Several weeks ago, I had the chance to head home to California to celebrate my godmother’s 100th birthday. She’s the last living close friend of my mom, so there was no way I was going to miss the gathering, and I was so happy several of my siblings were also able to attend this milestone marking party. Here’s a group photo with my godmother in the middle with the purple scarf. It was a remarkable event for all kinds of reasons. First, my godmother is still healthy, happy, and continues to experience amazing longevity.
Who wouldn’t be motivated to take better care of themselves so they too could live long and happy lives with optimal healthspans? That word healthspan might be a new one for you. It was new to me as well, and I had learned its meaning just a couple of weeks before my trip.
Providentially, I had a great conversation with the professor who served as my doctoral reader at Catholic University of America. In addition to a love of Ignatian Spirituality, we also share an appreciation of the intersection between spirituality and health. Ed asked me if I had heard of the recently published book Outlive by Peter Attia, MD. I told him I hadn’t, and he suggested I get a copy ASAP, since Attia’s approach to “the science and art of longevity” is based on top notch current research and could be of great benefit to anyone, especially those dealing with the chronic illnesses he calls the “Four Horsemen”: heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer and type 2 diabetes. I purchased both digital and print copies, and began reading that evening. I got right into it because of a conversation I had with my endocrinologist a few months ago.
I met with him right before I heading home for Christmas, and he told me that my weight and lab numbers were not where they should be, and I needed to get right to work in improving things in the new year or he would have to give me another prescription for my type 2 diabetes. I knew I hadn’t been taking good care of myself for several reasons, but in the end they were just excuses. After more than a decade with diabetes, I knew what I needed to do, I just wasn’t doing it.
When I got home, I went back to a modified keto diet (30 carbs per meal), which had been really effective in the past. I also began walking for 30 minutes twice a day, now easy to do because of the length of our school building. The weight started coming off and my daily glucose readings slowly came down. In March, my nutritionist, who knows I love data, made an important and game altering suggestion. Would I be interested in trying out a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM)? Because my brother, who also has type 2 diabetes, used a CGM with some success awhile back, I immediately said “yes.” From my grad school days at Johns Hopkins, I’ve loved reading and interpreting data, especially if it could lead to improving a situation. My nutritionist said that within a couple of days, I should be able to understand what was causing spikes in my glucose levels, and that’s exactly what happened.
Although I haven’t had time to research it, the particular low carb bread I ate for breakfast each day nearly doubled my glucose readings. No other food I ate during the day so negatively effected my glucose numbers like that, so I immediately stopped eating the bread. Within a couple of days, my numbers consistently came down to an average of 85-95 an hour or so after eating. My weight also dropped week after week and I’ve had to buy a smaller size twice now. Why am I sharing all this?
Well, this past Friday I had a follow-up visit with my endocrinologist, who I have been seeing now for over five years. My blood work came back showing the most positive numbers they have in my medical record. With my weight loss, I’m at a normal weight for someone my height, and my blood pressure is optimal. I left the office so grateful for my improved health situation and reaching this milestone.
Being with my godmother for her birthday showed me and my siblings what life could be like in old age when you properly care for yourself throughout the years. At her birthday party, I saw someone who knew what to do and did it. Dr. Attia’s book Outlive mentions healthy 100 year olds several times, and what might be possible for you and I if we followed his suggestions in the science and art of longevity. I’ve realized that no matter how many years I have left, I want them all to filled with optimal health. That could be possible for me and you if we were to integrate Attia’s five main tactics for improving healthspan: Exercise, Nutrition, Sleep, Emotional health and Supplements into our daily lives. Please consider getting his book, watching his you tube videos, and checking out his website. Do your own research and then consider making an appointment with your healthcare provider if you feel challenged to make some changes.
NOTE: As always, please do not make any changes to your healthcare without checking with your healthcare provider first. This blog post is for informational purposes only.