People usually don't give much thought to their health of their hips, knees and other joints -- until they start hurting. But Dr. Richard Diana is different.
But he's not just a doctor -- he's also a former running back for the Miami Dolphins who regularly submitted his body to abuse on the field. He saw the toll the profession took not just on his body, but on the bodies of his colleagues. The price of this physical punishment became particularly evident a few years ago during a reunion with his former teammates. "A lot of us haven't aged as gracefully as we might have wanted because of joint problems," Diana said. "It took some very vibrant people and made them a lot less mobile. I wanted to be able to reach out to these guys and do something for them."
Many of his fellow former athletes have undergone hip or knee replacements, back fusions and other surgeries to treat their pain. Diana said it's possible that many of the troubles they faced could have been overcome by non-surgical approaches, such as diet changes and the proper exercises.
In an attempt to help those suffering from severe joint pain, Diana wrote "Healthy Joints for Life: An Orthopedic Surgeon's Proven Plan to Reduce Pain and Inflammation, Avoid Surgery and Get Moving Again," (Harlequin Nonfiction, $17.95). He'll be discussing the book, which comes out in February, at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30 at R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison.
Though it's not something people think of often, Diana said, healthy joints are crucial to overall health.
"We don't give appropriate (attention) to the importance of joints," he said. "Life really is motion. If you're hurt, you can't move. If you can't move, ultimately, your heart health goes down. Usually, your weight goes up and your health gets worse and worse."
Diana's book presents an eight-week program for regaining healthy joints, and discusses the role inflammation plays in joint pain. Inflammation is the body's natural mechanism for fighting infection, but, sometimes, it can become excessive and doesn't go away. This can lead to joint pain, and Diana said inflammation plays a role in other illnesses as well, including heart disease, cancer and bowel disease. "We're finding that inflammation plays a big part in lot of different processes," he said. "I kind of represent orthopedic wing of this and getting Americans to understand the importance of inflammation."
His book talks about how lifestyle changes, particularly to one's diet, can play a major role in preventing inflammation. Diana said one big thing people can do to protect themselves is to cut their consumption of "bad" carbohydrates, namely sugar. "We know that insulin and sugar are so inflammatory that keeping insulin and sugar levels down helps fight the overall inflammatory state of body," Diana said.
He said he's hoping his book will show people that painful and expensive surgeries aren't the only way they can relieve their aching joints. "I want to reach mainstream America to let them know they can help themselves," Diana said.
To reserve a seat for Diana's talk at R.J. Julia, visit http://www.rjjulia.com/dr-richard-diana-130 or call the store at 203-245-3959.
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