Food as Preventive Medicine

Physician assistant encourages using diet and exercise to ward off potential health issues

Travis Hardin encourages patients to make good food choices. Photos by Carollee Egbert

Working in rural Georgia and Nevada, physician assistant Travis Hardin says he has seen the same health issues in both places.

“Heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure are common illnesses nationwide,” says Travis, 31.

Before he was hired in August at the Wendover Community Health Center in West Wendover, Travis worked in Georgia.

“My approach is preventative, especially with diabetes management,” he says. “Some patients with type 2 diabetes can reduce their medications significantly simply by changing their diet and exercising. Patients with diabetes are a big concern for me because the disease can trigger so many vascular issues.”

Excess glucose associated with diabetes can ultimately harm the retina, kidneys, heart, and arteries.

“Many of the diseases people have simply come from excess calories,” Travis says. “I strive to develop relationships with patients to motivate them to deal with certain health issues through diet and exercise.”

He encourages patients to embrace the motto, “Food is medicine.”

“Eating healthy food is one of the hardest habits for many people to start,” he says.

Travis reaching for needles in cabinet
Travis practices a preventive approach, especially with diabetes management.

Before starting at the Wendover clinic, Travis worked at Harbin Clinic Internal Medicine in Rome, a town in northwestern Georgia. In 2014, he earned his master’s as a physician assistant at South University, College of Health Professions in Savannah, Georgia.

The Georgia native says one of his life goals was to live in the rural West, where vast public lands provide ample opportunities for hiking, hunting, and fly fishing.

He searched for jobs through R3, a website devoted to rural medicine. He focused on openings in small towns in North Dakota, Idaho, Wyoming, and Nevada.

Travis recalls his first impressions of Nevada’s expansive desert and mountains when he interviewed for his new job.

“I drove up from Las Vegas, and there were mountains everywhere we looked, which I love,” says Travis, who had lived near the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Georgia. “What we call mountains back home are tree-covered hills compared to here.”

Travis moved to Wendover with his wife, Kristi, and their young daughter.

“Every weekend, we try to go to a different place,” Travis says of their exploration of the region.

“There’s so much to see. We love the beauty around here. We’re glad we made the move.”

10 Tips for a Healthier You

  • Cut sugar and refined carbs from your diet
  • Work out regularly
  • Drink water as your primary beverage
  • Quit smoking
  • Watch portion sizes
  • Avoid sedentary behaviors
  • Eat a high-fiber diet
  • Optimize vitamin D levels
  • Minimize your intake of processed foods
  • Drink coffee or tea

For more tips on how to improve your health, visit the Healthline website.