I have been writing a lot lately about how we feel and what we think. These are important topics in today’s society for sure. This post is going to be a little different. We are going to talk about some new and exciting medical studies concerning health issues that are at the forefront in the media today. For better or worse, there is a lot of information available to us all today concerning our health. The problem we encounter is what do we believe? It’s unfortunate but true that health information in the media today may be influenced by what may drive ratings (sensationalism), the need for sound bites (incomplete information), a lack of understanding of the issue by reporters, and the complexity of medical data that looks at best confusing and at worst confounding.
I tend to be a simple guy. I like the approach of making an intervention and then seeing what result it brings. I also like medical data that is easily understood and comes from a reputable source. That being said, while physicians prefer the gold standard in clinical trials, for practical reasons they may not always be available. These trials are expensive and may take years to provide meaningful data. So if it seems like your doctor “is behind” compared to your internet research, in some ways you might be right. We are taught in Medical school to be very conservative in what to recommend to patients. Furthermore, by the time a treatment has been “proven “ by these types of trials it may well be considered “old news” by those in the more progressive medical community. Sometimes we have to look beyond the gold standards at other forms of good evidence to provide our patients cutting edge treatments. This involves careful research and always falling back to the basic tenets of the Hippocratic Oath: “first, do no harm”.
In that spirit, here are some simple suggestions for improving your health and well-being. Enjoy!
- Only 1 in 5 adults gets the minimal amount of exercise recommended by federal guidelines. This is either 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity weekly or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. So 80% of us could use more exercise.
- We are getting too much sugar. Men average 335 added calories from sugar daily and women 239. Thirty to 40 percent of these calories come from sugared drinks.
- One soda a day increases your chance of heart disease (the number one killer of men and women in the US) by 20%!
- A recent study from the European heart journal showed a 20% decrease in vascular mortality (stroke, heart attack) and a 23% decrease in total mortality in men whose vitamin D levels were 36 or higher (I recommend a goal level of 60-80ng/mL). Your doctor can check your vitamin D level with a simple blood test.
- If you smoke stop now. If you exercise, eat right and exercise but still smoke you are still at higher risk of heart disease than someone who doesn’t do anything but not smoke. In other words, you can’t make up for smoking with other healthy habits.
- Get enough sleep. Studies show most adults need between 7-9 hours on a consistent basis to be at their best. Less sleep can lead to weight gain, poor memory and increased risk for heart disease and diabetes.
- Take a vacation. I don’t need a study for this one. At least one week away from the everyday business of life is a good thing. Focus on activities that are restful and relaxing so that you can recharge your batteries. The picture below is one I took in Lisbon, Portugal in 2011. A lovely destination!