it down. It was chuffin hard work, but now I am so grateful that I chose that career, and didn't opt for an office job.

Who knows what the future holds for me healthwise. I've tried my best, I won't worry about it now, just wait and see what cards I've been dealt. Keep on doing what I am doing. Try to keep to a healthy diet, try to keep busy, and keep on using my brain for as long as it functions. That's all I can do.
Thanks for reading. Going to get up off my backside now and go for a walk. Toodle pip.    

20 comments:

  1. I do so agree with what you say - whatever will be will be of course but as long as I am able I will keep active and eating sensibly I have reached my 3 score years and 10 and now every day is a definite bonus and I intend to make the most of it. Like you I am fully aware of all the bad things in the world but if there is nothing I personally can do about them then I try not to worry about it all. I also think that if every one who can walked more and I don't mean marathons distances here then the world might be a better place as walking time is not only physically good for the body it is also good for the mind and whilst walking there is time to think or to just be and I find my best ideas come to me whilst walking.

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  2. I totally agree with you. We can control a lot of our destiny. The more meds you can stay away from the better off you will be. Each medicine has side effects and interactions with other meds that are often worse than what you are treating. New studies are showing that eliminating a lot of fat from our diet is more important in the control of diabetes than was ever imagined. That would also help with cholesterol. That could eliminate the need for statins which have been implicated in muscle pain and memory loss as well as liver problems. It might be better to add an extra mile or two to a daily walk and forgo desserts and chips to improve health. As an emergency room nurse I see people every day who are on 20 plus medications. Mostly they are overweight and diabetic which has led to cardiac disease, chronic renal failure and joint issues. Their quality of life is terrible. I think that you are definitely on the right path and I admire you for your choices.

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  3. You have the best attitude, Ilona, and good advice. Although there is some "luck of the draw", at least in my family, I've seen that eating well and staying active is key to a long life. My own mom is about 5'3" and is a size medium in US women's sizes. She's 81. Two years ago (exactly), she had a mastectomy for stage 4 breast cancer. Since it was hormone receptor positive, she didn't need chemo (just hormone blockers). Although she eats out several times a week with friends--Wednesday Lunch Bunch and Friday Night Wild Bunch--she never eats a full US restaurant portion. Just about 1/2, and she brings the other 1/2 home. She eats mostly vegetables, fruits and grains with just a little meat and dairy. Nothing too rich. Sweets, yes, but in moderation. She walks 3 miles every morning. Keeps her mind sharp by attending 2 Bible Studies. Her social calendar is filled every week. My husband's grandma was like that. She was, as she called it, "fluffy", being about the same height, but wearing a US size XL well into her nineties. Her motto was everything in moderation. Her diet, as she often shared with folks, was to have 3 vegetables, 2 fruits, milk and bread every day, and then anything else she wanted in moderation. She, too, walked every day. Had an active social life. Read something every day until she became legally blind, then got books on tape. Lived to be 100! Both of those women have had attitudes like yours. My mom is still going strong. She watches the news every day, but doesn't fret about what she can't change. Interestingly, walking every day was key in their lives, just as it is yours! They didn't deny themselves the occasional treat, but that's what they were... occasional treats. Grandma called it GCS... good common sense.

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    1. Your comment made me smile. I love to read about elderly people making the most of their lives.

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  4. Type 2 Diabetes is genetic, based on current research. Type 1 is an auto-immune. We probably developed the genetic variation to deal with starvation in the distant past. In the labs, they have developed rats that last 8 times longer than normal rats on starvation rations. When the rats that can survive on starvation rations are feed a normal diet of rat food they develop Diabetes.

    There is a cluster of symptoms that present before the diagnosis of Diabetes: Obesity, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and a bad cholesterol ratio. If the doctors would run a glucose tolerance test on each of us, who will eventually become diabetics, when we were teen-agers. It would show insulin impairment without a diagnosis of clinical Diabetes. So your dear writer should immediately stop beating herself up over the per-diabetes diagnosis. She has simply been asymptomatic with diabetes until now.

    Here is a link to a web site that has been very helpful to me on my diabetes journey. http://www.mendosa.com/blog/

    By the way, kudos to your dear writer for the two miles a day walking, she has the exercise part under control. She should also understand after she has modified her diet. She may still have to take some medication and she is not a bad person or failure for needing medication.

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    1. Thank you for your helpful comment. Some good information there.

