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Disease: Everybody’s Got It — Nobody Wants It! – Part 2

Behavioral Medicine is the science and art of learning how to influence the state of health by practicing healthful behaviors as opposed to unhealthy ones. But even more than that, research continues to show that practicing healthful behavior has positive influences in the fight against contagious disease as well as lifestyle disease.

The major modifiable risk factors for our number one health problem, heart disease, are:

·  smoking
·  high blood pressure
·  high blood cholesterol
·  physical inactivity (lack of exercise)
·  obesity

Each of these can be positively influenced by behaviors over which each person has choice.


There is no longer any doubt that tobacco use, in any form, is the number one contributor to the destruction of the human body. Smoking contributes to many health conditions, including heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Smoking has but one kind of treatment — quitting. However, we know that this is not as easy as it sounds for many smokers. The best advice is to keep quitting until you succeed.

High Blood Pressure and High Blood Cholesterol

High blood pressure, hypertension, is a health risk that can be brought under control easily by most people and their physician. The same can be said for high blood cholesterol. Each of these can be easily ascertained by highly reliable tests performed by your health care professional. There are three major kinds of treatments for high blood pressure and high cholesterol; medications, dietary interventions, and moderate daily physical activity.

Physical Activity

Regular physical activity is essential to optimal functioning of your body. Consider that we were designed to function in a farm-based/agricultural world that required physical activity in the form of manual labor. However, our society has changed to the point that now, unless you choose to be physically active, it is almost assured that your body will not get even a moderate level of daily activity. Remember the old saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” As applied to the condition of the human body, nothing could be truer.


Behavioral Medicine

The major modifiable risk factors for our number one health problem, heart disease, are smoking – high blood pressure – high blood cholesterol – physical inactivity (lack of exercise) – obesity.

Carrying around excess body fat is a complicating factor for many health problems, and the major cause of obesity is overeating. To get a better idea of the amount of extra work the body must do to compensate for excess weight, try carrying a ten-pound bag of sugar or flour around for part of a day, everywhere you go (you will want to be rid of it before very long!). But it is not just the work of transporting the extra weight — it is also the extra work that the cardiovascular system must do to keep the tissue nourished. Consider that for every extra pound of body tissue, your body must produce, maintain, and pump blood through several hundred extra miles of blood vessels and capillaries. Overweight conditions are still best met with realistic expectations (no more than 1-2 pounds of weight loss per week) while eating slightly less and exercising more.

Consider that each of these risk factors provides a strain or stress on the body. Another way to say this is that they cause the body to be out of balance and to experience “dis” – “ease.” “More than 80% of all disease has a direct link to stress, making stress the major epidemic in our society.” This quote is from my friend and colleague, Richard W. Garman, M.D., who is a practicing internal medicine physician and former director of the Original Mind/Body Medical Institute’s affiliate site in Nashville, Tennessee. The fact of the matter is that Dr. Garman is probably stating the case conservatively.

(continued in Part 3)

Remember to be good to you!

Copyright © 2013 by Gary L. Flegal, Ph.D.

Dr. Gary Flegal is a Behavioral Medicine and Health Specialist with a doctorate in “Health Education and Human Performance” from Michigan State University. He is an exciting and accomplished presenter and keynote speaker, presenting seminars for groups and companies on location and at conventions. His advanced training in stress management came to him while working in affiliation with the original Mind/Body Medical Institute at Harvard under the direction of Herbert Benson, M.D. and his staff. In addition to corporate presentations, Dr. Flegal keeps a busy schedule working with individual clients for a variety of stress-related issues, including anger management, quitting smoking, learning to relax and manage stress, and learning self-hypnosis.

Dr. Flegal’s other passion is magic. He has been a professional magician for over 30 years and continues practicing his art at every opportunity. These two passions work together beautifully as he illustrates stress management concepts with fun, visual, and “magical” demonstrations in his stress management workshops and seminars. It also allows him to share stress management with his magic audiences wherever he goes because “Laughter is the Best Medicine!” Gary is a Reiki Master and a Certified Consulting Hypnotist, certified by the National Guild of Hypnotists.

Dr. Flegal’s specialties include stress management, anger management, positive behavior change, insomnia, smoking cessation, and exercise physiology. For individual appointments, speaking engagements, or more information, contact Gary at Professional Stress Management Services in Nashville, Tennessee, at (615)812-7280 or through his Web site:

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Posts by Dr. Gary Flegal

January 2013


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Stress can cause severe health problems if not managed properly. In extreme cases stress can lead to physical symptoms which can even cause death. While stress management techniques have been shown to have a positive effect on reducing stress, the information on this website is for guidance only. Readers should seek the advice of suitably qualified health professionals if they have any concerns over stress-related illnesses or if stress is causing significant or persistent unhappiness. Health professionals should also be consulted before any major change in diet or levels of exercise.
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