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It’s the holidays and for most Americans, that means eating – lots of eating – followed by weight gain and a New Year’s resolution to lose weight.

But why not take a healthier approach to what we eat during this holiday season and beyond?

According to a recent website survey, about 18 percent of people say it’s hard for them to eat healthy because they don’t want to stop eating their favorite foods. The good news is you don’t have to. You can still enjoy your favorite occasional indulgences, but in moderation. It’s all about being mindful of what you eat.

Mindless Eating

Mindless eating is consuming food just because it’s there. It’s eating while distracted – watching TV, working at a computer or texting on our smartphones. It’s eating for emotional comfort instead of for hunger. Simply put, it’s not paying attention to what we eat which can lead to being overweight and even obesity.

“Mindless eating has always been an issue,” said Riska Platt, M.S., a registered dietitian and certified nutritionist for the Cardiac Rehabilitation Center at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York. “The key to mindful eating is awareness. Just by paying more attention to what you eat, you’re more likely to make beneficial changes.”

Awareness

When you pay attention to what you’re eating, you can make small changes that make a big difference. Here are some tips toward a more mindful approach:

  • Control portions. Especially during the holidays, know that you’ll have more opportunities to eat festive snacks and desserts. You don’t have to deprive yourself, just eat smaller portions and less often.
  • Eat when you’re hungry. Just because the clock says noon doesn’t mean you have to eat. If you’re not hungry, wait until you are – just don’t wait until you’re famished because you might overeat. Also, don’t eat just because the food is available. Learn more about why you might be eating when not hungry.  
  • Plan. Prepare healthy snacks throughout the day. If you tend to get hungry between meals, bring along a 200-calorie, whole grain, high-fiber snack, fiber keeps you feeling full longer.
  • Slow down. Enjoy each bite and put your fork down while chewing, then take a drink between each bite. This gives your body enough time to trigger your brain that you are satisfied (not necessarily full).
  • Pay attention. Do not eat in front of the TV or computer, or while standing in the kitchen or talking on the phone. When you do these things, you’re more likely to lose track of how much you’ve eaten.
  • Use technology. As we continue to become increasingly distracted by modern technology, our focus on health can fall to the back burner. But it doesn’t have to be that way. “We can actually use our smartphones and other electronic devices to help us,” said Platt, a volunteer with the American Heart Association. “There are now apps that manage food records, count calories, help you track what you eat and even provide guidance on healthy food choices at the grocery store and restaurants.”
  • Keep a food diary. Write down everything you eat, look at it, then identify why you ate it – was it hunger, stress, boredom? Then look for areas you can make adjustments and incorporate healthy changes. “Keeping a food diary is really key to awareness,” Platt said. “Most people are surprised at all they’ve consumed when they review what they’ve eaten.”

Eating healthier is easier than you think!

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Your heart works hard for you nonstop for your whole life. So show it some TLC.  Making small changes in your habits can make a real difference to your ticker. Below are 10 helpful tips to better your heart health, but best thing is, you don't have to work on all 10 steps at once. Even if you improve just one or two of these areas, you can make yourself less likely to get heart disease. Of course, the more tips on this list you follow, the better.

1.       Aim for lucky number seven.

In one study, young and middle-age adults who slept 7 hours a night had less calcium in their arteries (an early sign of heart disease) than those who slept 5 hours or less or those who slept 9 hours or more.

2.   Keep the pressure off.

If your blood pressure gets too high, the extra force can damage artery walls and create scar tissue.  Cut back on salt, limit alcohol to no more than one to two drinks a day, favor healthy eating habits (think fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein) manage your stress, and work out. These changes are often enough to bring your blood pressure back down into the normal range. If not, your doctor might recommend you also take medication.

3.  Slash saturated fats.

To help your heart’s arteries, cut down on saturated fats, which are mainly found in meat and full-fat dairy products. Choose leaner cuts and reduced-fat options. 

4.  Find out if you have diabetes.

Millions of people do and don’t know it. That’s risky because over time, high blood sugar damages arteries and puts you at risk for heart disease.  One simple swap is to trade processed carbs (like white rice) for fiber-rich whole grains (like brown rice). Every positive change you make in what you eat and how active you are will help. Over time, you’ll be able to do more.

5. Move more.

To keep it simple, you can aim for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week of moderate exercise. That includes any activity that gets you moving around and breaking a slight sweat.  “If you're doing nothing, do something. And if you're doing something, do more," Lloyd-Jones says.  Also, pay attention to how much time you spend seated, whether it's at work, in your car, or on your couch at home. You want to cut that time down.

6.   Clean up.

Your heart works best when it runs on clean fuel. That means lots of whole, plant-based foods (like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds) and fewer refined or processed foods (like white bread, pasta, crackers, and cookies).  One of the fastest ways to clean up your diet is to cut out sugary beverages like soda and fruit juice, which lacks the fiber that’s in actual fruit.

7. Think beyond the scale.

Ask your doctor if your weight is OK. If you have some pounds to lose, it’s not just about calories and exercise but think if there are events or stressors that trigger bad eating habits.

8.   Ditch the cigarettes, real and electronic.

No new news, smoking and secondhand smoke are bad for your heart.

9.   Do more of what you love.

Make it a point, too, to spend time with people you’re close to. Talk, laugh, confide, and enjoy each other. It’s good for your emotional health and your heart.

10.   Celebrate every step.

Making changes like these takes time and effort. Think progress, not perfection. And reward yourself for every positive step you take. Ask your friends and family to support you and join in, too. Your heart’s future will be better for it!

Additional heart healthy over the counter items are on sale the entire month of February.  See the reverse side for heart healthy savings.  For additional information, contact the pharmacy or your physician.

