Nagy column: Choose health

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Editor’s note: Local physician Chris Nagy will be writing a column for the Post about health issues.
Each day, as we go about our busy lives, we spend more time paying less attention to some of the things that should matter the most. Over the past 50 years, our personal and national health has deteriorated at what seems to be an ever increasing rate. The Lancet, a medical journal, recently reported that over half of the U.S. adult population will be obese by the year 2030.
The prognosis for America’s future health does not look good. In an effort to combat this situation and to provide tools that can help you face the future, I will be writing a column to guide you on the path to better health.
We are where we are now for numerous reasons and the problems we face are multi-faceted. The current health crisis in America is not due solely to gluttony and sloth. It goes much deeper than that. I hope to explore some of these issues and outline practical solutions for you in the months ahead.
A significant contributor to the many chronic diseases we face today has a great deal to do with the standard American diet (SAD diet!). If a terrorist wished to slowly and secretly undermine the foundation of America, he simply need open another fast food restaurant, serving toxic, nutrient-depleted food.
Nutrient depletion in our American diet is a source of the health decline we are experiencing and the USDA recently published a statement confirming this fact. Our bodies hunger for the micronutrient vitamins, minerals and cofactors that allow us to operate at maximal efficiency. As these substances become less available, we eat more to try to satisfy these requirements. Unfortunately, many of us go through the entire day consuming edible “food-like” substances and never eat any “real, whole” food. This has to stop.
Being healthy is not simply defined as the absence of disease. The foundation of optimal health is our diet. The fight against degenerative disease starts in the kitchen and the statement, “you are what you eat,” has never been more true. There is no magic bullet, pill or supplement that will make us healthy and well. Supplements are just that, supplements. I am frequently asked, “What should I do for this?” and “How do I cure that?” The answer to this question often boils down to, you have to be ready and willing to change nearly everything about the way you eat and live.
Establishing a lifestyle of health and wellness requires a critical examination of where you are now, how you got there and what you can do starting today to change your future. You have the opportunity to positively influence your life, three times a day, with each meal you eat. A lifestyle of optimal health is not always easy and requires effort and responsibility. If we do not embrace this challenge, our lives will never improve and we will continue to experience the health decline many of us now face.
We have the power within us to make the changes necessary to achieve optimal wellness. No one is more interested in your health than you, and for that reason, you are in charge of ensuring that you maintain and preserve the temple that is your body. Our government, your “friends” and the companies (it used to be farmers) putting the food on your table are not always acting with your best interest at heart. Your best interests will only be served by you. You are the CEO of your own health and it is up to you to ensure that your entire system runs optimally and as it was meant to.
The more educated and enlightened you become in regard to your health, the more you will be able to control and prevent the diseases of aging that we have come to accept as a part of “getting old.” It is not part of the “normal” aging process to develop cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s; we’re just used to it. These afflictions are very highly correlated with diet and lifestyle. Many of these diseases are not nearly as common in countries that do not follow the SAD diet that we do in America. Up to 30 percent to 40 percent of cancer is preventable with appropriate diet and lifestyle modifications. If our goal was to discover a diet that causes the most chronic, disabling, degenerative diseases, we have been wildly successful.
Our current healthcare system is not set up to promote wellness and prevention. We pay lip service to preventive measures because we have a sick-care system. It would be nice to have a healthcare system where people were more educated and less medicated.
Good health makes a lot of sense but it doesn’t make a lot of money, and staying well requires effort and accountability. Our current system waits until we are ill and then reacts, often when it may be too late to achieve a favorable outcome. Prevention is the cure for those who choose to adopt a healthy lifestyle and each of us has the power and ability to be a part of our own cure. The long term answers won’t be found in another blockbuster drug, treatment or diagnostic tool. The answer lies in preventing disease in the first place!
The Shawshank Redemption, one of my favorite movies, provides this insight, “I guess it comes down to a simple choice really, get busy living or get busy dying.” When confronted with matters of your own health, the choice is not any different. Choose living; Choose Health!
Dr. Christopher Nagy is an orthopaedic surgeon with Salisbury Orthopaedic Associates and director of Your Personal Wellness Center ( He lives with his family in Spencer.