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Community Community News Rancho Santa Fe

Talk highlights means to preventing serious diseases

RANCHO SANTA FE — The RSF Library presented an informative reception championed by Dr. Lindsey McIlvena, who specializes in preventive medicine. It’s a field that aims at preventing serious diseases and complications before they happen.

After finishing medical school, McIlvena began a training program in internal medicine spending a large quantity of her time in the hospital. Some patients would be there for days, weeks, and months. Reasons why patients were admitted ranged from infections, heart disease and more.

“It didn’t take me very long to realize that the vast majority of the people who were in the hospital were admitted for reasons that could have been prevented, and I wanted to focus on prevention,” she said. “I was about halfway through my internal medicine training and I switched to preventive medicine.”

According to McIlvena, the number one cause of death in the county is heart disease followed by cancer. She wanted those in attendance to know that every day in this country 1,700 Americans die of cardiovascular disease.

“That’s like one jumbo jet full of people dropping out of the sky every six hours,” she said, putting it into perspective.

Following close behind is cancer, and the cancers that are the leading causes of death include lung, colon, breast and prostate.

“In fact, a lot of statisticians think that cancer is going to overtake heart disease as the number one killer probably within the next decade or so. And the main reason for that is we’ve gotten really good at treating heart attacks.”

It’s estimated that a little bit less than 1,700 Americans are dying of cancer on a daily basis.

That’s roughly four more jumbo jets every day falling out of the sky killing everyone inside, she said.

“If it were actually happening this way, this analogy that I have, we would never stand for this,” McIlvena said.

While she pointed out the number two types of death, the next phase was addressing the causes.

The causes of death in the nation were led by tobacco and followed by a poor diet, lack of exercise, alcohol and stress.

“The choices that we make every day really do matter,” she said.

Harkening back to history, McIlvena recited an ancient Chinese proverb, “He who takes medicine and neglects diet wastes the time of his position.”

McIlvena agrees with this. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 86 percent of healthcare monies go directly toward the treatment of chronic disease.

McIlvena believes what many American are suffering from is a food borne illness. Not one like E. coli or salmonella, but the foods which may contribute to diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

“They’re food borne illnesses of a different type,” she said. “The only hope for a cure of them lies in what we’re doing every day and the choices that we’re making.”

The choices, which lead to health, she said, are diet, exercise and stress management.

“If we are amazing at controlling our stress and very resilient in that aspect and are surrounded by people who love us, no amount of love and stress management is going to help us if we have a terrible diet, and we don’t exercise,” Dr. McIlvena said.

As far as food choices, she shared to eat what a great-great-great-grandmother would recognize as food.

She also intertwined Michael Pollan’s definition of food that states, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

One should eat until they are about 80 percent full where they feel nourished but not stuffed.

“A diet that is 75 to 100 percent or more plant based is the diet that reverses chronic disease,” she said, adding how she has seen people turn their high blood pressure, high cholesterol, arthritis, and diabetes around.

A person’s meal choices start to look different on their plate. Vegetables take up about half, and the other half is split between fruits, legumes and unprocessed whole grains.

“And then there’s a tiny sliver of our plate that can be devoted to meat and dairy which become more like condiments than big components of our meals,” she said.

Apparently, the American Institute of Cancer and the American College of Cardiology is agreeing with this diet change.

“So I will say it again, the choices that we make every day, they really do matter,” Dr. McIlvena said.

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