The Link Between Diet, Obesity and Cancer

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A diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and good sources of protein are important for good health, but did you know that what you eat can also affect your risk for cancer?

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The good news is that diet and obesity are things that can be controlled through healthful choices and a greater understanding of how our bodies process certain foods.

The link between cancer and diet is the topic of the UMC Cancer Center’s next Breast Health Lunch Lecture, presented by Adam Riker, MD., F.A.C.S. Dr. Riker is an LSU Health New Orleans surgical oncologist and Oncology Service Line Director at UMC.

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The free lecture takes place from 12 – 1 p.m. in the UMC Conference Center, on the first floor of UMC, 2000 Canal Street. Lunch will be provided, and a Q&A will follow.

During the lecture Dr. Riker will share a wealth of information, including the basics of cancer, how many people develop cancer, and most importantly, why people develop cancer.

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According to the World Cancer Research Fund, one of the biggest risk factors for cancer is being overweight or obese. Eating food that is high in fat or sugar can lead to weight gain, and there is strong evidence that being overweight or obese increases the risk of 11 cancers.

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Dr. Riker’s lecture will explore why having too much sugar in our diets is not only dangerous, but potentially deadly, the effects of wheat, flour, gluten and process foods (most of which contain flour and wheat) on our overall health, the effects of dairy consumption and the most common pesticide/herbicide in the U.S. food chain and its impact on the vast majority of food consumed in the U.S.

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In the second half of his lecture, Dr. Riker will drill down on how our body processes food, especially sugar and wheat. Sugar is linked to insulin resistance, weight gain, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Gluten, a protein in wheat, has been linked to a number of ailments, including inflammation, intestinal disorders and autoimmune disorders.

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He will discuss the dietary guidelines in the food pyramid and affect on childhood and adult obesity.

The Standard American Diet

1970: 2,077 calories

1990: 2,343 calories

2010: 2,590 calories

Additionally, “I’ll focus upon the striking increase in obesity and diabetes (and other health problems) as a result of the U.S diet and then discuss what we can do about it, in order to live a healthy, happy, fulfilled and cancer-free lifestyle,” Dr. Riker said.

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Know Your Numbers

Authors: Alan Gatz, MD and Kendria Holt-Rogers, MD, UMC Primary Care Physicians

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Today,  many people are aware of the need to focus on the effect of risk factors and life choices on overall health and wellness. Health professionals speak to patients about cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, BMI (body-mass index), and hemoglobin A1c, but many individuals become overwhelmed and do not totally understand all of the information as presented.

Here’s a condensed and simplified description of the above mentioned health determinants.

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Cholesterol

This term actually should be changed to lipids, which includes the entire family of proteins sub-divided into three major subcategories:

  1. LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol
  2. HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, and
  3. Triglycerides (TG).

The two numbers the majority of people need to remember are their LDL and HDL levels.

A simple way to understand the concept of reducing heart and vascular disease is to keep the low low and the high high. LDL level above 150 mg% increases the risk of developing blood vessel blockage while HDL above 50 mg% helps protect against the development of this problem.

High triglycerides also can affect a person’s health including development of pancreatic disease.  Any intervention – including lifestyle changes and medications –  that will improve the overall cholesterol readings will also improve the total TG.

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Interventions to improve the cholesterol numbers and reduce risk of cardiac disease:

  • Exercise – 30-45 minutes 3 times per week
  • Diet – increase fiber, reduce fat and sugar
  • Weight loss – even 5 pounds will affect the level
  • Medication – effective but comes with risk of side effects

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Blood sugar (Glucose)

Important in the proper functioning of most all body systems, if the blood level is too high, many of the major organs can be damaged irrevocably, most notably the heart, kidneys, circulatory system and eyes. Normally, people think of getting a blood sugar reading by having their finger lanced to obtain a drop of blood.  This “spot” reading will give an idea of current glucose level but the Hemoglobin A1c (Hgb A1c) is much better at allowing us to determine average blood sugar level over several weeks.

Without getting too scientific, the higher the average blood sugar, the higher the level of Hgb A1c.  In general we strive to get the level below 7%.

Ways to improve Hgb A1c :

  • Take your medications as prescribed
  • Prescribed exercise program
  • Improve diet and control your weight

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Body Mass Index

This number is determined by a patient’s height and weight.

