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Ditch the fear to eat (and live) healthy

Ditch the fear to eat (and live) healthy
After years of ignoring doctors’ warnings, I finally agreed last month to start taking medication for high blood pressure.

In my case, high blood pressure is genetic. My dad was in his 20s when he was first prescribed medication to control his blood pressure. I remember how Dad complained about the side effects – how he had trouble waking up the mornings, how he didn’t like how it made him feel.

But the doctor “got real” with me, explaining that high blood pressure increases my risk of heart disease and stroke. I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I had to get over my fear of taking medication.

So far, the side effects have been less scary than I imagined. I’m groggier than usual during the day. But other than that, I feel like my normal self, just with a calmer heart.

As is often true, my fears were misplaced. I was more afraid of the side effects than I was about the very real threat of a debilitating stroke if my high blood pressure went untreated.

I got to thinking about misplaced fears the other day when I stumbled upon the CommonGround Facebook page, where a dairy farmer (http://findourcommonground.com/2015/04/lets-talk-about-hormones/) explained why she doesn’t worry about hormones in milk.

While all milk contains naturally occurring hormones, the farmer noted that most milk hormones are destroyed in the pasteurization process.

What surprised me, however, was that one of the commenters asked if people who choose to drink raw, unpasteurized milk should worry about the hormone levels in milk.

“Raw milk” is indeed dangerous, but not because of hormones. Unpasteurized milk can carry bacteria that cause serious food-borne illness.

Out of curiosity, I looked up the food-borne illness statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC reports that between 2007-2012, there were more than 979 illnesses and 73 hospitalizations from consuming raw milk.

Yet from what I could find, there weren’t any reported illnesses caused by hormones in milk. In fact, the hormone levels in milk and dairy products are extremely low, as you can see in this infographic (http://www.bestfoodfacts.org/food-for-thought/hormones-in-cattle).

Like my misplaced fear over taking medication, sometimes we focus too much on the unlikely risks from the foods we eat – whether it’s hormones in milk or genetically modified (GMO) ingredients – even though scientists confirm their safety (http://www.forbes.com/sites/fayeflam/2015/01/30/new-pew-survey-shows-the-public-disagrees-with-scientists-on-gmos-climate-change/).

We all have the same goal: To live our best, healthiest life. But it doesn’t have to be complicated.

Eat your vegetables, lean meats and dairy. Go for a walk. Listen to your doctor. And relax, already. Worrying less really is the best medicine.

By Teresa Bjork. Teresa is senior features writer for the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.