Probably no nation has developed and deployed as many high-tech and
ever higher cost weapons in its own self-defense than the United States.
The Stealth Bomber, self-guided missiles and a thousand other weapons
all testify to one thing - this nation is committed to defending both
its people and boundaries.
But while we as a nation stand well prepared for potential military attacks,
our defenses on a different battlefront have been far less effective. In the
front-lines of our personal lives, where we (and not the government) make daily
decisions affecting our personal health, a host of poor choices have infiltrated
our ranks. So much so, in fact, that eight of the ten leading causes of death
in this country are related to unhealthful lifestyle factors. In other words,
the majority of deaths in America are preventable (or at the very least, “delayable”)!
Here, for your review, are some of the grim statistics:1
Five of the leading ten causes of illness and death are associated
with diet (coronary heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes,
Another three have been associated with excessive
alcohol intake (cirrhosis of the liver, accidents and suicide).
These eight conditions accounted for nearly 1.5
million of the 2.1 million total deaths in 1987.
Dietary excesses or imbalances also contributed to other problems,
such as high blood pressure, obesity, dental diseases, osteoporosis,
and gastrointestinal diseases.
In 1990, poor diet and/or lack of exercise were the underlying
factors in 582,000 deaths, while tobacco and alcohol accounted
another 468,000 and 107,000 deaths, respectively.
It is now clear that diet contributes in substantial ways to
the development of these diseases and that modifications of diet
can contribute to their prevention and control.
A National Tragedy
Could it be, that while we as a nation have prepared well for assaults
from the outside, we have neglected our own personal defense against
the ravages of disease? It certainly seems so.
Of course, for many Americans there is still time to “snatch victory
from the jaws of defeat.” By focusing on health and making positive changes
in our way of living, we may reverse or even conquer many of the lifestyle-related
diseases threatening us today.
“How Can I Be Healthy?”
But “How can I be healthy?” you may ask. To answer this
question is to answer the question “How should I live?” For
the way we live is, without question, the most significant factor affecting
“But what about heredity?” you may ask. “My family has a history
of heart disease, or cancer, or diabetes. Am I not destined to have the same?”
The truth is, genetics plays a very small role in determining your general
level of health. “Heredity loads the gun, but environment pulls the trigger” -
a time-honored teaching I learned in medical school - is still very true today.
The way you live is the primary factor in determining your health.
Often we go to the doctor asking for a remedy, and our hope is that through
that remedy we will recover our health. But while the many and various remedies
available today may certainly have benefit, a “benefit” cannot
remove the problem! In fact, it’s impossible to achieve true healing
without addressing the cause of the problem.
Hitting Ourselves With A “Hammer”
Imagine hitting your knee repeatedly with a hammer. Your knee hurts,
so you ask the doctor for some prescription pain medication. But you
don’t stop hitting yourself with the hammer. And you soon find
that while the medication does provide some relief, the pain inflicted
by the hammer exceeds the power of the medicine.
“How ridiculous!” is the obvious response. Yet so often, the “hammer” of
lifestyle is the basis for our disease. And we need to stop hitting ourselves
with that hammer, which is really unhealthful living in all its many forms.
In the equation of health, unhealthful living plus a healing remedy simply
do not add up. Rather, healthful living is the healing remedy that can establish
a basis for healing. Our bodies were designed by the Creator to heal - and
when we cooperate by living healthfully, healing happens!
Healthful Living Defined
The next obvious question might be, “What is healthful living?” In
her book The Ministry of Healing, written in the early 1900's,
Ellen White defines the elements of healthful living as:2
• pure air
• proper diet
• the use of water, and
• trust in divine power.
These components are described as the true remedies. Of course, implementing
these remedies requires personal commitment, or sense of responsibility
- which may or may not be desired. This is a common problem, and one
that Ellen White recognized, for she wrote about it on the very same
“The use of natural remedies requires an amount of care and effort that
many are not willing to give. Nature’s process of healing and up-building
is gradual, and to the impatient is seems slow. The surrender of hurtful indulgences
requires sacrifice. But in the end it will be found that nature, untrammeled,
does her work wisely and well. Those who persevere in obedience to her laws
will reap the reward in health of body and health of mind.”3
Nearly 100 years later, many of the health principles described by
Ellen White have been proven by medical researchers and scientists. In
his thoroughly and scientifically documented book Proof Positive,
Dr. Neil Nedley validates healthful living as the ultimate healing remedy.
