In December, the doctors from the Eisenhower Wellness Institute reviewed some old fashioned advice and the latest research on healthy practices to consider for 2012. Presenters included Medical Director, Patricia Avila, MD, MPH; Integrative Medicine Specialist, Hessam Mahdavi, MD, DC; and Sports Medicine Specialist, Steven Steele, MD. Desert Health® was there taking notes for you…

What is Healthy?

Healthy is a good attitude and mobile body. Think about where you want to be 10, 15, or 20 years from today and set your own goals. Ask yourself, “Do I want to be mobile, happy, independent?”

Know the factors that make a difference: calculations such as your body mass index, which is an indication of risk factors for chronic disease and your waist to hip ratio. Know your blood pressure, cholesterol and your fasting blood sugar which will help with decisions to prevent diabetes.

Eat Mindfully

Make a commitment to watch what and how you eat. We tend to move too quickly through our lives and don’t eat with much thought. Eat frequently throughout the day with small portions and fewer calories. This keeps insulin levels more consistent throughout the day and reduces hunger. Chew each bite 40 times to feel satiated. It takes 20 minutes for food to reach stomach.

“Mindful eating” means to center ourselves into a practice of relaxation and breathing. If we ate like our European counterparts, we would linger 1 to 2 hours over a light lunch. This is a healthier approach to eating and keeps our digestive system functioning well.

Drink the Proper Amount of Water for Your Body

How much water should you drink daily? Approximately 50% of your weight in ounces. If you weigh 200 lbs, you need 100 oz of water a day. It’s important to keep hydrated, especially here in the desert. And drink good quality water. A filter for your home faucet is recommended.

No beverage is more important than water in keeping your body functioning well. Club soda and sparkling waters are not good substitutes as they are hard on your kidneys and should be consumed in moderation. Same goes for juice and juice drinks. For every cup of coffee, soda or tea, you need to drink a glass of water to break even.

Our thirst drive diminishes as we get older, so we must remind ourselves to drink water. Many times when we feel hunger, we are actually dehydrated, so grab a water before a snack.

Eat Breakfast

Try to eat breakfast within 30 minutes of waking up. The meal should be high in protein and low in fat. We need protein to heal our muscles, our DNA, and the neurotransmitters in the brain. Protein is best absorbed in the morning — consider protein shakes, eggs, or goat cheese.

Down on Sugar

Sugar makes us feel good for a short period of time, but is very hard on our immune system. A key step to enhancing your immune system is to avoid sugar.

This includes artificial sweeteners such as those found in soft drinks and many food and beverages labeled “sugar free.” Read labels and know the names of artificial sweeteners so you can make educated choices.

Breads and carbohydrates are considered sugar. White bread is 100% sugar and wheat bread is about 70% sugar. Brown rice has 50% less sugar than white rice. Choose sweet potatoes over white potatoes as they are more nutritious and don’t spike blood sugars.

Eat Your Vegetables for Vitamins & Fiber

We’ve heard it our entire life and it’s true. Eat your vegetables – and fresher is always better than processed or canned.

Potassium and magnesium are two minerals that we lose as we age. These deficiencies may result in leg cramps and muscle spasms. Bananas and oranges are natural sources of these minerals and can help stop cramps and spasms.

Another common mineral lost is vitamin K, which is found in leafy, green vegetables. These vegetables are also high in fiber. The standard American diet has about 7 grams of fiber daily. Ideally we should consume 25 grams/fiber per day, and optimal is approximately 40 grams/fiber per day which can reduce your cholesterol by 40%.

Park Farther Away

With exercise, you need to be realistic and create a program that works for you. However, you can significantly increase your exercise and fitness by simply altering your daily routine. Park your car farther away. Walk to the mail box. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. These little things do add up.

Keep Your Exercises Short

Studies now show that ‘shorter is better.’ With shorter workouts, we tend to increase intensity which is good for us. If you use a treadmill, go up to 10 for 1 minute, then go to 0 for 4 minutes, etc. Vary the intensity.

You can work on your core strength by simply using a chair, sitting and standing without using your hands 20 times every day. Old fashion push-ups, jumps and squats are still great core exercise and can be done any time, any where.

If you are injured, it is important to have a doctor look at your injury and to prescribe a rehab or therapy to keep you moving at a modified pace.

Laugh Often

Laughter clears our senses and cleanses our bodies. When we are stressed our body produces cortisol, a hormone that, if constantly elevated, changes our body’s metabolism. It tends to redistribute fat to our abdomen area. Laughter helps in relieving stress and bringing a sense of overall well being.

Set realistic goals for yourself and take baby steps. Life is challenging, but be positive, and enjoy the journey!

For a schedule of lectures and more information on Eisenhower’s Wellness Institute programs, call 760-610-7360.

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