Cutting through the clutter
There's no lack of information about lifestyle and health. Blogs, websites, newspapers, friends, family and co-workers are always full of chatter about the latest medicines, diet trends and foods.
The conflicting and sometimes overwhelming advice is enough to make even the most careful consumer a little confused. So how do you sift through the barrage of often less-than-reliable information about heart disease and take actions that will actually make you healthier?
Start with the basics.
You must know your numbers and how you can improve them. Make an appointment with your doctor, who is your partner in keeping track of your numbers: Body Mass Index, triglycerides, cholesterol, blood sugar levels and your blood pressure. Then, map out a realistic plan to bring about the changes you need.
Start moving. Exercise is one of the most important things you can do to keep healthy. It lowers your risk of developing diabetes, reduces blood pressure, can increase your HDL (good) cholesterol and can even help with depression. If you're pressed for time, these easy steps will get you started:
- Go for a 30-minute walk during your lunch hour or before you head home from the office.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Park far away from your destination when you are running errands.
Adjust your diet. Just like exercise, losing weight will lower your risk of developing diabetes, reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels and help with menopausal symptoms and depression. How can you drop some extra pounds?
- Read food labels and eliminate items with trans fat.
- Lower your saturated fat intake by quitting the daily burgers and fries, cookies and chips.
- Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Stay out of the middle aisles at your grocery store (that's where the processed foods lurk) and shop the perimeter, where you'll find healthier whole foods.
- Reduce your portion sizes. It can be as easy as taking one serving instead of two. In fact, I had one patient who lost 30 pounds in six months simply cutting her portions in half.
Take your medicines. Take them as ordered by your doctor. No excuses!
Quit smoking. Even heavy smokers have a chance to bring their cardiovascular system back to normal when they quit. After one year of not smoking, the excess risk of heart disease created by smoking is reduced 80%.
Focusing on the basics can help you prevent heart disease. The basics will also help you manage it if you have heart disease. The basics are your greatest defense and your greatest offense. Take some time to read our website, where you'll find the most current, reliable information about taking your health to heart.
Until next time!
Stephanie Coulter, MD
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