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Taking Charge Of Your Health In Texas

Aug 17, 2007
You're a young, healthy individual who lives in Dallas, Houston or elsewhere in Texas, now's the time to take charge of your health. Everything you do to, and take into, your body may come back to haunt you when you get older. So, it's time to take some responsibility, become disciplined and take care of yourself, starting today!

You may have noticed that modern science cranks out an abundance of research attesting to the fact that staying healthy has never been easier. However, for many, it has never been more confusing. Medical studies frequently seem to contradict each other, adding frustration to an already perplexed consumer.

For example: Hormone replacement therapy is good for women. Then: HRT is bad for women. Now: Sometimes, it can be good in limited doses.

Another: Vitamin E may prolong your life. More recently: High doses of vitamin E may kill you.

So what's a health-conscious person like you to believe?

For starters, be a proactive patient and talk to a doctor, preferably one who's familiar with you and your health history. Instead of jumping on a trendy bandwagon, get your health care practitioner's opinion and interpretation of the latest medical research, and ask if any of the new information can benefit to you.

Most doctors will tell you not to wait for someone else to tell you that something's wrong. Pay attention to your health. Be aware of what foods you eat. Get the weight off. And exercise.

It's also important to "know your numbers". Know your blood pressure; total cholesterol; good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol levels. Get screened for diabetes and get a colonoscopy when you reach the age of 50.

Anther suggestion for becoming a more responsible individual is participating in a clinical trial. The medical profession can only get better treatments to market if there are more studies to test them. It's certainly a win-win situation for you as a patient. You'll receive good dietary advice, good follow-up care and will have an opportunity of getting the medication being tested.

It's interesting to note that a growing number of studies today are "crossover" studies, in which the patient may get the placebo for the first half of the study, but will be assured of getting the real medication for at least the second half of the trial. To find a trial that you may be eligible for, ask your physician or contact the National Institutes of Health.

Enough can't be said about this next suggestion: Get frequent cardiovascular exercise!

Hey! It's called physical activity, it's free and it's been tested repeatedly and always comes out showing health benefits. Even if you're a smoker, diabetic or are overweight, doing something as simple as twenty minutes of brisk walking several times a week can help keep you healthier. It will encourage a smoker to quit, help bring diabetes under control, and move a person in the direction of losing weight.

Cardio exercise reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and bad cholesterol, raises good cholesterol, fights osteoporosis, induces weight loss, improves bowel regularity and is a natural and non-addictive sleep aid. It also lowers blood sugar, reduces joint stiffness, improves mental alertness and is a mild antidepressant. Plus, when performed regularly, three to five times a week, cardio exercise reduces your long-term risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Another suggestion: Eat more fiber. There. It's out in the open. If everyone had a half-cup of a high-fiber cereal, every day, it would take care of most individuals - gastrointestinal problems. The average adult needs about 25 grams of fiber a day, but most of us get a measly 12 grams. You can't get as much fiber as you need based on just fruits and vegetables. In Texas and the rest of the United States, there isn't enough fiber available to us, since all the fiber is milled out of breads and other foods. Gastrointestinal problems that can result from not consuming enough fiber include constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids and diverticulosis.

Now that we've taken care of your inside, time to take care of your outside. You can start by hydrating and protecting your skin.

The skin is the largest organ of the body and protects everything else inside, so it's important to hydrate it both inside and out and to protect it. It's recommended that you drink six to eight glasses of water a day and use a topical moisturizer on the skin, focusing on those areas that are most exposed, including the face, neck, hands, arms and legs.

For the face, try exfoliating with a topical, retinoid-like product to help peel off the outer layer of skin. And don't forget a broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB protection) sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. If you love the outdoors, you need to use common sense. That means staying out of the hot Texas sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., and wearing protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.

Okay. Here's the tough one -- Maintain your optimal weight.

Staying at a healthy weight is good advice for anyone, but it's particularly important for women at certain ages. It's well established that, if a woman varies too much in her weight, a slew of abnormalities can occur, because of fluctuating hormone levels. It's recommended that women stay within 10 percent to 15 percent of their ideal weight.

For older women, weight gain during the postmenopausal years can lead to an increased risk of breast cancer. Recent research in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that, if a woman gains 22 pounds or more after menopause, her risk of breast cancer goes up by more than 20 percent. It's believed that the fat stores act as amplifiers for any estrogen in a woman's system.

And here's a suggestion no one wants to hear, but you really need to do it -- Get screened for diabetes.
Approximately 21 million Americans are believed to have Type 2 diabetes. And about one-third of those with the chronic disease don't even know it, because it's most often asymptomatic. One of most troubling things is that, once you're diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, about 50 percent of your pancreas is not working anymore. So it's nice to get ahead of the game and prevent or delay diabetes.

While everyone should consult with his/her physician about their risk for diabetes, certain people need to be checked out early and frequently. Risk factors include: a family history of diabetes; being overweight or obese; being sedentary; women who have had a baby weighing more than 9 pounds; and certain ethnic groups, including African-American, Asian, American Indian and Hispanic.

Here's one you might have fun with -- Strengthen your core by embracing yoga.

Exercise used to mean working only the show muscles. But when it comes to function, that's only part of the equation. To keep the body strong and help prevent all kinds of injury, it's important to work the core muscles, those of the upper and lower trunk and the pelvic area. And, one of the best ways to do that is to practice yoga.

Yoga is great for the core because it does a good job at balancing strengthening and stretching. A weak core is a huge source of back pain that many people get. Practicing yoga regularly is a different way of stretching those muscles, which may ease or prevent many back problems.

Get the proper training for a physical job.
"Worker or industrial athletes" are too frequently neglected and often injured on the job.
This description encompasses anyone who performs physical labor as part of his or her job. It can include a warehouse employee who lifts heavy boxes, a hospital nurse who must reposition patients, or a construction worker who hoists heavy equipment.

Just as professional or college athletes must train regularly to perform their best on the field or court, worker athletes must also train for their work and ease into their work activity. The worker needs to prepare for a physical job beforehand by practicing aerobic, flexibility and strength training. It's important to prepare and condition your body for the physical work you do.

You'll discover that what affects your health also will eventually affect your bank account, so you should take charge of your health while you're young, or when you get older, someone else will do it for you.
About the Author
Pat Carpenter writes for Precedent Insurance Company. Precedent puts a new spin on health insurance. Learn more at Precedent.com
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