A Few Quick Tips About Nutrition

Julie Fitzpatrick, DPT

Physical Therapist and Wellness Specialist


“Eat right live strong”…”You can’t exercise yourself out of a bad diet”… “Feel good from the inside out”…”What you eat matters”…”Eat your vegetables”… “Make sure you get 5 servings of fruits and veggies daily”…”Your health is your wealth”…


You may have heard and/or read one or more of these nutrition slogans at some point in your life.  Perhaps they inspired you to become a healthier you. Perhaps they had little to no impact, or perhaps they had the opposite effect and turned you off from doing anything remotely healthy at all. Either way, we know or at least we can say we’ve heard time and time again, that eating healthy is important to our overall health.  But do we really know WHY it is so important?  What exactly do these slogans mean? And if we did know WHY it is so important to our health, would we do something about it?

Around 400 BC, Hippocrates (The Father of Medicine) stated: “Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food. Food and exercise work together to produce good health.”  Thomas Edison has been quoted saying: “The doctor of the future will give no medicine but will interest his or her patients in the care of the human frame, in a proper diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.”

Chronic illness now kills 70% of Americans and 62% of all people worldwide. In the United States, Cardiovascular Disease is theleading cause of death and will claim the lives of 1 in 3 people. Approximately 69% of Americans are overweight or obese.  Nearly 10% of Americans have some form of diabetes, and 9 of 10 with prediabetes do not know they have it. These numbers are staggering and paint a very bleak picture of the overall health of our country.

After 30 years of treating patients in a variety of settings from outpatient to skilled care, acute rehab, and home health; I have witnessed first-hand the impact chronic disease and poor lifestyle choices can have on patient’s overall function and rehabilitation outcomes. Out of a strong desire to help patients improve their health picture, I have taken an interest in, and applied the power of Lifestyle Medicine into my practice. Nutrition being one of the most important habits to be addressed.

According to the American College of Preventive Medicine, Lifestyle Medicine is the scientific approach to decreasing disease risk and illness burden by utilizing behavioral interventions such as nutrition, physical activity, stress reduction, rest, smoking cessation, and avoidance of alcohol abuse.

Research tells us lifestyle changes such as improving nutrition, can improve a patient’s overall health, help decrease chronic illness, and therefore improve rehab outcomes.  According to the American Heart Association, 80% of all cardiac events can be prevented with lifestyle changes and education. This alone motivates me to help my patients see the power lifestyle changes, such as nutrition, can have in making a positive impact on their health!

We are starting to see more and more research emerge on the power of food to treat and reverse disease. We are also getting a clearer picture on the direct correlation between salt, sugar, fat and processed foods in the standard American Diet, as key contributors to the nation’s high rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Choosing the right foods and eliminating the wrong ones can have a positive impact on our overall health picture.

So how can the right foods and what we drink really help our health? Let’s first start with our drinks. Did you know that our bodies are made up of 70% water and our brains 80%? Our bodies need ample water to optimize our health. A reasonable goal is 8 glasses a day to minimize dehydration. Water allows our bodies to digest and absorb nutrients, think clearer, improve mood and boost our metabolic rate!

Choosing the right foods can be quite overwhelming as there is so much information available, so many different diets and theories, as well as so many habits we find hard to break.  The American College of Lifestyle Medicine recommends a plant-based diet, and the American Heart Association recommends a Mediterranean Style diet. Both emphasize eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and legumes; low-fat or fat-free dairy products, fish, poultry, non-tropical vegetable oils and nuts; and limits added sugars, sugary beverages, sodium, highly processed foods, refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, and fatty or processed meats.

Eating the rainbow, in other words eating a plate full of colorful foods, has its benefits too. By eating an array of colorful fruits and vegetables we can provide our body with nutrients that boast numerous health benefits that include improving immunity, reducing risk of heart disease and stroke, improving memory, fighting inflammation and restoring energy.

Again, even with all this information, the question becomes, where do I begin and how do I get started?

There is help available!… The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)  states: “Physical Therapists play a unique role in society in prevention, wellness, fitness, health promotion, and management of disease and disability by serving as a dynamic bridge between health and health services delivery.”  In other words, physical therapists are not only experts in rehabilitation, but they also have the expertise and the opportunity to help improve overall health and prevent the need for avoidable health care services. The APTA also has defined the role of physical therapists and the APTA in diet and nutrition indicating diet and nutrition are key components of primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention of the many conditions managed by physical therapists. And therefore, it is within the professional scope to screen for and provide information on diet and nutritional issues to patients, clients and the community.

As a HEALTHcare provider, I am so excited to help our patients truly learn how the power of healthy eating, appropriate exercise and lifestyle changes can not only help improve their current rehabilitation outcomes, but also help them to live their healthiest and best life. In the Get Healthy PT Program at Progressive Rehabilitation Associates (PRA), patients learn how adopting simple lifestyle changes, exercise and fueling the body properly can have tremendous impact on pain, inflammation, energy level and daily function.  Through individual goal setting and consult, participants receive the structure and guidance they need and want to live a healthier life.

Individuals with one or more of the following are excellent candidates for this program:

  • High blood pressure
  • Overweight with BMI greater than 25
  • Arthritis
  • Pre-Diabetic/Borderline Diabetic with desire to control through exercise and diet
  • Individuals with a desire to improve their physical health through nutrition and lifestyle choices

To learn more about PRA’s Get Healthy PT program contact Julie Fitzpatrick, DPT at 319-339-3611, or jfitzpatrick@praiowa.com.

References:

American College of Preventive Medicine www.acpm.org

American Physical Therapy Association www.apta.org

Mayo Clinic of Lifestyle Medicine Programs www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle

Scientific Advances Regarding Sugar, Salt, & Fat, 2nd Edition, Gina Willett, Ph.D, R.D. 2015

Healthy Lifestyle Characteristics and Their Joint Association with Cardiovascular Disease Biomarkers in US Adults, Loprinzi, Paul D. et al. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Volume 91, Issue 4, 432-442.