In one chapter, Dr. Nedley reviews the famous Breslow study comparing
lifestyle factors with longevity. In this classic study involving approximately
7000 Californians, seven lifestyle factors were identified that influenced
how long people lived:
1. Sleeping 7 to 8 hours each day
2. No eating between meals
3. Eating breakfast regularly
4. Maintaining proper weight
5. Exercising regularly
6. Moderate or no use of alcohol, and
7. No smoking
Those who practiced all seven habits lived the longest.
In addition, as the number of practiced health habits decreased, there
was a direct decrease in life span, or a direct increase in actual health
age. Notice the following revealing statistics:4
As you can see, a thirty-year-old man practicing only three health habits would
really have a health age of 39.1 years of age. In contrast, a 30-year-old man
practicing all seven health habits would really have a health age of 18.9 years
of age. Talk about turning back the clock - healthful living really is the
fountain of youth!
A Focus On Symptoms
Unfortunately, the primary strategy in health care has focused, and
still is focusing, on treating the symptoms rather than the causes of
disease. I have seen these principles in action- both during my residency
in Family Practice and when my medical practice expanded into Lifestyle
Current standards of medical care are important for they can and do significantly
reduce pain and suffering. However, I learned early on in my medical practice
that treating symptoms cannot and does not treat the underlying causes of disease.
Yet stopping at this point in the therapeutic process is all too common. As
a result, the diseases are managed (instead of cured) as they progress.
Is There Hope?
Lifestyle Medicine goes a step farther than current medical practice,
promoting what should actually be the first step in medical care. Of
course, that first, all-important step is proper lifestyle or healthful
When healthful living is emphasized as the ultimate therapeutic objective,
healing results. I have observed people recovering from a wide range of lifestyle
diseases through healthful living, such as:
• coronary artery disease
• adult-onset diabetes
• irritable bowel syndrome
• and many other conditions, including diseases resulting from immune system
While these results are unparalleled, they occur because of positive
lifestyle changes - not chance.
A Healing History
More than a hundred years ago the “lifestyle” philosophy
of health care rose to worldwide prominence in Battle Creek, Michigan.
Under the direction of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, the Battle Creek Sanitarium
served literally thousands of patients, in the process teaching them
many of the healthful principles that are recognized as being so effective
today. Although the doors of the “San” closed some time ago,
its legacy of care has circled the globe, bringing blessing to millions.
Many health centers and hospitals have joined that “circle” -
by purposing to advance healthful lifestyle as the major principle of
Learning Your Way Around
Imagine finding yourself in an unknown city without directions or
even a map. This would be very frustrating - until you learned your
by personal experience. Once you’ve been there, you know the
The same is true for healthful living: experience is the key. Hearing the directions
and landmarks may have little value until the experience is your own.
Making Good Choices
Healthful living requires a commitment to, and participation and cooperation
with, the lifestyle principles we have discussed in this article. And
we can rest assured that when we make healthful choices, we are following
the will of God.
The whole idea of healthful living has its origin with the Creator God, for
the Bible establishes the foundational principles of healthful living for the
whole person. And upon this foundation, scientific validation provides compelling
evidence to strengthen faith and commitment.
In various places the promise is given that God’s love has provided a
basis for forgiveness of sin, even cleansing from all unrighteousness, and
healing from all diseases. Precious promises! He redeems our lives from destruction!
But we must respond. By faith we must believe and act.
“If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and
wilt do that which is right in His sight, and wilt give ear to His commandments,
and keep His statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have
brought upon the Egyptian: for I am the Lord that healeth thee.” Exodus
This promise purposes our complete restoration physically, mentally, and
spiritually. This is God’s will for our lives, and by doing our part
to live healthfully, we can help bring to pass the heartfelt wish of our
God and Savior: “Beloved,
I wish above all things that you mayest prosper and be in health, even as
thy soul prospereth.” 3 John 2.
Bruce R Hyde, M.D. former Medical Director, Battle
Creek Lifestyle Health Center
1 The following points and statistics were taken from the book Proof Positive,
by Dr. Neil Nedley, pages 2, 3.
2 The Ministry of Healing, Ellen G. White, page 127.
3 Ibid., page 127.
4 Proof Positive, Dr. Neil Nedley, pages 3, 4.