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Ten Commandments of Good Health


Many years ago a desert dweller climbed a mountain and talked to a bush on fire.  What resulted was a set of laws that was to revolutionize mankind’s behavior.  These were not ten suggestions formulated by a long range planning committee nor were they ten proposals put forth by a strategic consultant, they were commandments from a Holy God.  These laws have become almost universally accepted, even by divergent religions, as wise and worthy of adopting. 

     With all humility and a sincere desire to be unpretentious (I am not even worthy enough to scrape the grasshoppers from Moses’ designer goat skin sandals), I propose the Ten Commandments of good health to serve as a lamppost for your journey down fitness lane.  It seems unfair to hurry through these guidelines, so I will opine in both this month’s and next month’s column to cover them all.

                                                      Commandment One

You Shall Exercise:

Live Longer, Reduce Stress, and Grow Your Brain

     Exercise is the elusive fountain of youth.  If you are heavy, harried or hormonal, moving with purpose is a critical part of the solution. Everyone knows exercise is good for you, but few of us follow through. Exercise begins above the neck with a commitment to self and family.  Part of this motivation lies in the hidden benefits of exercise that are not common knowledge such as the prevention of breast and prostate cancer,  reduction in the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease, and as a cure for clinical depression.  Start with a simple walking program and free yourself from the “couch of doom”.

Commandment Two      

You Shall Rest:

A Nap a Day May Keep the Doctor Away

     We live in a hurry-up culture where “Just Do It” supplants “Let It Be”. Busyness has be­come a virtue that is without merit.  Idle hands are the devil’s playthings only in those who haven’t learned the discipline of relaxation.  Certainly there is a place for goal setting and industrious behavior, but there is also a purpose in rest and play. Relaxing on purpose is healthier than just doing something aimlessly. A major area of our lives that is most affected by this culture of chaos is sleep. The average adult requires eight hours of restful sleep a night to function best the next day.  The average adult actually gets around six hours of sleep a night.  This obvious disconnect leads to chronic fatigue and foggy thinking.  40% of Americans (100 million people) are moderately to severely sleep-deprived!

Commandment Three     

You Shall Not Worry:

Make Stress Work For You

     Stress is the little yapping dog biting at the heels of our health.  It is generally an annoyance, but, if it goes on long enough, can become a festering wound.  There are a number of books and counselors that provide a wealth of guidance on effective stress management in a world that oozes anxiety.   Studies indicate that up to 75% of visits to doctors are related to anxiety.  Stress is simply a perception of an internal or external event and thereby can be influenced by our thoughts.  One person’s stress is another person’s opportunity.  You will never be without stress, but you can control and minimize the adverse effects. 

Commandment Four 

You Shall Get Checkups:

                                          Prevention Pays Lifelong Dividends

     A healthy mind and body is dependent on action and education, not passivity and ignorance.  You must be an advocate for you and your family’s well-being by embracing prevention.  Men are especially negligent in this arena, and often decisions regarding family health are delegated (by default) to women in the household.  Seventy percent of health decisions involving the family are made by mom, which includes checkups, vaccines, nutrition, and screening tests.  Most importantly, the woman, by her actions and decisions, sets the tone for current and future health decisions.  A major health care crisis today is not cancer, AIDs, or heart disease, but people not making healthy, proactive lifestyle decisions.  We have to transform a system based on sick care to one that truly embraces well care, and that can only be achieved by practicing individual, responsible prevention.

Commandment Five

You Shall Not Be Gluttonous:

Eat Your Way to Good Health

     

     We are often called a society of consumption.  The talking heads are referring to consumerism; however, the real consumption issue is what we eat.  Our diet has more of an impact on our health and longevity than almost any other activity.  Content and quantity are the evil twins of gluttony.  There are four simple guidelines that, if followed consistently, will provide a foundation of healthy nutrition that will build a legacy of wellness.  Simply stated, eat balanced, low fat, low sugar, and high fiber meals. It is possible to alter the health inheritance of our kids and grandkids by changing how we think about food.  You can spring the family from the prison of poor nutrition and not be held captive by your genetics through a simple and doable eating plan.  We truly are what we eat. 

Next month…what else but six through ten!

Healthy Tips

A celebration is often the result of an accomplishment, a special event , or honoring memories.  These are good things, but do we really need the “special” to warrant a celebration? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to delight in the relatively mundane?  Some of the happiest folks I know are those who relish just being able to get out of bed in the morning.  We can celebrate our health, good or bad, by reflecting on what a true miracle it is that all these billions of cells are working in concert to allow us to walk, run, think, eat, love, write, and even occasionally complain.  In celebration of simply being alive, I have compiled a list of healthy tips (or rambling recommendations) collected over the years to promote, extend, repair and rekindle your health.  Let the celebration begin!

   

People who rarely spend time outside (elderly, housebound) are at a greater risk for osteoporosis due to a lack of vitamin D, which is increased in sun exposure.  400 IU a day in supplement form can help prevent brittle bones.

