People pop pills for just about every condition these
days, but multiple studies in recent years offer strong
evidence that diet and exercise can be effective treatments
for many ills.
In the April 2008 issue of the Harvard Health
Letter, researchers highlight how to manage seven
common conditions without taking medication. While no
one should stop taking prescribed medication without
talking to a doctor, the researchers write that with
discipline, the nonpharmacological approach can do as
much as pills in many cases.
Arthritis: There's a good chance
that losing weight will make arthritis
less painful. Combine weight
loss with exercise and you may have less pain and
more mobility. Even for those who don't need to
lose weight, exercise that doesn't put "load"
on the joints, such as swimming, reduces pain.
Cholesterol: Your LDL level may drop
by about 5 percent if you avoid foods high in saturated
fat. Additional soluble fiber may reduce LDL levels
as well, as can can margarines fortified with sterols.
Cognitive decline: Memory
training and other "brain
exercises" seem to help healthy older people
stay sharp. But physical exercise may benefit the brain
more than mental gymnastics.
Depression: Regular physical
activity can have a potent antidepressant
is a powerful brake on blood sugar levels, because exercised
muscle becomes more receptive to the insulin that helps
it pull sugar in from the bloodstream. Eating fewer
sweets and easy-to-digest carbohydrates also helps control
blood sugar levels.
High blood pressure: Losing weight,
getting more exercise, and eating less sodium all lower
exercise puts stress on bones, and bone tissue reacts
by getting stronger and denser, fending off osteoporotic
processes. Extra vitamin D and calcium top the list
of dietary recommendations.