The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 1034: How to Stay Healthy with Minimal Medications

How can you stay healthy without taking lots of medications? Exercise and diet are key. Share your success with other listeners.
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How to Stay Healthy with Minimal Medications

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Americans take a lot of pills with the goal of staying healthy-pills to lower cholesterol, pills to control blood pressure, even pills to keep bones strong. How can we use fewer pills but still maximize our health?

What Is Exercise Good For?

It shouldn’t be surprising to learn that both diet and exercise are important pieces of the puzzle. But what kind of exercise? What does it really do?

What Should We Be Eating to Stay Healthy?

And what should we be eating to stay healthy? For years, we’ve been told to watch out for butter and cheese, and turn instead to vegetable oils high in polyunsaturated fats.

But was that advice ill-advised? We’ll discuss the recently disclosed results of a study done decades ago that suggest concentrating on vegetable oil, especially corn oil, as the primary source of fat in the diet might not help you stay healthy, despite the conventional wisdom.

Sleeping Pills and Allergy Drugs:

Commonly used prescription and over-the-counter medications can sometimes interfere with memory and cognitive function. A recent study of such anticholinergic drugs suggests that regular use may change the structure and function of the brain in older people. Could that increase the risk for dementia?

Share Your Story:

If you have been able to stay healthy with a non-drug approach, Joe and Terry invite you to share it. Have you had success with a diet to lose weight, control blood sugar or lower blood pressure? Share your story: Call 888-472-3366 between 7 and 8 am EDT on March 19, 2016 or email

This Week’s Guests:

James Blumenthal, PhD, is J.P. Gibbons Professor of Psychiatry and Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. He is also Professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University Medical Center, an Assistant Professor in Medicine and a Senior Fellow in the Center for Study of Aging. His website is

Shannon L. Risacher, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Radiology and Imaging Sciences at the Indiana University School of Medicine. Dr. Rosacher specializes in neuroimaging of aging and dementia. Her research was published in JAMA Neurology on April 18, 2016 (online).

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The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for four weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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It’s my understanding that there has never been a high fat, low carb diet that has been PROVEN in the research literature to halt or reverse cardiovascular disease. Having more favorable blood lipid tests and/or losing weight does not necessarily translate into prevention or reversal.

Whole food, plant based diets have been shown to halt the progression and even reverse atherosclerotic disease. I would hope you would consider balancing out your recent programs featuring advocates of the high fat, low carb diet with a revisit of the low fat, plant based approach which has research data to support its clinical benefits and not just focus on weight loss and lipid profiles. Consider inviting Doctors Caldwell Esselstyn, Joel Fuhrman, Dean Ornish or John McDougall on to talk about reversing CVD without medication.

I think we will someday find that our microbiome is largely responsible for our cardiovascular health. This would go a long way toward explaining the individual and seemingly paradoxical results that people get with highly variable dietary practices. The research into trimethylamine n-oxide (TMAO) is a case in point. It may be amino acid metabolism (carnitine and choline) variability and NOT fat and cholesterol that proves to be atherogenic. Cholesterol may just be at the scene of the crime.

One way that exercise works that operates at near the level of “aerobic exercise” to the point of approaching having anaerobic peripheral tissues is:

Aerobic Exercise—-> Anaerobic body tissue —> release of vasoactive substances that work in the microvasculature to protect against what is known as “reperfusion injury”.

This process is known as “ischemic conditioning” (or preconditioning).

This all involves cellular responses to decrease in blood flow an oxygenation via exercise induced anaerobic tissue conditions.

Cells then release substances into the circulation that counter harmful effects of peripheral lack of blood flow caused in part by vasoconstriction.

The release of neuroprotective (actually neurovascular protective) substances supposedly occurs when one builds a fast into one’s “eating plan” as per:

Eat like a King (Queen) for breakfast
Eat like a Prince (Princess) for lunch
Eat like a Pauper (Poor Person) for the evening meal
AND do not eat after 5 (or 530 pm at the latest)
AND do not eat again until 12 hours after you last ate ~530 am

ALL of the protection in this model of Prevention with Exercise and Diet occurs in the microvasculature and at the cellular level.

AND IF vasocontriction occurs because of hypertension THEN it is more likely there will be microvascular dysfunction and with time “small vessel disease” and small vessel dysfunction that increases the risk of having a stroke, heart attack, onset of diabetes, complications of diabetes if one has diabetes.

The microvasculature (small blood vessels) out of sight and out of mind (ESPECIALLY in the middle of the night) BUT oh so important

The microvasculature is what likely unites matter (the physical body) with mood, mentation (cognition) AND perhaps most importantly motivation.

If one can “condition” one’s microvasculature to “behave” one’s physical risk status improves, mood is better, cognition is sharper and motivation is in the right gear.

How can one most cost effectively “condition” one’s microvasculature.

Answer: As per this webcast through SELF-motivated, FAMILY-motivated, Companion-motivated, Community-motivated.

YOU DO NOT NEED an insurance company to “motivate you” and pay for you to exercise and eat toward wellness. That will only drive up the cost of care. Don’t even try it or you will be performing an anti-self / -family / -friend / -community act that will drag down rather than elevate everyone to a lower motivation level.

