Wednesday, September 3, 2008

How to talk to your doc

Before you make any major lifestyle changes like changing your diet or starting an exercise routine it's important to talk to your doctor. I know you probably think that's probably the same load of baloney that you here all the time, but I'll tell you how I've talked to my docs about my lifestyle changes and what I saw for improvements in my health and I'll tell you why you ought to go to the doc before you start mixing things up.

Why you should go to the doctor before changing your lifestyle?
  1. You may have pre-existing conditions that you ought to be aware of before you start changing things up.
    Healthy low-carb living is all about figuring out what makes you feel the best and what improves your health the most. From day one, you'll be listening to your body and it's needs to decide what you need to do and eat. Only if you're truly informed can you make the best decisions.
  2. If you take medication for diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc. these conditions may begin to improve within days of starting your new lifestyle.
    It's important to let your doc know about your changes, so they can adjust your medication accordingly.
  3. Everybody loves 'before and after' pictures.
    Going to the doctor before you start changing your lifestyle is a great way to get a 'before' picture of your health and your follow up visits will be a great picture of your health 'during' your lifestyle changes. It's also a great chance for your doc to see a good example of what a healthy low-carb lifestyle can do for you!
  4. The low-carb lifestyle needs more advocates who know the truth about how low-carb can positively affect your health and an open dialogue with your doc is the best way to educate medical professionals and ensure your success.
    This may no be an easy conversation with your doctor because of their misconceptions about the low-carbohydrate lifestyle and their expectations about what will happen to your body when you adopt this lifestyle. To prepare for some of your doctor's misconceptions about your new lifestyle, check out my "Low Carb Myths" posts.
Now for my experience with my doctors:

After I reached a high of about 285 pounds and my wife reached a high of "too much for her" (I will respect her by not putting any numbers here), I decided to go talk to my doctor about what I could do. I had a general checkup done where they checked blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar. I don't know what my blood pressure was, but I know that I saw another doctor one time shortly before I adopted the low-carb lifestyle and within a couple minutes, he said he wanted to talk about blood pressure medication the next time I cam back. My cholesterol was generally low, but my HDL was really low, my triglycerides were through the roof, and when I went to see an endocrinologist, he told me my blood sugar was "a little high". The endocrinologist warned me that if my weight didn't come down, I was probably heading for type 2 diabetes. His suggestion was that I try to reduce my carbohydrate consumption a little because most people eat 300-400 grams of carbohydrate a day and I ought to reduce that to about 200 grams. I asked if a low-carbohydrate diet would be an effective choice and he said it would work, but he didn't think I could stick with it.
I took his initial advice and listened to a friend of mine who suggested a diet of reduced carbohydrates. I quickly started feeling better and dropped 10 pounds in a week or two, but that was it. After a few weeks, I decided to get on the low-carb bandwagon whole hog. The next time I went back to my doctor, she noted that my triglycerides had come down substantially from somewhere above 200 to around 80. She also noted that I lost some weight and complimented me on whatever I was doing.

So now, my triglycerides are about 30 (spectacular), my HDL is around 60 (up about 100% from before low-carb), and my LDL is the same. My blood pressure is consistently around 120-130/70-80, pretty good overall, although sometimes it's as low as 110/70. I lost over 60 pounds from before I started low-carb and I maintain that pretty effortlessly.

I've recently been talking to my doc about some other issues I'm having which have persisted since I was a teen and I talked to her about what I've been eating, and she didn't really care as all my tests come out great.

How to prepare before you go to talk to your doc:
  • Do your low-carb research before you go to the doctor. Read one of the the great books on low-carb living such as Protein Power Lifeplan, Living the Low Carb Life,or Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution are great places to start. Also check out some of the other blogs I link to. If you want to be successful at improving your health while living a low-carbohydrate lifestyle, then reading at least one of these books is a must.
  • Know why you think low-carb will work for you.
  • What problems do you have that you hope will be remedied by living low-carb?
  • Don't forget to check out low-carb myths so you know what your doc will be concerned about. Remember, many of them have had very little education on the subject of nutrition and they hear all the same propaganda as you do about the "evils" of fat.
  • When your doc has objections, indicate your understanding of their concerns and ask what tests they could perform (within your budget) to confirm that you're living a healthy low-carb lifestyle. Your willingness to acknowledge their concerns will go a long way to ensuring your good health and your doctor's buy in to your lifestyle changes.
Have you been to the doctor? What was your experience like?
Know any New England doctors who are knowledgeable about the benefits of low-carb?
Any advice I missed here that you think is vital?

Your thoughts?


PS. Don't fear the fat!

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