OMG – I’m Dying!

OK, no worries everyone – the title was just to grab your attention, but there is also some truth to it, isn’t there?  From the moment we’re born until the moment we die, we are both growing and dying all the time.

Bear with me as I wax a little philosophical in today’s blog post, which is more focused on TOTAL health, rather than just oral and dental health.  I recently got some bad news from my doctor about cholesterol, so I’ve been thinking about how I take care of myself overall.  I’ll pull in some dental issues, too, though….after all, this is a dental blog!

How Well Do You Care For Yourself?

And when I say, “…take care of yourself,” I really mean mentally, physically, and even spiritually. 

For most of my life, I have been interested in many different things.  I’ve done swimming, tennis, soccer, and even earned my 1st degree black belt in Taekwondo during dental school.  Beyond that, I’ve enjoyed studying philosophy, theology, physics, and more to stimulate my mind.  Professionally, I usually attend a minimum of 100 hours of Continuing Education each year to stay on the leading edge of dentistry.

However, as happens to many of us, as we get older, “things” seem to keep getting in the way of being as active and healthy as we were when we were younger.  Marriage, kids and their activities, studying and working, the daily commute….and we slowly add on the pounds, get tired more easily, don’t eat as well, and kind of let ourselves go.

As I write this, I am 41 years old, approaching 42, and I recently went for a long-overdue physical with my doctor.  Overall, I look pretty healthy, and fortunately, the bloodwork came back and almost everything was good, EXCEPT my cholesterol, which was 242.  250 is the point at which most doctors pretty much push you to get on medication, and my MD did suggest that, but I refused.  Yup….flat out rejected my doctor’s advice.  Doesn’t sound very smart, does it, given that usually I am the doctor making recommendations, that I hope my patients will accept?  Or is it?

Prevention is Better than Fixing

So why did I reject my doctor’s recommendation of taking some medication to get my cholesterol under control?  For a couple very simple reasons:

  1. I can decrease my cholesterol naturally by changing my diet, and
  2. I can decrease my cholesterol naturally by increasing my exercise regimen.

Interestingly, this sounds a lot like some of the advice that I give to patients at my Charlotte NC dental office:

  1. You can decrease your risk of cavities by changing your diet, and
  2. You can decrease your risk of cavities and gum disease by improving your home care regimen

Now there is one very important difference between cholesterol and dental cavities: once you already have high cholesterol, you can actually make it go back down to completely healthy levels simply by improving diet and exercise.  Once you have dental cavities, though, most of the time you can’t make them go away just by changing your diet and home care regimen.  If they’re REALLY early stage cavities, it can be done, but once a tooth cavity breaks through the enamel, it can’t be reversed.  Tooth decay can only be reversed if it hasn’t broken through the enamel. 

Living a Healthy, Balanced Life is Good for You…..AND Your Teeth

As I’ve mentioned numerous times, I am NOT a fan of Dr. Oz (the Great and Powerful Wizard of Daytime TV Health….but don’t look behind the curtain!).  Why?  Because every day he has some new “super-remedy,” or “super-diet,” or “super-vitamin,” that will supposedly cure all of your ills.  He even has the balls to make really STUPID recommendations about dental health (yeah – lemon juice and baking soda for whitening!?!!?!?!?).  But the reality is a lot simpler.

To live a healthy life that will be good for you and your teeth, here are some really basic, but simple and powerful things you can do (and yes, these are the things I’m doing, too!):

  • Avoid foods high in processed sugars (the sugars in fruits are natural and good)
  • Avoid foods high in fats and cholesterol
  • Exercise several times per week
  • If you’re an adult, allow yourself a glass of red wine at dinner each night (very good for cholesterol)
  • Make sure you get plenty of sleep
  • Be sure to take care of your spirit, whether through your church, meditation, etc.
  • Use a cavity-prevention fluoride (and NON-alcohol-based) mouth rinse, like ACT
  • Use a Sonicare or Braun electric toothbrush twice daily and floss at least several times per week (I’m trying to be realistic here – I know most of you won’t floss daily)

And remember – moderation is the key!!!   Excess in almost anything is bad for you, and no, you don’t need a miracle cure, you just need to stick to the same foundations of health that we’ve known about for a long time!

The Mouth is the Gateway to the Whole Body

It really is simple: your mouth is the gateway to all of you.  If you fail to take good care of your mouth, any infection, bacteria, etc. WILL get into the rest of you, it can’t be separated. There is plenty of research supporting some kind of connection (that’s different from saying a “cause” so please don’t misunderstand me) between gum disease and things like cardiac health, infant health, brain health, and more. We don’t understand all of it yet, but there’s a connection – don’t ignore it!

As for me, I’ve already started making a lot of changes, with the goal of having my cholesterol back under 200 before the end of 2013.

  • I’m beginning training in Shaolin Kung Fu at The Peaceful Dragon and will add either Tai Chi or Yoga once I move past the introductory program.  This will be a minimum of 4-6 hours of intense training every week!
  • Bi-weekly massages at Massage Envy
  • Eating more fish and a lot more fruit and vegetables
  • Eliminating most red meat and even chicken from my diet (have you looked at how much cholesterol is in chicken?  I couldn’t believe it!)
  • Slowly switching from the light cream that I love for my coffee to a soy creamer (this is one of my struggles!)
  • Making sure I take a multi-vitamin and a fish oil supplement (for Omega fatty acids)

I’ll be blogging about this journey towards better health (and yes, I did just get my teeth cleaned by our wonderful hygienist Jen a month ago, if you were wondering 🙂 ) along with more usual dental topics.  Please share your story and ideas, too!

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