REACHING 50 and already losing friends to cancer this year, I was anxious to find out if I had anything untoward lurking beneath the surface.
With the festive season set to begin, I knew I’d be polishing off double the usual calories for weeks on end, as well as probably tripling the recommended alcohol rates. Would this set off a domino effect of pain and suffering in the new year?
I was particularly concerned since I had been suffering from debilitating digestive complaints that were beyond the range of the familiar IBS symptoms this year.
I had chosen a full medical check at Executive Health, in Marbella, coordinated by heart scientist Dr Henrik Reinhard in the hope that it would enlighten me.
The annual screening involves a thorough MRI examination of the thorax, abdomen and pelvis alongside a clinical evaluation of my heart, balance and coordination, a lung function test, and analysis of blood, urine and stools.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) uses a powerful magnetic field combined with specific radio frequencies to create detailed images of internal body structures (organs, bones and tissues) with the aid of a sophisticated computing system.
By detecting abnormalities, cancerous and non-cancerous growths, damaged tissues, inflammation, infection and much more it can help diagnose the presence of disease or injury.
While the advancement of heart disease follows a more predictable pattern, requiring screening every five years, cardiologist Henrik advises yearly screening for cancer.
In our consultation immediately after the test, he thankfully reported that he could see no obvious signs of disease or injury.
Nonetheless, the following week, he promised a more studied report of the MRI scans alongside the laboratory results of the blood, urine and stool tests.
And then, perhaps predictably, the subject turned to diet, which according to his research should be our overwhelming priority.
Now I am a pretty healthy eater and have to be due to my stomach issues, but he surprised me by suggesting that I follow a largely vegan, plant-based, wholefood diet.
I was more accustomed to receiving platitudes from doctors about reducing stress and avoiding the obvious dietary irritants, namely caffeine, spices and alcohol.
However Henrik claimed that this would be much more than a salve for the stomach. He explained that a vegan diet can ‘modify our natural history and actually reverse the process of atherosclerosis’ (the dangerous calcification of the arteries that can lead to heart attacks and cardiac arrests) a claim supported by scientific research.
Since 40% of the population are at risk of cardiovascular disease then this is revolutionary information.
He added that other studies revealed that eating poultry increases your risk of pancreatic, prostate and colon cancer by 72%.
Red meat is considered even worse for your health, with pork slightly better than lamb and beef, while fish also has its dangers.
Dr Henrik recommended following the approach to nutrition as outlined by Dr.Greger in his excellent book ‘How Not to Die’, which I conveniently have on my bookshelf.
Greger advocates the consumption of a ‘daily dozen’, which includes servings of beans, fruit, greens, grains, flaxseed, berries, spices, nuts, and also 60 to 90 minutes of exercise every day.
As for the vast array of supplements I have bought over the years, Henrik advised just two; vitamin D3 and B12 cyanocobalamin.
He also mentioned – and this was the good bit – that medical evidence supported the benefits of a couple of glasses of wine per night, so long as there are also a couple of days of abstinence a week. He did stress that.
I took note and went home to pore over my copy of Greger, relieved to discount the many other diet books taking up valuable shelf space.
About 10 days later, we met again to discuss the laboratory results and full MRI report. All of which were also given to me on a memory stick for future reference.
Fortunately, nothing of any significance had appeared in the detailed report so no further consultations with specialists nor treatment programs would be necessary.
The laboratory tests also confirmed that there were no infections present in my body and that my levels of good cholesterol were high and the bad cholesterol low .
Using all the data gathered, Henrik was able to calculate my overall risk of heart disease to be just 20%. I was thrilled.
For my part, since then by following a weekday vegan regimen with meat on the weekends, I have improved my symptoms by about 80%!
The main culprit for me is probably dairy (including sheep and goat products) however Henrik suggested that I also continue avoiding gluten due to the general sensitivity of my digestive system.
And then the good doctor threw down the gauntlet by suggesting I give up meat, fish and eggs completely.
In his opinion this would lower my cholesterol from 115 to below 100, which in turn would reduce my risk of cardiovascular disease to just 5.8%, the lowest rate imaginable…one that practically no-one he knows has got down to.
With Christmas over, but more excess coming, I may just make this my New Year Resolution!
For more information and set up a health check contact Henrik at :
Executive Health Marbella
+34 670 674 246