Taking 400 micrograms of folic acid a day before getting pregnant can reduce the likelihood of neural tube defects in the baby (spina bifida, etc.)

Exercise 30 minutes every day.  The more and bigger the muscles used, the less time needed to achieve fitness (cross country skiing best, walking is good, using the channel changer is bad.)

The more colorful your meals the better. Bright colored fruits and veggies contain greater anti oxidants and other protective substances.

Use herbs (Black Cohosh) and vitamins (E) to control mild menopausal symptoms.  Many are scientifically valid and may work for you.

It’s not brain surgery; to eat healthy go low fat, low sugar, high fiber and balanced.

Eliminate soft drinks.  An extra can of soda a day can add 15 pounds in a year.

Almost half of all doctor visits are stress related.  A great tool for stress management is regular, aerobic exercise.

The solution to permanent weight loss is not dieting, it is getting fit.  Only muscles burn fat, and only muscles that are used!

If you are pressed for time, three ten minute exercise sessions can be as helpful as a single thirty minute segment.

Most women over twenty need to take some extra calcium (500mg) The better the bones before menopause, the better they are afterwards.

Eating habits are formed at an early age.  Teach children as early as two to be aware of good and bad food choices.

Don’t focus on weight.  Your per cent body fat and/or your Body Mass Index (BMI) are better measures of health.  Throw away the traditional scales and get a device that calculates body fat and BMI.  They are reasonably priced and accurate.

A good doctor will always encourage and support getting a second opinion…so in important decisions, do just that.

Don’t limit yourself by thinking that health is strictly physical.  Wellness is a balance of mind, body, and spirit.

Don’t skimp on preventive care.  The Pap test and mammogram have saved millions of lives.

If you have a strong family history of ovarian cancer (in mother or sister) demand a yearly sonogram and CA-125 blood test to check your ovaries.  It is far from a perfect screen, but it is the best available so far.

Young women (ages 9-26) who are not yet sexually active should strongly consider getting vaccinated against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). It is the single biggest cause of pre-cancer and cancerous changes in the cervix.

Acupressure has been effective for the nausea associated with early pregnancies. The most common device used is “Sea Bands”, an elastic band that applies pressure to a point on the wrist.

Caffeine consumption is one of the leading causes of bladder problems in women.  Eliminating caffeine from the diet may reverse symptoms of incontinence, frequency, and urgency.

Some women in the menopause need testosterone supplementation along with estrogen and progesterone to help with a lagging sex drive.

Many herbal medicines and treatments can interact with prescription drugs.  When getting your yearly checkup, don’t forget to tell your doctor about any supplements or herbs you take on a regular basis.

Before any surgery, always stop taking Ginkgo, Ginseng, Garlic, or vitamin E.  They can increase bleeding and lead to problems with the surgery.

Always bring two things to every doctor’s visit: a written set of questions and a list of your current medications.

20 percent of cancer deaths are related to obesity.  Maintaining a healthy weight may be your best guard against developing cancer.

Aerobic exercise might be better for your brain than your body.  Early studies show that exercise can cause damaged brain cells to regenerate, possibly thwarting diseases like Alzheimer’s.

The average person makes about 250 decisions about food every day and most people don’t have a clue as to what influences their choices. Consciously think about what you are eating and you will generally eat less.

A massage once a week can not only reduce muscle fatigue and soreness, but it can be just as good for stress management as a session with a counselor.

The quickest way to get fit with exercise is to WALC.  Wind sprints (just periodically increase the intensity of the exercise) Aerobic (this type of exercise burns fat) Lift (lifting weights builds muscle, which in turn increases metabolism) Cross train (vary your exercise regimen and you will get fit faster).

We hope you’ll find these healthy tips useful!

Vitamins and Women’s Health

Americans have the most expensive urine in the world!   Let me explain.

We are massive consumers of vitamins in this country, and unfortunately, much of the good stuff is eliminated from our body before it has any beneficial effect.  That is not to say that vitamin supplements are a waste, in fact, we strongly recommend that patients use certain vitamins and minerals.  Yet in a billion-dollar industry like the vitamin market, you must be a discerning consumer.  If you are going to take vitamins (and many of you should), you must first know your individual needs, and second, choose an appropriate dosage and quality.

    In general, most women in the country conform to the SAD diet (Standard American Diet), which leaves them short on some essential nutrients.  Vitamin supplements are used to either meet basic nutritional needs or to treat a particular problem such as anemia or hot flashes.  For most folks, the best way to make your body happy on a day-to-day basis is to eat balanced whole foods; but if you don’t (let’s be real here!), a basic multivitamin that contains Vitamins C, E, A, D, and the B series is essential.  Many will also contain important minerals for women including iron, calcium, magnesium, boron and potassium.   In spite of the many advertising claims otherwise, there is very little real difference among quality multivitamins.  We suggest doing your homework (a good place to start is www.ConsumerLab.com ) and get comfortable with a particular brand and then stick with it.  Your pharmacist or health food store may also be a great source of information.  Don’t walk into a discount warehouse or a grocery store and buy the first bottle you see. 

