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After 5 years, a steady diet of health wisdom rubs off

A new TV ad on a diabetes drug has come onto the market. Injectable Victoza lowers blood sugar levels and addresses the higher risk of heart disease that comes with Type 2 diabetes – a chronic condition caused in large part by foods people choose to eat and exercise routines they decide to forgo. The drug also can help you lose weight.

Refresh Editor Scott Scanlon is a WNY native whose chicken wing consumption has lessened during the last five years. He hasn't been to Ted's Hot Dogs during that time, even though he really misses the onion rings.

What struck me most about one recent commercial, however, are the risks and side-effects you hear as people shop for vegetables, water flowers and ride bikes. Call your doctor if you get a lump or swelling in your neck, we’re told. “The most common side-effects are nausea, diarrhea and headache. ... Some side-effects can lead to dehydration, which may cause kidney problems.”

Possible allergic reactions can include swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat, problems breathing or swallowing, severe rash, fainting or dizziness, a rapid heartbeat. Yikes!

To be sure, prescription drugs have helped boost longevity, calm chronic conditions and ward off sickness. But I hear regularly from doctors, nutritionists, personal trainers and others that a significant subset of people seek a pill or quick fix to overcome health challenges. Yet often – whether doctors recommend pills or not – another key part of the remedy involves healthier eating and more exercise, at every age and for nearly every condition. Meditation, better sleep and an active personal social life also is often prescribed.

I continue to learn that genetics predisposes us to certain health conditions, but that behaviors – and environment – often help pull the trigger when it comes to disease.

Five years ago this month, we published the first of this weekly section focused on health, fitness, nutrition and family life. I told you in that first edition that I hated most veggies and was a hypochondriac.

Since then, I’ve learned a lot from the experts, as well as those who have successfully navigated weight loss and managed to keep chronic conditions, including Type 2 diabetes, in check. In some cases, they’ve overcome them. People have shared heartbreaking stories of loss and blindsiding health conditions, in the hope that their experiences will give perspective to others. Parents, teachers and counselors have shared strategies to help busy families.

Five years into Refresh, I eat more vegetables and much less red meat. I’m more disciplined in my weekly fitness regimen. I use a desk in the newsroom that raises and lowers. I have greater confidence as I work with my doctors and other wellness providers that I’m doing what I can to take good care of myself. I hope Refresh readers can say the same.

I’m also more mindful that none of us will leave this world alive. It’s up to us to use every bit of knowledge, and make every good choice, we can muster to be grateful, thoughtful and happy while we’re still here. I will do my best to be kind to myself when I slip up or make poor choices – unless they become daily or weekly traps.

We will continue to look for local stories and content from across the globe with the same focus we always have: to help readers find balance as they seek to understand the limits and possibilities of health and wellness. If you have some ideas that can help, reach out to me at 849-4601 or email

Twitter: @BNrefresh, @ScottBScanlon

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