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Three Commonsense Approaches Toward Good Health

Posted on Friday, March 11, 2022
by AMAC, D.J. Wilson

The recent worldwide pandemic caused scientists to study the impact of COVID-19 on humans. Regarding risks associated with COVID-19 infections, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in patients aged 18 years and younger, having obesity was associated with a 3.07 times higher risk of hospitalization and a 1.42 times higher risk of severe illness (intensive care unit admission, invasive mechanical ventilation, or death) when hospitalized. In older adults, people with underlying medical conditions and those who are overweight are at higher risk of infection and death. In fact, the CDC states that being obese may triple the risk of hospitalization due to COVID-19 infections. This has been a wake-up call for many Americans who have gained weight beyond what’s considered to be healthy. During the height of the pandemic, many people were negatively impacted by stay-at-home orders and increased stress levels. For some, this led to poor eating and sleeping habits and a lack of exercise. But here’s the good news. You are in control! Along with a trip to the doctor’s office for a well check, there are simple things we can do daily that may benefit our bodies and promote good health. Sticking to the basics, here are three of many great ways to get and stay fit.

1) Skip the fast food – Inarguably, fast food is convenient for people on the go. These grab-and-eat quick meals are also often a fallback for people who don’t like to cook. But the reality is that most fast food is highly processed with low nutritional value. Most fast food contains undesirable content such as unhealthy fats, lots of salt, high calories, unhealthy carbs, and lots of preservatives. To top it off, the beverages most people buy to wash the food down with, such as soda, are often high in sugar. Thus, it’s best to skip fast food and prepare healthy meals at home instead. Crisp apple slices, low-fat and low-salt fresh turkey on whole wheat bread with lettuce and tomato, and healthy servings of cut-up veggies like broccoli and carrots are much more nutritious choices than a greasy double cheeseburger on a white roll. And water is an excellent beverage to enjoy that promotes hydration. Should you choose to eat fast food, try to order the healthiest thing on the menu, such as a salad, and ask for the dressing on the side to exercise control over what you eat. Also, dialogue with your doctor to make sure your overall nutritional needs are met.

2) Sleep well – There is nothing enjoyable about the inability to fall asleep, followed by having to perform tasks the next day when tired. Studies show that many Americans have trouble sleeping or get inadequate sleep. A lack of sleep over time can take a toll on the human body and lower one’s ability to think clearly. Cleveland Clinic explains that even if you eat well and exercise regularly, a lack of sleep can undermine your efforts. Adults 26 to 64 years old should get 7 to 9 hours sleep optimally. Older adults who are 65+ should get 7 to 8 hours. These numbers are recommended by the National Sleep Foundation, an organization to advance sleep health and well-being through education and advocacy. Short-term problems from lack of sleep can include reduced alertness, excessive daytime sleepiness, memory impairment, relationship stress, poor quality of life, and even add to the likelihood of car accidents. Chronic sleep deprivation can negatively affect appearance and cause dark circles and premature wrinkling. It can also contribute to some long-term and serious health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and more. Obesity, depression, impairment in immunity, and lower sex drive have also been associated with chronic sleep deprivation. Additionally, per the National Institutes of Health, a lack of sleep for those of middle age may increase dementia risk. Findings suggest that people who slept six hours or less per night in their 50s and 60s were more likely to develop dementia later in life, and inadequate sleep duration could up the risk. Thus, one cannot overemphasize the importance of getting adequate sleep.

3) Move your body – Exercise is very important to good health. Per the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, whatever your age, there’s strong evidence that being physically active can help people lead healthier and happier lives. People who exercise regularly have a lower risk of developing many long-term (chronic) conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and some cancers. Regular exercise can help improve memory, lower blood pressure, and improve heart health, improve quality of sleep, reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, and even aids in weight management. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor about which exercises are right for you and for your specific health needs. It’s also important for people to learn their BMI or body mass index. This is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. Adult BMI can be determined by visiting the CDC’s website and inputting one’s height and weight at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention BMI does not measure body fat directly, nor does it determine a person’s actual health. However, it is an excellent screening tool that helps to assess one’s general health risk that is associated with weight. Because calculations require only height and weight, BMI is an inexpensive tool for people to determine what general category they fall into, whether it be underweight, healthy,  overweight, or obese. This is especially important to know to establish a healthy weight goal to maintain fitness and increase overall positive health outcomes.

These three fundamental ideas are just some of the many good practices that one can employ to get or stay in shape. Good health is something that no one should take for granted. And it is important to know that many of our daily decisions can affect our long-term health. Often, we sit in the driver’s seat and fail to utilize our powers to keep our bodies strong. However, by incorporating some wise and commonsense ways to take better care of ourselves, we can live long, healthful lives. Be sure to share any health changes you wish to make with your doctor, who can best advise you. And be willing to approach lifestyle changes with a positive attitude to ensure the greatest success.

This article is purely informational and is not intended as medical advice.

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2 years ago

These are good general guidelines, and it’s information our doctors keep telling us at every appointment. But I wish you used a photograph of a 70-something gardener instead of a 25-year-old runner!

Fast food–sure, much of it is awful, but we don’t eat it every day. When I’m on the road, I sometimes stop at McDonalds because they have good salads. Although it’s been a while, the ones I had included mizuna, arugula, and dinosaur kale (these are brassicas, among the healthiest foods we can eat–they have beneficial antioxidants no other vegetables have), spinach, dark green lettuce (iceberg lettuce is worthless), olives, cherry tomatoes, some cheese, and chicken. Probably better than the house salad at good restaurants. I hope they still make their salads like that. No soda, ever.

I shopped at the local Walmart Superstore yesterday. There, they dress up every endcap and display with cookies and pastries in clear clamshell packaging, and candy and junk food are everywhere. Lots of icing. Near the checkout lines are more racks of candy and snacks. This store does have a decent produce section, including many organic options. They usually have inexpensive pac choi, collards, and Napa cabbage that most stores don’t carry. Most carts, though, are filled with sugar, salt, and fat, and sometimes I do indulge in something sweet. I wish Walmart would encourage better eating habits.

Exercise–gardening, of course, is great exercise. Use it or lose it. Most of us old folks are not likely to start running. Walking, being out in nature, enjoying the birds, the trees, and the fresh air…that’s more my speed. The BMI doesn’t take into account a person’s musculature or bone structure, so I ignore it. We know when we’re overweight. Today, I’ll start more vegetable seeds–much bigger garden this year.

Thanks for your articles, D.J.

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