Visiting your doctor’s office is rarely fun, and it seems to be increasingly difficult these days to stay away. The Association of American Medical Colleges is projecting that there will be a shortage of about 30,000 primary-care physicians by 2025. Some of this has to do with our aging population. Baby-boomers make up a large segment of the population, and we are aging. With aging and neglected health comes an increased risk of developing illnesses and diseases that require treatment.
It takes time, investment, and much more than an apple a day to keep your doctor away. But, a healthier diet and some other hacks to our current lifestyle can help keep us out of the physician’s waiting room more often. Start today developing habits that will keep you fit and strong.
Changing What You Eat
Many experts blame the Standard American Diet, high in fats, carbohydrates, and low in good sources of protein, for the poor state of our health. What is the state of health of the “average” American?
- Obesity – more than two-thirds (68.8 percent) of adults are considered to be overweight or obese.
- Diabetes – 29.1 million people or 9.3% of the population have diabetes. About 8.1 million people (27.8% of people) live with diabetes that has been undiagnosed.
- Depression – Depression affects more than 15 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.
- Heart Disease – Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the world and the leading cause of death in the United States, killing over 375,000 Americans a year. Nearly half of all African-American adults have some form of cardiovascular disease, 48 percent of women and 46 percent of men.
- Stroke – From 1995–2005, the stroke death rate fell ~30 percent and the actual number of stroke deaths declined ~14 percent. The risk of ischemic stroke in current smokers is about double that of nonsmokers after adjustment for other risk factors
- High blood pressure – Almost 30 percent of American adults have pre-hypertension, which raises the risk of developing high blood pressure. Sixty-nine percent of people who have a first heart attack, 77 percent of people who have a first stroke, and 74 percent of people with chronic heart failure have high blood pressure.
- Arthritis – More than 50 million adults have doctor-diagnosed arthritis. (That’s 1 in 5 people over age 18). Almost 300,000 babies and children have arthritis or a rheumatic condition. (That’s 1 in 250 children). The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which affects an estimated 31 million Americans. The number of people expected to have doctor-diagnosed arthritis by the year 2040: more than 78 million. Arthritis is the nation’s No. 1 cause of disability.
- But, we are improving slowly in some areas, like smoking-The percentage of U.S. adults who smoke cigarettes declined from 20.9 percent in 2005 to 16.8 percent in 2014.
Good nutritional intake and a consciously healthier lifestyle can help strengthen our immune systems and lower the risk for many illnesses.
How to Make an Impact on Your Health with Dietary Changes
1. More produce.
- Fruits and vegetables are nutrient dense and light in calories.
- These will boost your immune system and help you stay hydrated.
- Plus, the fiber contained in these foods can help lower your risk of diabetes.
2. More whole foods.
- Highly processed foods are usually loaded with excessive fat, sugar, and salt.
- Try eating foods in their natural state.
3. Limit your booze
- Too many cocktails can damage your liver and other organs.
- In 2009, alcohol-related liver disease was the primary cause of almost 1 in 3 liver transplants in the United States.
- Most experts recommend up to one drink a day for women and two for men.
4. Do not diet. Manage your weight
- Carrying around too many pounds increases your risk of heart conditions, arthritis, and certain cancers.
- Watch your calorie intake and stay active.
What Other Lifestyle Changes Will Help?
Here are a few more suggestions to go along with your improved and balanced diet. These will have a major impact on your body and mind.
- Physical activity strengthens your heart and muscles.
- Aim to exercise at least 3 days a week.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
2. Sit less.
- Research has shown that the longer you sit, the poorer your health may be even if you get some exercise.
- If you have a desk job, try taking walking breaks at least once every half hour.
- Try walking meditation during longer breaks.
- Cut back on your TV time.
3. Do yoga.
- While any form of exercise and relaxation can be beneficial, yoga seems especially powerful.
- A study at Massachusetts General Hospital recorded a whopping 43 percent reduction in healthcare use among patients who studied yoga for a year.
4. Deal with your stress.
- If yoga is not your cup of tea, there are other ways to keep tension from piling up.
- Book a massage or listen to gentle music.
- Try other stress relief strategies.
5. Chose to be happier.
- The more you are satisfied with your life, the less you will need to see your doctor to discuss it.
- Happiness and contentment are a choice.
- Use this helpful affirmation exercise if you do not know where to start.
6. Get a pet.
- Holding your cat is good for your mental and physical wellbeing.
- The CDC says pets help people lower their blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.
- They also provide an antidote to loneliness.
7. Get engaged with other people.
- There is a difference between being alone (and content) and being lonely.
- If you are suffering from loneliness, find a support group, or begin working to develop a support system.
- Close social ties can help you catch fewer colds, and may even extend your life.
8. Rest well.
- A good night’s sleep with adequate rest is vital to your body’s healing.
- Shut down your computer, your iPhone, and your television in the evening and go to bed on time.
9. Quit smoking.
- Giving up tobacco may be the single most important thing you can do for your health.
- It takes an average of about 5 to 10 attempts to quit for good, so hang stick with it. Keep quitting.
- Looking for some help? Try 1-800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669).
It is extremely important to have a good working relationship with your health care team and follow their recommendations when you sick or have been injured. However, you and your doctor can enjoy spending more time apart as long as you are making wise decisions that increase your own wellbeing.
“Your Monday morning thoughts set the tone for your whole week. See yourself getting stronger, and living a fulfilling, happier & healthier life.”