Chart your course for better health
It is easy to become overwhelmed by all the health care advice offered by experts and wannabe experts in the media today.
Is fat good or bad? Am I eating too many carbohydrates? How often am I supposed to exercise? Do I need to take vitamin supplements or not; if so, how many and which ones?
The confusion is enough to make you want to throw up your hands, lean back in the recliner and forget about it.
But if you want to live your best, healthiest life, thats not the right choice. Dr. Susan Murrmann-Price, an obstetrician/gynecologist with the McDonald-Murrmann Womens Clinic in Memphis, Tenn., has made things a little easier for those searching for a healthier lifestyle.
Murrmann-Price has developed a list of recommendations called The 9 Healthiest Lifestyle Choices for Women, based on extensive research and personal experience. Following this advice will put you on the road to a fitter, more productive life.
In the tradition of the Top 10 List of talk show host David Letterman, well start with Number 9 and work our way up.
#9 Kick the habit. Stop smoking or better yet, dont start. It is well-known that smoking causes lung cancer and other serious ailments such as emphysema. But smoking also is linked to or is known to aggravate other conditions such as bladder cancer, cervical dysplasia, heart disease, osteoporosis, premature aging of the skin and high blood pressure.
The bottom line is dont start, Murrmann-Price said. But its never too late to stop.
#8 Go for fake instead of bake. Unprotected sun exposure poses many health risks including skin cancer. Make sure to use sunscreen whenever in the sun. If you really want that bronzed look, try self-tanning products. They are available at drug stores and discount stores. Many salons and spas offer bronzing application services as well.
#7 Reinvent yourself over and over. Studies show that people who make changes and are happier in their lives live much longer, Murrmann-Price said.
How you view changes in your life can help give you a positive outlook. Take stock in your life. If youre unhappy, make some changes.
#6 Take vitamins. It is unlikely your daily diet will provide you with the vitamins, minerals and other substances you need for maximum health. Murrmann-Price recommends the following supplements.
- Calcium and Vitamin D.These two substances build strong, healthy bones, but did you also know your heart needs calcium? If you dont take in enough calcium your heart will start taking it from your bones. Calcium also aids in fat metabolism and colon cancer prevention. Women start losing calcium at age 30.
- Essential fatty acids. Over the last few decades, much emphasis has been placed on low-fat diets, but your body does need some fat. It is especially important for making hormones. If you take the fat out of your diet, your hormones are going to suffer, Murrmann-Price said. Now that doesnt mean adding fried chicken and onion rings. You need good fats such as omega-3 fatty acids. Sources of good fat include flaxseed oil, primrose oil, olive oil and nuts. For more information on omega-3 fatty acids, visit Baptist Online or the American Heart Association.
- Antioxidants. Our bodies contain substances called free radicals that attack healthy cells. When healthy cells are weakened, they are more susceptible to cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancers. Antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E and beta-carotene, help protect healthy cells from damage caused by free radicals.
- Niacin and folic acid.These substances help increase good cholesterol and lower the bad.
- Baby aspirin.It provides protection for stroke and heart disease.
- Multivitamin. A multivitamin is a good overall supplement.
For more information, visit the Baptist Online home page and click on Nutrition or visit the National Library of Medicine Web site and perform a search on the word nutrition.
#5 De-stress your life. Stress contributes to or is the cause of many health problems including irritable bowel syndrome, pelvic pain, heart disease, fatigue, backaches and depression. It wears down the immune system.
There are places in my home where I know I can go to be relaxed, Murrmann-Price said. Find a space for yourself. Find out what makes you relax.
Exercise is also a great way to reduce your stress level.
#4 Find a role model and be a role model. We should all live our lives in a way so that we can set examples for others. Inspire others to live a better life. One good way to achieve that goal is to look to your own role models. What makes you admire them? Use their lives as motivation to build your own unique, productive life.
#3 Get that tune-up. Get a check-up once a year. Get your mammogram, Pap smear, blood pressure, and cholesterol tests. Consult your physician about other needed tests and exams.
I always tell my patients it starts with your heart, Murrmann-Price said. If youre not taking care of your heart, it doesnt matter how well everything else works. If you take care of your heart, your heart will take care of you.
#2 Eat right for your type. Cut down on carbohydrates. Low-carbohydrate diets can reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes, according to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Know the ingredients of what you are eating and pay attention to portion size. There are lots of additives in foods. Stay away from highly refined foods. Eat lean proteins and dont be afraid of the right kinds of fat. We need fat to live.
#1 Get off the couch. You cant lead an inactive lifestyle and expect to be fit. Too many Americans dont get enough exercise. It is estimated that 61 percent of Americans are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Some 13 percent of children and teenagers are overweight, according to the CDC. Regular, vigorous exercise is one of the most important things you can do to improve your health. Murrmann-Price advises 45 minutes of vigorous cardiovascular exercise four times a week. However, before starting a new exercise program, you should consult with your physician.
Published: Sept. 29, 2003