     Two vitally important caveats go with any vitamin or supplement.  First you must take an appropriate dose, and second, you must take the supplement for an appropriate time frame.  Herein lie many of the problems with vitamin use.  Dosage is important! That sounds simple, but consider what would happen if you took a tenth of an aspirin for a headache.  Probably nothing!  And it would be absurd to then conclude that aspirin doesn’t help headaches.  However, that is what happens all the time with vitamins and herbs.  The scientific studies that show beneficial effects of supplements are always performed with specific dosages, and it is essential to know what amounts are proven to be effective.  There are many reference books that list evidence based dosages from various studies. 

     Don’t forget that most vitamins and supplements don’t work overnight.  Many may take up to four to six weeks of continual use to achieve any benefits.  Some, like the antioxidants, need to be used on a regular basis to exert their action.    

    Certain individual vitamins have been shown to help specific problems.  Below is a list of common problems and their vitamin remedies that have at least one good study to compliment their use:

Hot Flashes, Breast tenderness,                             Vitamin E (d-alpha-tocopherol) 800IU /day

    

  

Antioxidant, immune enhancement                       Vitamin C (1-3 grams a day)

PMS                                                                                Vitamin B6 (50mg twice a day)

Anemia                                                                           Vitamin B12 (100 micrograms a day)

Vision                                                                              Vitamin A (2,500 IU a day)

Cold sores                                                                       Zinc  50 mg/ day

Bone health                                                                    Calcium 500-600 mg /day

                                                                                          Magnesium 200-400mg/day

                                                                                          Boron  3-5 mg / day

     As with all vitamins and supplements, always tell your doctor what you are taking, as there can be interaction between these substances and prescription medicines.

Eat For Life!

     The one question we are asked in the office most often, other than how to improve libido, is how to eat healthy.  Since 45 million people in this country are overweight, it is no wonder that this is on everyone’s mind. Simple is better, so here are some simple guidelines for eating healthy.

     Rule number one: Eat balanced meals.  What your mother always taught you is true.  There is no one super food, in spite of what the algae lovers claim, and there is likewise no naturally evil food (well, maybe Spam qualifies as evil).  We were created to survive on a variety of nutrients and no one food can provide everything you need, so mix it up to guarantee proper health.  Balance proteins, carbohydrates, and fats by selecting a wide variety of foods.  Spice up your life! Get crazy and try foods that are different from burgers, bacon, and barbecue!  Travel the world by making one night a week “ethnic night” and sample various foreign cuisine.  There are three sub rules in this category: eat whole foods whenever possible, mainly plants, and prepare them in as close to the natural state as you can.  In other words don’t fry, fritter, and fracture your food!  And one final caveat, don’t overdo it.  One given in proper weight management is watching total calorie intake.  How much you eat is just as important as the mix.

     Rule number two: Eat low fat meals.  This is not to demonize fat but to remind you that too much of some stuff is just not healthy.  In spite of the cacophony of nutritional advice out there, there is not a reliable expert around who tells you to eat more lard.  Some fat is necessary but we should all limit saturated and trans fats.  These include margarine, salad dressings, processed cakes, chips,cookies, and gobs of other nasties.  Become a label reader.  It’s right there in black and white.  If the serving size contains more than 5 grams of saturated fat, put the item down and run away screaming.  Total fat in your diet shouldn’t exceed 25% of total calories.  There are a number of fat counters available in Apps and online so it is relatively easy to calculate how much of the grease is sliding down your gullet.  Don’t forget there are some good fats.  For example, the omega 3 fatty acids found in abundance in some plants (flaxseed) and cold water fish (tuna, halibut) are critical in assuring good health and are essential for their anti-inflammatory actions.

     Rule number three: Eat low sugar. The average person will consume 160   pounds of sugar a year!  Most sodas will contain 40g of sugar in each can!  Sugar, or glucose in fancy doctor talk, is necessary for energy, yet most of us eat enough sugar to power a high school soccer team.  The low carb craze of recent vintage did make us aware of the evils of consuming to much sugar (carbohydrates=sugar); and the data supports that a low carb lifestyle is healthy.  Keep in mind that your need for sugar and energy is directly proportional to your activity level.  Marathoners need more carbohydrates than chess masters. 

     Rule number four: Eat more fiber.  This rule may be a bit of a surprise because it doesn’t get the airplay that the other rules seem to enjoy; however, fiber, both soluble and insoluble, is a key component of a healthy diet.  These are things that aren’t actually metabolized in the system put serve a variety of vital functions such as binding excess cholesterol, promoting bowel health, and regulating hormone levels.  The American Heart Association has stated that consuming 28 grams of fiber a day can reduce your risk of heart disease, the number one killer of both men and women.  Fiber is abundant in fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts, legumes, and tree bark. (Just seeing if you were paying attention).  Choosing foods high in fiber not only fulfills the need for roughage, but these foods also tend to be low in calories and filling.