Release Date: 2/27/2012
Small steps can lead to longer, healthier life
You get only one body—take care of it. One small step at a time can lead you to a longer, healthier life. - Julie Busch, M.D., Kirkwood Family Medicine
An interview with Julie Busch, M.D., Kirkwood Family Medicine
Swapping out our bad habits for a healthier lifestyle seems like a daunting task, Dr. Busch. How do we begin?
When it comes to our health, sometimes we make things more complicated than they need to be.
If you want to lead a healthier lifestyle, it all starts with one small step at a time. It starts with you making the decision that you want to feel better, become healthier and live longer. Diet is an important component.
Start today—with breakfast. Just like your mother always told you, breakfast still IS the most important meal of the day, so don’t skip it. If you don’t have time to cook or even sit down and eat, make sure you have something to “grab and go” that is low-fat, fiber-rich and nutritional. Pass by the white bread, pastries and gooey breakfast treats. Stick with the high-fiber, low-fat, whole-grain breads, cereals and breakfast bars.
Sugary soft drinks and the popular sweetened teas provide no nutritional value and contribute to weight gain and tooth decay. Drinks laced with caffeine act as a diuretic and, in excessive amounts, can make you nervous and jittery.
Unsweetened tea, particularly green tea, is a better choice. Or, better yet, simply add an extra glass of water to your normal daily intake of fluid.
Daily food choices should include foods in a rainbow of colors—green, orange, red, yellow and white. Don’t fall for diets that focus on one food group and promise quick weight loss. Eating a variety of foods insures a balanced diet. Fruits and vegetables, colored in the whole spectrum of the rainbow, are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.
Meat provides valuable protein, but too much red meat can raise cholesterol levels and clog arteries. Fish, chicken and turkey are better choices.
Dairy products provide essential calcium to keep bones and teeth strong, but many dairy products are too high in fat. Choose skim milk instead of whole and look for low-fat yogurt and cheeses.
Salt generally is over-used and can contribute to high blood pressure. Two grams of salt—one level teaspoonful—is the recommended allowance for a day. This includes all of the salt that occurs naturally in foods, that already has been added to pre-packaged foods and that you add in cooking or at the table.
What about exercise? It's not too difficult to begin, but for many of us the routine tends to fall by the wayside after a time.
While you might not have a lot of time to devote to a regular daily exercise regime, make it a practice to walk at least one mile a day and add an extra 10 to 15 minutes to your current exercise program. If you don’t exercise at all, begin with a 15-to-30-minute fitness session each day and gradually add a few minutes here and there. It doesn’t have to be a dedicated effort: you can do it by intentionally parking a greater distance from your workplace, the grocery store and other destinations. Your reward will be improved circulation, lowered cholesterol and better heart health. You also will burn a lot of extra calories.
What else can we do to help prevent health-related problems up the road?
If you are age 50 or older, take one baby aspirin a day to help prevent heart disease and stroke—but only after discussing it with your doctor to be sure it is not contraindicated for you.
And lastly, no matter what age you are, stop smoking. Smoking is a contributor to almost any disease, from heart failure to cancer.
You get only one body—take care of it. One small step at a time can lead you to a longer, healthier life.
A board-certified family medicine specialist since 2002, Dr. Julie Busch has a practice at Kirkwood Family and Internal Medicine, 10296 Big Bend Blvd. Dr. Busch focuses on keeping her patients healthy. She sees patients of all ages. She grew up in Kirkwood and now lives in Glendale with her husband and two children. To keep healthy, she runs about three miles a day.
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