We have heard many people cheer in celebration, “Salud” or “Here’s to Your Health” but what does that really mean?
Do we really know what it means to live healthy?
I had to ask that same question myself after I received the results of my recent blood tests showing that I have high cholesterol.
The first thing that popped into my mind was that last piece of bacon I ate for breakfast two days before. I then started to think back over the past several months and then I had to take a hard look at my food choices throughout my life and realize that I had been on the path to high cholesterol for some time now. I remember going to an all-you-can-eat buffet with my family and noticing how many more people were lined for fried chicken than for the salad bar. I have to admit that I was one of those people waiting the fried chicken. It has been so easy for me to continue those habits of eating high fat, high cholesterol foods that I learned in school.
Now faced with high cholesterol and my increased risk for heart disease and stroke I had to change my whole attitude on living healthy and now I want to share what I learned with you.
When many of us think about our health, we tend to think about our illnesses or list our medical problems. We think about high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, stroke and the like. As a Board Certified Internist, I know that these medical problems are very real and can seem to consume your life and be your primary focus when you go to see the doctor.
However, I want to help you look beyond your illness and look forward to your health.
When I counsel my patients on their eating habits I don’t just tell them what they can’t eat because I know from experience when I was told not to go into the cookie jar before dinner, the cookie jar became larger than life and consumed my every thought until dinner. What I tell them is what they can eat and give them options to help satisfy their cravings instead of listing all the things they can’t have.
Healthy living is more that just controlling the medical problems you have.
Yes, it is important to take your medications as directed by your doctor. Yes, it is important to visit your doctor on a regular basis for routine checkups. BUT, there is more!
Living healthy is a lifestyle. That means everything that you do—the activities of your life are focused on your health. You might ask, “Well, what does living healthy as a lifestyle look like?” You know if you are living healthy if you constantly ask yourself, is this good for me or is this good for my family?
What does healthy living really mean?
- It means eating a diet loaded with fruits and vegetables, full of whole grains, high in fiber and low in saturated and trans fat and low in cholesterol.
- It means being active in moderate exercise for 30 minutes on most, if not all, days of the week
- It means not smoking and not being exposed to secondhand smoke
- It means not drinking excessive alcohol (limited to one drink daily for women and 2 drinks daily for men)
- It means getting the age appropriate cancer screening tests to detect cancer earlier
- It means maintaining a healthy weight or body mass index (BMI)
Did you know that eating a diet low in saturated fat and low in cholesterol can prevent you from having a heart attack and getting certain cancers?
Did you know that by losing 5 to 10 percent of your body weight you can lower your blood pressure and lower your blood sugar levels?
Did you know that smoking tobacco or exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke can substantially increase your risk of having a heart attack or a stroke and developing certain cancers?
When you are in the grocery store, do you ever look at an item and think, if I buy this item will it help me eat a more balanced diet? Is it high in fiber and low in saturated fat and cholesterol?
When you wake up in the morning, do you think of ways to incorporate more physical activity into your schedule or plan to workout after work?
In today’s society, healthy living is not second nature.
We are constantly surrounded by unhealthy choices that are within arms reach or just a phone call away. It seems easier to pick up the phone and call the local pizza delivery place than walk to the refrigerator and get a snack of celery and carrot sticks.
To make healthier choices, you have to plan! You will not have healthy food selections at home unless you shop healthier and make healthier choices at the supermarket.
Now when I go to the grocery store, I have to anticipate waking up late at night for a quick snack or wanting to munch on something good during the game or the weeknight movie. Instead of putting a bag of potato chips in the cart I grab a bag of baby carrots to keep on hand to munch on.
So the next time you have a choice between that prepackaged high calorie sweet treat to bring home, remember to celebrate your health and select a naturally sweet alternative like a fruit or vegetable for that late night snack.
Dr. Traci Ferguson, The Health and Wellness Queen
P.S. Check out the Backyard Workout Manual and get your hands on the world’s easiest food plan for healthy eating and healthy living.