By Farin Montanez
Taking pills is often believed to be a normal side effect of aging. That’s a really tough mind-set to battle, but shifting that attitude is necessary to achieve optimal health.
I heard it as a pharmacy technician, and I hear it now from my current nutrition clients:
“High blood pressure runs in my family. It was only a matter of time until I got my prescription.”
“Everyone in my family has high cholesterol and we’re all on statins.”
“My dad has diabetes and my doctor told me I’m already pre-diabetic. It was bound to happen.”
Statistics and surveys feed into this mind-set as well. A 2016 AARP survey of 1,800 adults age 50 and older found that 75% take prescription medication on a regular basis. A study published in 2015 by Oregon State University researchers found the median number of prescription medications used among seniors 65 and older doubled from two to four between 1988 and 2010.
It might seem hopeless, as though the older you get the more likely you are to be prescribed more medications until you’re filling up one of those plastic day-of-the-week pill cases. But here’s the thing: You might not be doomed to that pill-popping fate.
The necessary shift is realizing that many of the diseases and symptoms controlled by these prescription drugs are caused by lifestyle choices—not genetics. That means even if high blood pressure “runs in the family,” it might not—and is probably not, according to plant-based doctors—actually hereditary. It’s more likely that poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle and high stress run in the family, which contribute to heart disease.
That’s great news, because it means those with “hereditary” diseases in their family aren’t helpless or hopeless. They can break the cycle. Plant-based doctors have helped thousands of patients reverse heart disease and diabetes through a diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
For many, the choice comes down to two options: 1) managing disease with prescriptions—and often getting additional prescription drugs to manage the side effects of those pills or 2) getting rid of the disease (and saying goodbye to those meds) by adopting a plant-based diet. It’s the equivalent of trying to stop up an overflowing sink with towels—and more towels—or simply turning off the faucet.
A plant-based diet full of colorful produce and plant-derived proteins has been shown to significantly reduce rates of chronic disease and lengthen life spans. In other words, avoiding meat, dairy, eggs and processed foods helps us “turn off the faucet.”
The easiest way to begin transitioning to this way of eating is by substituting as many animal-derived ingredients as possible with plant-based options in one’s favorite meals. For example, replace chicken teriyaki with tofu teriyaki or meat lover’s pizza with loaded veggie pizza. Substitute almond milk for cow’s milk, or tofu scramble for scrambled eggs.
In my experience, it’s helpful to think of one question before putting a bite of food in your mouth: Am I feeding disease or fighting it?
Author’s note: As with any new diet or exercise program, it’s advisable to consult with a doctor and work with a professional. When reversing disease with a plant-based diet, patients must be closely monitored, as the need for prescription medications can diminish and disappear within a few weeks.
Farin Montanez is a certified holistic nutritionist, ultramarathon runner, a mother of two and a military wife. She helps people transition to a plant-based diet through an online course at WhollyPrep.com. Follow her on Instagram @spiritedvegan.