June is Men’s Health Month so the timing of this blog couldn’t be better. After 40-plus years of being an avid consumer of all things carnivorous, I decide to forgo meat and dairy consumption for three months and go completely plant-based (e.g. vegan) as part of a study conducted by a local university.
The impetus of the study was to take physically active “test subjects” who had a predominately meat-based diet and omit that food completely to see what results they would receive in their blood work, general vitals, body composition and VO2 Max (amongst others).
To add additional context, my family has a history of heart-disease, which is mostly genetic. No matter how hard I exercised and watched my diet, my cholesterol levels were always high and above the total recommended average for a healthy male of my age. I figured this was the right time to switch gears for a bit and see what would materialize.
I was rather confident I could forgo my In N Out double-doubles (protein-style of course), pork rinds (which I might add have zero carbs), organic bacon (sans nitrates) and beloved cheese. Now I must admit, I was concerned about my ability to relinquish my nightly indulgence of brie, Camembert and Fontina d’Aosta but given that my alternative was a lifetime of being on statins, I felt it was worth the temporary sacrifice.
Once I agreed to make the leap, I took a battery of blood tests before the study began on January 1st 2019. The labs tested everything from my cholesterol lipid panel, CBC, creatine, testosterone and prostate specific-AG markers to my body fat percentage, muscle density and VO2 max, which is the measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen a person can utilize during intense exercise.
I tried my best to get out of the obligatory prostate exam but it fell on deaf ears. Oh well, I tried.
For the next three months, my diet consisted largely of lentils, soy, veggies, pea protein, a variety of nuts and almond milk. Now here is the good news. The choices of food available to vegans has proliferated to new levels including some fast food chains that now sell “Beyond Meat” burgers and tacos. They are not only delicious, but really taste like meat (if not better) and were even approved by my kids!
I continued my daily routine of gym workouts unabated and made it a point to track my caloric intake and macros to ensure I was meeting my daily protein, fats and carb requirements, which for any avid athlete, is always top and center.
At the start of each month, I took another panel of blood tests and compared them to the results of the month prior. When the physician in charge of the study showed me the month-over-month comparisons, it was evident that this plant-based diet was working. I could see how my bad LDL cholesterol was starting to trend down while my good HDL cholesterol was trending up. Not to mention my triglyceride levels trending down, my resting heart rate decreasing by 15% and my lean muscle mass and VO2 Max levels increasing.
My end test results exhibited positive health outcomes. Not only were my labs, vitals and body composition stellar, I felt better, had more energy, less mental fog and actually felt good about making a difference from an ethical standpoint. In short, the study was a success.
The Value of Flowsheets
As a Product Marketing Manager for Kareo, a cloud-based healthcare software company for independent practices, I was instantly impressed with how easy it was to review my lab and vitals within the hospital’s EHR, which included a flowsheet that tracked my progress. I live and breathe EHR and clinical workflows at work, so I especially appreciated seeing a flowsheet in the real world and how valuable it was to see my results in this format.
Flowsheets allow providers to review individual lab/vital trends, as well as a combination of observations, in an easily viewable screen. Moreover, flowsheets can efficiently and effectively allow providers to get a holistic view of their patient's key data over time and allow them to make necessary adjustments to the care plan. It's important for providers to assess a patient's health progress by reviewing historical multiple observations (i.e. vitals and labs) together to see if there's any correlation in the patient's progress. Without flowsheets, the provider or staff member’s valuable time is being used in searching and clicking for patient information throughout the files.
I couldn’t be more pleased that my company, Kareo, is launching a flowsheets function as part of our EHR module, giving physicians the added convenience of at-a-glance information to assist them with their patients’ care plans. For our initial phase, we will be targeting general medicine and diabetes, hypertension and vitals templates specifically. Over time, we will continue to expand into other areas including expanded customization, medications and a variety of specialties.
What turned about to be a three-month experiment is now heading into six months and I don’t foresee stopping any time soon. Sometimes, you need to see real data to make a life-changing decision and I can vehemently say that technology, in the form of flowsheets, helped me get to this point.
For more information on Kareo flowsheets, please visit here to learn more.