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Can we forestall chronic illness?

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Yesterday I read a story on the AOL news page about a family whose lovely little girl was suffering from a mysterious illness. She kept blacking out, slept a lot, was thirsty all the time and never felt well. And as I was reading it, I told myself that the child had Type I Diabetes, and it turns out I was right when I read the entire story. That is the family's "new normal," coping with childhood Diabetes, which is difficult to deal with.

But if you are an adult free of blood-sugar issues, you can keep it that way. A friend of mine at church recently did just this; she was diagnosed as pre-diabetic and she made changes in her diet that resulted in her being declared symptom-free and as far as she now knows, diabetes is no longer a diagnosis.

Another article that I read on the Huffington Post dealt with an anticipated increase in dementia among older people all over the world. Taking that as a jumping-off point, I have to say that dementia is likely to spread around the world keeping pace with the spread of the SAD (Standard American Diet) of sugar, salt and fat.

As American fast-food joints pop up like mushrooms around the developed world, followed by fast-food joints even in the Third World, we can expect to see the television-watching public begin to crave the stuff they see on those commercials. Face it: they are not going to see a whole lot about the Americans who are rebelling against the relentless onslaught of advertising. We are urged to buy and eat tons of dirty meat and deep-fried anything, from candy bars to hot dogs to doughnuts.

And what do we get from "food television?" They get together and decide what to popularize; it will be cakes, then cupcakes, then doughnuts, then popcorn, then just sugar. "Bosses" and chefs will dictate what we eat and how we will prepare it, rather than taking the time to explain anything about healthy eating. And that is because these food slingers don't know much about healthy eating; no one with a conscious could call themselves a sugar dictator.

But there are things we can do to protect our health; specifically, if you want to defend against Alzheimer's Disease, here is what I got from about it:

Regular exercise: it hardly matters what you do as long as you move. I have an adult tricycle, a 3-wheeler that is very easy to ride. I walk my dog with it almost every day.

Healthy diet: that means the Big Six--make them! Make smoothies! Reduce fat and carbs! Take vitamins and your medication (don't argue with me, I take a heap of them every day).

Mental stimulation: anything from Angry Birds to Dungeons & Dragons to computer Mah Jong will keep your problem-solving skills and motor skills tuned up.

Quality sleep: darken your bedroom; eliminate LED lights that attract your gaze in that darkness. Keep your bedroom as quiet as possible. Do not have a television set in your bedroom and "fall asleep" in front of it.

Stress management: Learn what you do or neglect to do. Once you find those patterns, deal with them. This is a very personal thing and may require a consultation with someone who knows how to prioritize and follow up.

An active social life: do not shut yourself away from family. This is a big one for me; I insist that we need to ignore the media in this respect. I am sick and tired of the endless films that present families as congregations of idiots and young men and women as incompetent fools. In that respect you ought to re-evaluate your television watching and movie-going habits. Get out of your house, go to church or synagogue; volunteer.

Some things that I advise from years of observation are:

Go organic: change your shopping over from conventional supermarkets to Safeway in Tucson for its line of Organics, or the health-oriented stores like Sprouts and Whole Foods. Make yourself visit the health-food section of Basha's and Albertson's and speak up if you are looking for organics. Many cashiers will ask you if you found everything you were looking for--there's your opportunity to say that you want clean, healthy food in our stores.

Become an optimist: get out more and mingle. You will find volunteers at Tucson's churches that will help you get around, such as picking you up on Sundays. There are also social services agencies that will help you with transportation.

Make things: I knit and crochet. I just made a sweater for my new daughter-in-law, which she will receive for Christmas along with a hat and scarf. I am knitting a shawl for my surrogate daughter. I cook; I share food when we are invited somewhere. People notice your comings and goings.



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