That works as a nice toast, but what does it mean. Does it mean something different if you are 20, versus 60, versus 90 years old? Our expectations may change as we age but we should certainly have a desire to be healthy. Webster’s Dictionary defines healthy as “to be free of disease or pain” or “showing physical or emotional well-being”. Health they define as “the condition of being sound in body, mind or spirit” or “the general condition of the body”.
So how much control of our health do we have?
Each of us is born with certain risk factors. We have no control over our genetics- who our parents are, where we were born or the circumstances of our early years; all of which can influence our general health. We can track and improve health by looking at blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and other blood chemistry profiles, each of which has standards that will tell us if we have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease- heart attack or stroke.
The state of Wyoming has a program called Wyoming Health Fairs which makes it easy and relatively inexpensive to track many of those factors. You can check out their website here, to learn more about the services they offer and where you can access them. Their mission statement is “To inspire and empower well-being one person, one health screening and one partnership at a time. In our area, they come to Powell the 2nd Tuesday of each month 7-10:00 am at 245 N Evarts Street at PCSD#1 Support Service Building. In addition, at a nominal fee Powell Valley Health Care will perform wellness lab draws 7:30 to 11 am, Mon – Friday and Cody Regional Health performs wellness checks 7 to 4:30 Monday – Thursday or 7-12:30, at the Cathcart Health Center. For more information check out Powell Valley Healthcare or Cody Regional Health to learn more.
Risk factors over which you have some control include blood pressure, cholesterol levels, body weight, and smoking.
Blood pressure is the force your heart exerts on the walls of your arteries. Systolic pressure, the top number of your reading, is the force exerted each time your heart beats. The diastolic pressure is the force exerted between beats. If you have high blood pressure also known as hypertension (HTN) you are putting extra strain on your heart and blood vessels which over time can cause heart and kidney disease or stroke. Recommendations on normal vary according to your age, but normal ranges are generally from 120 /80 to less than 140/90. High blood pressure is known as the silent killer as there are not usually any early symptoms, so it is important to have it checked. Blood pressure often increases with age, but other risk factors increase your risk include: smoking, high salt consumption, not eating enough fruits and vegetables, being overweight, drinking too much alcohol, stress and lack of physical activity.
Mayo clinic makes these recommendations: to control your blood pressure:
- Lose extra pounds and watch your waistline. Blood pressure (BP) often increases as your weight increases and weight loss is one of the most effective lifestyle changes for controlling your BP if you are overweight. Carrying too much weight around your waist also increases your risk.
- Exercise regularly, 30 minutes a day can lower your BP. Both aerobic exercise (such as walking, jogging, biking, swimming or dancing) and weight training can help.
- Eat a healthy diet- whole grains, fruits vegetables, and low-fat dairy products.
- Reduce Sodium
- Limit the amount of alcohol you drink
- Quit smoking
- Cut back on caffeine
- Reduce stress
- Monitor your BP
- Get the support of family and friends
Obesity/excess body weight is a health risk that according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), increases a person’s risk for: heart disease, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, stroke, liver and gallbladder disease, sleep apnea, respiratory diseases and arthritis. Body mass index (BMI) is a ratio of your weight to your body height. In general, an adult should have a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9. Check out this website to learn your BMI. You can also check out the same website for information on body mass index in children and teens.
Physical activity increases the number of calories your body uses for energy. Burning calories through physical activity, combined with reducing the number of calories you eat, create a “calorie deficit” that results in weight loss. Most weight loss occurs because of decreased caloric intake. However, evidence shows the only way to maintain weight loss is to be engaged in regular physical activity.
Smoking increases your risk for cardiac, respiratory and peripheral artery disease. If you are a smoker there is smoking cessation coaching available through the Wyoming Health Fairs or talk to your MD about assist in quitting smoking.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance produced by your liver that your body uses to build cells. In addition, it comes from foods derived from animals such as meat, poultry, and dairy products which are all high in saturated and trans fats. Those fats cause your liver to make more cholesterol than it otherwise would, increasing it to an unhealthy level. Some tropical oils – such as palm oil, palm kernel oil, and coconut oil – can also trigger your liver to make more cholesterol. These oils are often found in baked goods.
There are two types of cholesterol: LDL bad, and HDL, which is good. Too much of the bad kind, or not enough of the good kind, increases the risk that cholesterol will slowly build up in the inner walls of the arteries causing them to become narrow. If a blood clot forms, it can more easily block these arteries causing a heart attack or stroke.
High cholesterol can be improved with dietary modification, weight control, and exercise. The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) recommends testing at least every 5 years especially for those with obesity, smoking, HTN, diabetes and family history. According to the NCEP high cholesterol can also develop in early childhood and adolescence. Their recommendations to lower your cholesterol include:
* Eating more fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and whole grains.
* Adults should get at least 2 hours 30 min of moderate or 1 hour 15 min of vigorous physical activity each week. Children age 6-17 should get 1 hour or more of physical activity each day.
* Maintain a healthy weight.
* Don’t smoke or quit if you smoke.
You may have noticed a common theme. Maintaining a healthy diet in conjunction with increasing your physical activity will go a long way towards assisting you in improving or maintaining your health by reducing your weight, lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and decreasing stress all of which will decrease your risk for cardiovascular disease. Check out this website at the CDC for ideas on increasing your exercise.
Talk to a physical therapist about how physical therapy can get you started on a road to better health.