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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!

Too Pooped to Play

“I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired!” 

“I just have no energy.”

     One of the most common problems of the 21st century woman is fatigue.  I am not exaggerating by stating that well over 40% of women I see in my office complain at some stage of their life of excessive tiredness.  Lack of energy is not a local phenomenon either (in spite of the claims of one woman who was sure that SRS had something to do with her low energy level.  Of course this was the same gal who had been nabbed by aliens and forced to watch reruns of “Geraldo”).  National statistics are equally as impressive.  One study even went as far to claim that 30.3 % of adolescents experienced excessive fatigue (PEDIATRICS Vol. 119 No. 3 March 2007, pp. e603-e609) 

   The classification of fatigue runs the gamut from a transient mild tiredness to a debilitating lack of energy.  One of the inherent problems in studying a condition such as this is the subjectivity of the diagnosis.  Those who suffer with chronic fatigue are often perceived as malingerers and pa
tronizingly dismissed.  There is still reluctance on the part of many medical practitioners to legitimize chronic fatigue syndrome, the most extreme form of tiredness, as a genuine entity; however, this appears to be an area where the science is finally catching up with the clinical observation.  As with any medical problem that is poorly understood, the treatment of excessive fatigue is varied, sometimes unconventional, and often unsuccessful.  It is important to distinguish chronic fatigue syndrome from “garden variety” tiredness as they differ in numbers of symptoms and degree of disability.  For many sufferers it comes down to how much the lack of energy interferes with normal day to day activities.  The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta has set down certain criteria for physicians and researchers to use in making the diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome.  A CFS diagnosis should be considered in patients who present with six months or more of unexplained fatigue accompanied by other characteristic symptoms. These symptoms include:

  • cognitive dysfunction, including impaired memory or concentration
  • exhaustion and increased symptoms for more than 24 hours following physical or mental exercise
  • non-refreshing sleep
  • joint pain (without redness or swelling)
  • persistent muscle pain
  • headaches of a new type or severity
  • tender lymph nodes
  • sore throat

  You can see from these symptoms that there is tremendous overlap with other common problems.  We all may experience some of these problems some of the time. The key is the persistence and intensity of the problem and, importantly, no other medical or emotional troubles that serve as a cause.

   There is hope!  Since becoming a more universally defined syndrome, additional research has been done on ways to thwart this bothersome illness.  Many of these treatments and suggestions also apply to the woman who has only mild symptoms.  So whether you are unable to get out of the bed or just collapse at the end of a busy day, these pointers may be worthwhile pursuing.

     First and foremost, get a good checkup by your doctor.  Many medical conditions such as hypothyroidism, menopausegyn, Lupus, depression, anemia, and sleep apnea have fatigue as a primary symptom.  If you check out well with your doc, consider the following:

1.  Check your sleep habits.  We are a culture of sleep deprivation.  It makes logical sense that if we don’t sleep restfully we will be tired the next day.  I am amazed at the number of folks that forget this simple connection.  Improve your sleep and your energy will rebound.

2.  Force yourself to get off the couch.  Multiple studies show the positive effect of exercise on energy level.  You may be saying, “I would exercise if I wasn’t so darn tired!” It is tough, but forcing yourself to do something, even a good walk, will, over time, improve your energy level.

3.  Garbage in equals energy gone.  We are what we eat, and this applies to energy level.  In fact, energy derives from the body’s ability to metabolize food.  If we put molasses in our car’s gas tank, it won’t go far.  If we put junk in our gas tank, we won’t go far!

4. Reduce stress.  Stress magnifies everything!  The more stress, the more your lack of energy.  It’s as if the body tries to shut down to save itself from the stress. The more you can minimize stress, the more energy you will have.

  I realize this is a very superficial treatment of very complex solutions, but maybe it can stimulate you to investigate these approaches on your own.