Most New Year’s celebrations are accompanied by a commitment to diet and exercise for good health. Manoj Singh, MD, a University of Cincinnati family medicine physician who practices at University Pointe in West Chester, lists the top 10 ways to achieve such noble goals.
Eat a healthy diet. As the saying goes, you are what you eat.
Think of your body as a machine that won’t run properly without the right fuel. A diet that emphasizes high-fiber fruits and vegetables, instead of meat and potatoes, is healthier and higher in antioxidants that may prevent cancers and slow down aging.
Eat three meals a day and include fat-free dairy products in your diet to keep your bones strong.
Avoid high-fat foods, which may increase your weight and your cholesterol. Too much sugar can also cause weight gain and lead to diabetes. Avoid salty foods, which can raise blood pressure. Try not to add salt when cooking, and choose low-sodium foods. Excess weight can lead to diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Exercise regularly to control blood pressure, cholesterol and body weight. Exercise also helps prevent insulin-resistance, arthritis and osteoporosis.
Regular exercise also improves a person’s mood and self-esteem. Try to exercise three or four days each week for at least 20–30 minutes.
Don’t smoke or use any tobacco products: That’s right, none at all, not even “low-tar” cigarettes.
Tobacco is involved in the development of heart disease, lung disease and cancer. Nicotine, an ingredient in all tobacco products, is so addictive it makes quitting difficult. Chewing tobacco is no safer than smoking, since it can cause mouth cancer. Dieting diet and exercise—not smoking—are the safest ways to control weight.
Be careful when taking over-the-counter medications and herbal products.
Just because something is over-the-counter or “natural” doesn’t mean it’s safe. Herbal medicines may interact with prescription medications or have harmful side effects, and mega-dosages of vitamins can be toxic. The herbal product ephedra was once used for weight loss, until it was found to raise blood pressure and increase the risk of heart attacks and stroke.
Take prescriptions as directed, and talk to your doctor about troubling side effects before stopping medication.
Ask your doctor for clarification if you are unsure about to take your medicine. Keep a current list of any medications, vitamins or herbs you are taking in your wallet or purse.
Get regular cancer screening and check the American Cancer Society (ACS) Web site www.acs.org for an update and the recommended ages and frequency of screenings. After age 50, everyone needs to begin some type of annual cancer screening.
Someone with significant risk factors or a family history of cancer should start screenings earlier. Women should have cervical cancer screenings (the Pap test) every two years after age 18. Cervical cancer death rates are higher in populations in which women do not have routine Pap tests.
Cancer can be successfully cured if detected early. In fact, recent evidence has confirmed that mammograms offer substantial benefit for women in their 40s. Routine screening is recommended for cancers of the breast, cervix, colon, prostate and skin.
Check your blood pressure regularly. High blood pressure is called the “silent killer,” because most people don’t know when their blood pressure is high.
The best way to have your blood pressure checked is by a health-care professional. Home blood-pressure monitors may not be accurate enough, especially if the cuff isn’t the right size.
Drink alcohol in moderation. Alcohol has been shown to raise “good cholesterol” (HDL or high-density lipoprotein), but too much can be dangerous and may damage the liver or pancreas. Frequent drinking can also lead to alcoholism and depression.
Keep immunizations up to date. We make sure our children are vaccinated, but most adults don’t realize that they need a tetanus shot every 10 years, an annual flu shot if they are over age 50 or have any chronic illnesses, and a pneumonia shot every five years.
Practice safe sex. Unprotected intercourse can lead to unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Infections from HIV or hepatitis B or C are also potentially spread by unprotected intercourse and can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated. Avoid sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) by using condoms with a spermicide. See your doctor immediately for testing and treatment if you have concerns about STD exposure.
Ask your doctor how often you should be examined.
Not everyone needs an annual exam. Some people can go three to five years between visits, while others need to see their doctor every few months.
Seek medical information from legitimate Web sites such as NetWellness or WebMD.
Don’t wait until there’s a problem to see a doctor, and have a healthy and happy New Year!
UC Health Line contains timely health information and is distributed every Tuesday by the UC Academic Health Center Public Relations and Communications Office.