We do not have a “right” to have a chef OR a trainer. We have a DUTY to utilize the motivation that can come from self, family, friend and community to “do it & keep doing it” AND thus to contribute to a more sane, safe, cost-effective health status / health care system that in turn helps US ALL to contribute to a more civic and civil society.

Regarding your 4/30/2016 broadcast “How to Stay Healthy with Minimal Medications”:
I couldn’t agree more with Dr. Blumenthal regarding the health benefits of regular exercise. I am 61 years old and am in excellent health and take no medications largely due, I believe, to my lifestyle which includes exercise on a daily basis and eating well.

However, one piece of the puzzle not discussed by Dr. Blumenthal was the cost of getting started on a regular exercise program. What if an exercise prescription from your MD was regarded by insurance carriers in the same way as a drug prescription? If this was the case, a co-pay arrangement could be in place that would pay part of the cost of getting patients started on an exercise-included lifestyle.

Here’s an example of how it might work, all with the patient assuming a 50% co-pay:
1st month, 8 sessions with a personal trainer.
2nd month, 6 sessions with a personal trainer, 2 with an exercise group.
3rd month, 4 sessions each with a personal trainer and exercise group.
4th month, 2 sessions with personal trainer and 6 with a group.
5th-12th months, 1 session/month with trainer while continuing with group(s).

After one year, patients who have positive health outcomes, qualify for insurance paying 50% cost of health club membership for the next year.

And so on, with the patient gradually assuming more of the cost and more of the responsibility of his/her own exercise program.

Compare the cost of such a program with cost of just 1 moderately priced medication over a year’s time, or more likely, over many year’s time period and it should be obvious that such a program would be much less costly both for the individual and the insurance carriers over a lifetime.

I would like to suggest that Dr Blumenthal develop a study looking at how likely patients will start, and stay, with an exercise program based on the cost. Groups would consist of 100% Free, 50% co-pay, 25% co-pay, and 100% out of pocket.

It is my belief that patients will be more willing to adopt an exercise-rich prescription for living if insurance companies show they consider this to be a serious form of medicine by paying part of the cost. And if the medical community is really serious about producing good health outcomes for patients, they need to start a conversation with insurance companies about how to make this happen.

I am so tired of reading about diet and exercise. The take-away is that no one seems to know anything about diet or exercise!!! But they blather on with no end to it. Who really believes chocolate is a health food? For a few years we were told to avoid fat; now fat is good. Don’t eat salt; then we are told we need salt. Eat high protein; eat high carbs. Then it is eat low protein, low carbs. If no one can agree, why don’t they just shut up, and find a new way to make a living instead of nattering on about things of which they know little.

We know we need to keep moving. We know we need to keep eating. Most of us need social contact with friends and family, if we have any. It would be a good idea to throw away every diet book we have. Clear the clutter in our house and the clutter in our minds from all the conflicting advice on diet.

I refuse to read one more word about diet. Diet is a four letter word!

I never realized the importance of magnesium until this happened to me. I got a staff infection in the hospital that was eating up my spine.
Anti-bio tics stopped it, left me with loss of equilibrium and peripheral neuropathy. I also lost all sense of touch to my skin from the knee down. I developed irregular heartbeat that led to a-fib.

I put up with this for eight years. One day while reading an article about magnesium deficiency, it said that it could affect peripheral neuropathy. I bought some magnesium supplements and to my surprise I was able to feel my hand touch my legs and feet for the first time in eight years. It didn’t do anything for my other problems, but I can’t help but wonder about the effect it may have had on my irregular heartbeat.

I have continued taking magnesium and have no occurrence of the numbness in my legs and feet.

Here are three examples of how I reduced my “pills.”

My blood pressure, at home, runs in the 140’s over 80. Yes, I have checked my machine with that of my doctor. In a doctor’s office my BP usually is about 160 to 180 over 90. The nurse goes berserk, then the doctor. The doctor lectures me. He says “Don’t you CARE about your blood pressure. You could have a stroke.” I don’t blame him. He is simply doing what he was taught in medical school. But I am a gentle person and his demeaning lecturing, well, runs my blood pressure up. I fear doctors! They do have power when one gets in a helpless position.

I suffer several of the possible harmful side effects of Lisinopril. I went home from the doctor’s office and cut out one of the two Lisinoprils I am taking. I began taking daily beet juice powder. I also begin drinking a “Blood Pressure Tea” which is a combination herbs. My readings went down.

Here is the second example of reducing my “pills.” I had urinary problems that I thought were infections. Doctors tested my urine and gave me antibiotics. This went on for years. I knew that too many antibiotics were killing me. I sent my lab records and went to a Duke urologist. She walked into the office for our visit, slammed a bunch of papers down and yelled, “Not a one of these say you have a urinary infection!” She explained how, in fact, they showed that I did not. I went home, and the next time I had the discomfort I just suffered through for a few days, and it subsided.

The third example is that I decided to go to a local urologist who is part of a large group of NC urologists. He spent less than 5 minutes with me and literally said I had an overactive bladder. He gave me samples of Myrbetriq and said the best thing about this medicine is it has absolutely no negative side effects. My trust went out the window. I got home and looked on the Mayo Clinic and the National Library of Medicine websites. There are indeed, many negative side effects, some dangerous. I didn’t take a one, but rather took the herb Cleavers. It has helped a lot.

I am in my late 80’s.

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