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  5. You hit the nail on the head there,Ilona!
    We are in our 50s and have perfect cholesterol and blood pressure (which is unusual here).I was told that I have the heart of a young woman (I hope she doesn't want it back!). Being vegan has helped to keep us healthy.
    Jane x

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  6. Thank you for pointing that out, Judy! My husband and his younger sister each developed type 2 diabetes in their 40s, and neither was overweight, nor had a "bad" diet. What they did have was a family history. Of our 2 sons (both in their 20s), our youngest has been diagnosed as insulin resistant; he also isn't overweight and attends college while living at home, so has been following a diabetic diet since his dad was diagnosed. I don't cook different meals for the members of my household. I *am* overweight, but at 52 am not on any prescriptions, and don't need to be. All of my numbers are good. Losing weight is a goal I work on, yet my doctor told us she's got many patients who are thin who have many more issues than I have, and explained the medical field now believes there's far more to genetics than was once believed. Interestingly, I had breast cancer (DCIS) several years before my mother did (IDC), both hormone receptor positive. So my sis (who's 60) was taken off of HRT. A balanced diet with plenty of veggies, fruits, grains and good fats plus walking is good for just about anyone, though... it just won't prevent genetic issues.

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  7. Everyone has made great points in their comments. However, you are all doing everything you can to prevent progression. Just think how sick you might be if you did not exercise and ate whatever you wanted to. Many people live like that then come to the ER looking for the magic pill to make the better.

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    1. Thank you for your input, Karen. It's great to hear from a medical professional and see it from your side of the fence.

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  8. Excellent answer Ilona, spot on. Also you have a positive attitude about everything and just get on with it, that's got to be the answer hasn't it?

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    1. I think it certainly helps, Sue. We can't do much about what we are born with, what's in our genes, but with the power of positive thought we can at least give life our best shot.

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  9. All we can do is hope for good health and do our best to help it along by eating, drinking and exercising in the right measures.
    As you say you can't help your genetic make up so some people will be healthier than others.
    I'm proud of the fact that i've worked hard to provide decent food for my family and my children have grown up healthy and well nourished. We had a dog when they were younger, we'd take them in their prams round the park in all weathers at weekends while taking the dog a walk and as they got older started to walk, then run around and play with the dog and each other. They think nothing of walking anywhere and are able to make their own fun.
    I, on the other hand, think that lorry driving isn't doing much for my health with its irregular hours and eat what you can when you can meals. Theres not as much load handling thesedays, so not much exercise to be had.
    Still, i live in hope of a career change.
    Dave.

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    1. Dave, I wish I could do something to get you out of driving, I know how restrictive it can be with long hours at work. Can you take some healthy food with you from home? Do you have a small cool box to put salad in? People used to think I was barmy, but if I was at a depot waiting to tip, I used to get out of the cab and walk round and round my lorry, 20, 30, 50 times, until they called me for unloading. I hated being bored out of my brain just sitting there. I always tried to park where I could get out for a walk. Sometimes I took my bike with me and went a ride once I had clocked off. I remember on Wetherby lorry park, I put my shorts on and went for a run, the other drivers all stared at me. I was the smart one.

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    2. Its ok Ilona, i'm only doing it 'til i win the lottery ha ha. I take food with me so i'm in control of what i eat, its the when.
      I take the oppertunity for a walk when i can, walking to the office rather than parking right outside. I went for a walk on the Leeds Liverpool canal while on my break and i go on a council run bike ride most weeks, work permitting, they provide the bike and we ride on a traffic free path for an hour. I just need to set aside some time to go swimming.
      I'm mortgage and debt free so i'm not 100% tied to working so i can do just enough work to get by when i want.
      Thanks.
      Dave.

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  10. You have such a sensible approach to life, it's served you well! And it would serve the rest of us well to learn from you. :)

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  11. Yes walking does a lot and I know we hear oh 30 mins a day no that's not nearly enough they say that as it's better than nothing but an honest doctor once said when your middle aged around 2 and half hours a day!!! And I believe it the longest I go for is 2 hours in one day average hour and half a day walking is the great unknown youth factor :) and honestly I can't believe that in like 5 years time you will be 70!!!!!! You look fantastic x I think we need to forget our age :)

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  12. The thing that struck me most about your comments on health was what you said about stress/worry. That is where I struggle. I am a worrier and I can feel that it is taking a toll on me. I will turn 60 this year and have to try harder to take things as they come each day. Thanks for your wise words.

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  13. I would just like to add to your very sensible list - plenty of sleep! Most people don't get enough sleep or the sleep they are getting is poor quality. This means no energy or enthusiasm for life and I really do think if effects our immune system. And of course staying hydrated is very important . My mother has just been in hospital with pneumonia and they said she was very dehydrated though she had no idea - how can a body fight infection without enough fluid? Anyway you look great for 65 and your energy is remarkable. Debbie

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  14. Throw that Fosamax OUT. Some of the side effects are sudden femur fractures and jaw bone deterioration. It also causes hip, knee and shoulder necrosis. They stopped advertising it and prescribing it in the US.

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