The ideal BMI is between 18.5 and 25.  Below 18.5 is considered underweight with 25-30 being overweight.

Those individuals above 30 are classified obese.  The importance of BMI lies with the effects of stress on the heart, circulatory system, joints, muscles and metabolism.  Severe obesity with BMI greater than 36 increases the individual’s risk for hypertension, myocardial infarction (heart attack), stroke, diabetes, degenerative arthritis, decreased independence.  Obviously we cannot affect the BMI by growing taller but anything we can do to reduce weight will improve the BMI.

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Blood Pressure

The measurement of blood pressure is important in determining the stress the heart experiences pumping the blood through the thousands (approximately 60K) of miles of blood vessels in the body. Like a body builder the heart, if faced with greater weight (pressure), will grow to meet the challenge.  But, also like the body builder, there can be too much growth (the heart becomes muscle bound) which results in the heart failing to “lift the weight”. The result is heart failure which many times causes permanent disability and death. 

We don’t have the time or space to discuss the effects of blood pressure on the kidneys,  but suffice it to say untreated blood pressure is a leading cause of kidney failure and need for dialysis.

Remember these numbers – Systolic 135, Diastolic 80. 

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If your readings fall above these numbers you should seriously consider speaking with your health care provider about intervention.

Interventions to improve blood pressure:

  • Reduce weight
  • Reduce alcohol intake
  • Reduce salt in the diet
  • Exercise with emphasis on aerobic activity
  • Adequate rest – sleep 6-8 hours/night
  • Stress reduction – yoga, meditation, therapeutic massage

Hopefully, this primer will help you manage your health with greater confidence and purpose.

Dr. Gatz and Dr. Rogers look forward to being your partner in wellness. To schedule an appointment, call the clinic at 504-962-6120. Visit www.umcno.org/primary-care to learn more about UMC’s Primary Care Center and its services.

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A Resolution for a Revolution: How to Stay True to Your New Year’s Goals

 

Author: Alan Gatz, MD, UMC Primary Care Physician

Most people have good intentions when making a resolution, but oftentimes, they set themselves up for failure by setting unrealistic goals or not being fully invested in the proposition.

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For example:  “I resolve to transform this overweight, middle-aged couch potato into the new and improved Adonis 2.0.” Okay, you caught me. This has been my standard resolution for the past two decades. After 20+  years, I have yet to achieve this unrealistic, yet admirable result. If I had to guess, I would say that most who read this post have made similar nebulous resolutions.

Well, what’s past is past: I’m vowing to make 2018 different.

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Rather than talking the talk, I’m endeavoring to walk the walk — and you should, too! The days of written vows that never live to see the light of day should be rendered passé. Instead, we should take oaths that describe defined, attainable goals supported by specific actions to reach those goals.

Only in doing that can we measure our success — because we’ll actually have metrics. This tangible action will improve our success significantly by serving as a physical reminder and reinforcement of our commitment.

With that in mind, I present to you my personal oath for 2018.

I vow to take charge of my health and well-being by:

  • Establishing a relationship with a primary care physician
  • Exercising at least 3 times per week for 45 to 60 minutes
  • Developing healthy eating habits and limiting consumption of fast food
  • Working with my physician, dietitian, and exercise physiologist to attain and maintain a weight that reduces my risk for developing diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease and degenerative arthritis

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Each of these actions can be observed/measured and the results, documented. There exists no excuses.

Now that I have not only spoken — but transcribed — the vow for all to see, I guess I better follow through! Just don’t expect Adonis as the end result. Record of my progress will be kept and updated via this HealthyU Blog, so check back often!  I will report the results of my efforts and, hopefully, demonstrate the positive benefits of committing to a healthy lifestyle.

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UMC remains committed to the well-being of its staff and all who present themselves for care. To this end, the Primary Care Clinic, located at 2003 Tulane Avenue, opened on December 20th for all who wish to establish ongoing care with a primary care specialist.

If you desire to make the commitment to improve your health by losing weight and reducing your risk for developing serious medical conditions, please contact the office for an appointment. Dr. Rogers and I look forward to partnering with you in your quest for better health. Call the clinic directly at 504-962-6120.

A belated Happy New Year to all!