Your body is your home
Dr. Marcia Moore loves an apt metaphor. The Chico cardiologist has a particular favorite when she’s talking with patients about their health—one she heard from a nutritionist with the American Heart Association:
Your body is your home and you can’t move out of it.
“Expanding on that,” she said, “I remind people how much we spend on our homes and our cars to keep them nice and to keep them running. Don’t our bodies deserve even more attention?”
In that spirit, Moore also appreciates the metaphor in the title of Enloe Medical Center’s community health event, Inspiring Healthy Lives: Build Your Wellness Tool-kit, which will give attendees the opportunity to add tools to their metaphorical toolbox—or, put another way, to build what Moore calls “pillars of prevention.”
The Friday-afternoon (March 15) event includes a variety of activities: discussions, consultations and screenings. The goal, said Enloe Community Outreach Coordinator Deanna Reed, is for “members of our community to come meet with a variety of health professionals to learn about heart disease and diabetes risk factors, as well as to participate in one-on-one screenings to help give them a baseline for their own health. With that information, we hope they will have at least a few new tools they can use in their own day-to-day lives to make smart choices when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle.”
But what about the people who aren’t able to attend? Moore and Heather Rushing, a clinical dietician at Enloe, shared some tips with the CN&R in order to help readers expand their personal-health toolkits.
• Anytime is a good time to stop smoking.
“This used to be something I had to talk about all the time,” Moore said. “Unfortunately, it still is a problem, but much less of a problem than it used to be, certainly in California.”
Nonetheless, smoking cessation is her top tip.
“Within a year of not smoking,” she explained, “the risk of a heart attack goes down by about 90 percent, and in two years they’re back to that [risk level] of a non-smoker. Truly there is no organ system in the body that doesn’t respond to getting rid of nicotine.”
• Eat balanced meals with whole foods.
“Try to stay away from more-processed foods, because they aren’t having a great effect on our health,” Rushing said. “The more-processed foods tend to go through the system quicker, so you tend to eat more, and that’s really affecting our weight and increases risk of diabetes.”
Fruits and vegetables should constitute the bulk of your grocery cart. Still, it is important not to overload on any one particular food group. When placing dinner items on your plate, make sure you have protein, carbohydrates and vegetables.
• Use measuring cups when preparing your meal.
Even if you’re eating a pre-made food, make sure you keep the portion-sized dietary information on the package in mind.
“Many people come in [to a dietician appointment] and say, ‘I’m eating healthy,’ but they’re eating too much,” Rushing said. “Be aware, when you’re looking at a label, of the serving size and how much you’re actually eating.”
• If you see something in a TV commercial … eater, beware.
Both Moore and Rushing endorse this tip. The majority of edible products advertised on television are either processed foods or fast food.
“The food industry is trying to sell products, so they’re going to try to make themselves look good,” Rushing said. Read labels and menu information carefully.
• Don’t miss meals.
Many people skip breakfast or don’t make time for lunch. Problem is, they’re likely to overeat when the next meal comes around.
“When eaten in combinations, the energy and glucose that come out of food will last for four or five hours,” Rushing said. “You’re looking for energy—that’s what you get from food.”
Feel free to snack if you get hungry between meals—just do so healthfully.
• Get out of your chair and get your heart pumping.
When it comes to exercise, Moore says, “there’s no age at which it’s not beneficial. I would say I’m probably talking to people about exercise now as much as I used to have to talk about smoking.”
Cardiovascular exercise is particularly important for people with high risk for heart disease. Consult with your doctor or physical therapist to find a regimen that’s right for you.
• Get enough sleep.
Stress is a double whammy—not only does it cause some people to overeat, but it also can interfere with sleep patterns. Moore points to the benefits of sleep’s restorative properties. “When people are deprived of energy from lack of sleep, they’ll try to make up for it by eating more,” she explained.
• Incremental progress is still progress.
You don’t need to make drastic changes all at once. “If you’re talking about diet and exercise and weight loss,” Moore said, “it’s been shown over and over again through evidenced-based medicine that when people lose weight with dietary changes, slowly, they’re much more likely to keep it off—because they’re creating new habits.
“When I talk to people about exercise, I tell them, ‘Don’t do a marathon immediately.’ Push yourself a little bit more every time you go out.”
Taken as a whole, the tools above truly can help build pillars of prevention.
“For many years, I’ve called heart disease and stroke the diseases of the 20th—and now the 21st—century,” Moore said. “It’s amazing to people that in the middle of the 20th century, heart attacks were still, believe it or not, pretty rare. President Eisenhower was probably the first really well-known person to have a heart attack; then it seemed like they were popping up all over.
Moore attributes the change to “a lot more smoking, a lot more sedentary lifestyles, all of the labor-saving devices, the beginning of fast food and unhealthy foods, and people not simply wearing off the calories [as they did] before when they were much more active.
“There are some people who have a perfectly healthy lifestyle and still have a heart attack. But if we look at the major proportion of people, all of those things can make a difference in reducing the risk of early onset of heart attack or stroke.”