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Obstetrics & Gynecology in Augusta, GA
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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!

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.