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Reaching Your 2017 Goals

2017 is here and most of us have set a New Year’s Resolution.  We will have the best intentions to keeping our new goals and be a healthier, happier individual, but we all know, somewhere along the way we just can’t keep the habits.  Check out some of these great tips on how to keep and make this New Year’s Resolution your best yet!

Set Clear Goals

When you set a goal, it should move you toward something you want, rather than away from something you don’t want. Energy flows where attention goes so put your attention on what you want instead of what you don’t. Be very specific. For example say, “I want to sit in full splits” instead of “I want to be more flexible.”

Make sure these clear goals are reasonable too. If you’re new to exercise, opt for a fun run of 1 or 2 miles rather than an Ironman. You can always work your way up to the big goals after you’ve had some initial success.

Don’t Change Everything at Once

Even if you recognize that both diet and lifestyle need radical change, prioritize your self-improvement goals. It’s like learning to juggle—you don’t start with six balls, you start with three and then add one at a time. Juggling three balls successfully feels way better than dropping six. And if it feels good, you’ll be motivated to keep going.

Maintain Your Momentum 

If you set clear, realistic goals, you might feel like they are easy to achieve. That’s good! There’s no reason to make things more difficult for yourself and risk losing all the progress you’ve made. If things are going well on your diet, don’t reduce your calorie intake even more. If running once a day feels easy, don’t double your effort.

Instead, stick with what’s working and add in some rewards. When you get to the first month, treat yourself. If the reward is aligned with your intention, that’s even better. For example, if your goal is to spend time walking outside every day, buy yourself some new hiking shoes after a successful month.

Surround Yourself With Supportive People

When you make the decision to change a habit or create a different lifestyle, be prepared for potentially negative feedback from some of your friends. Some people may think that your choice to change is a poor reflection on their choice to remain the same.

The best thing you can do is spend time with people who inspire you to make positive choices. When you surround yourself with peers who celebrate your success, it will encourage your continued progress. You could also make new friends. If your goal is to start running, join a beginner’s running group. If your goal is to eat better, you could start a recipe-sharing club. 

Remember That You Are Deserving

Even if you’re surrounded by great people, with a clear goal and built in rewards, the human tendency can be to let your personal wants and needs fall to the bottom of the list. After cooking, cleaning, and packing lunches for the entire family, your plans to go to the gym become easier to ignore. But just like flight attendants say, put on your oxygen mask before helping your children. You have to make sure your needs are met before you can take care of others. Seeing their parents model this same behavior, children begin to learn the value of voicing their opinions and taking care of their needs.

Be Gentle With Yourself 

If you fall back into old patterns, instead of berating yourself, be grateful that you noticed. Wanting to change is the first step, so have gratitude that you recognize there is change to be made. If you fall off the horse, get back on and try again. 

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Are you one of those guys who can’t remember the last time you stepped foot in a doctor’s office? Sure, maybe you’ve gotten in for something urgent, but what about scheduling an annual exam or screening tests? Maybe you simply forget, think you already have healthy habits, or insist that you “feel just fine.” Sorry, guys…. Not quite good enough.

Regular checkups and screening tests aren’t something you can afford to ignore. Baseline tests can help your doctor know how your health is changing over time. Plus, silent killers such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol can wreak havoc—and you wouldn’t have a clue without being tested.

Here’s a simple screening cheat sheet to make your life easier.

 

1. Abdominal aortic aneurysm. If you have ever smoked, get this ultrasound test one time between ages 65 and 75. This test will show whether or not your largest artery (abdominal aorta) is bulging. If it is, it may burst, putting you at risk for bleeding—and even death.

 

2. Blood pressure. Starting at age 18:

·         Get tested at least every 2 years if your blood pressure is lower than 120/80.

·         Get tested once a year if your blood pressure is between 120/80 and 139/89.

·         Discuss treatment with your doctor if your blood pressure is 140/90 or higher.

 

3. Cholesterol. From age 20 to 34, get a regular cholesterol test if you are at increased risk for heart disease. At age 35, get a regular cholesterol test. Ask your doctor how often you need to do this.

 

4. Colorectal cancer. Get screened for colorectal cancer from age 50 to 75. This screening may include one or more tests, such as fecal occult blood testing, sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy. Ask your doctor which test is best for you and how often you need it.

 

5. Depression. Ask your doctor about being screened for depression if over the past weeks:

·         You have felt sad or hopeless

·         You have lost interest or pleasure in doing the things you normally enjoy

 

6. Diabetes. Starting at age 18, get screened if your blood pressure is higher than 135/80 or if you take high blood pressure medicine.

 

7. Hepatitis C virus (HCV). Get screened once if you:

·         Were born between 1945 and 1965.

·         Have ever injected drugs.

·         Received a blood transfusion before 1992.

 

8. Lung cancer. Ask your doctor whether or not to be screened if you:

·         Are between 55 and 80.

·         Have a 30 pack-year smoking history. (This is the number of packs smoked per day times the number of years you smoked.)

·         Smoke now or quit within the past 15 years.

 

9. Overweight and obesity. This is a test you can do yourself. Find your body mass index (BMI) by entering your weight and height into an online BMI calculator.

Discuss with your doctor whether you are at increased risk for any other diseases. If so, you may need other tests.

Be honest with your health care provider and me. Be sure to let us know what worries you—whether it’s your weight, alcohol use, or challenges with anxiety. Think of us as your partners in health. We can do a much better job of helping you if we fully understand your health challenges and concerns.

Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice.  You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.

 

Sources:

1.      AHRQ: Men: Stay Healthy at Any Age. Available at: http://www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/patient-involvement/healthy-men/healthy-men.html  Accessed 5-4-16.

2.      OWH: Screening tests for men. Available at: http://www.womenshealth.gov/screening-tests-and-vaccines/screening-tests-for-men/ Accessed 5-4-16.

 

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