Archive for July, 2008

Health and Wellness – A smart investment

Did you see the cover article for the June issue of Smart Money magazine? Live Longer… and Healthier: Yes! $100,000 Can Add 10 Years To Your Life. It certainly caught my eye. First, as a health writer and wellness coach, I was thrilled to see that people are investing in their health. I guess it’s a “pay now or pay later” approach. But, I must say, $100,000 is a lot of money. Is that a smart investment?  I’m certain that people can improve their health and wellness and maybe even prolong their lives with a much smaller financial investment.

 

The article begins by profiling a 55-year-old man who lives his life like it it’s an Iron Man event: biking, swimming and working out in his home gym. He watches his cholesterol carefully, making dietary changes to keep it under control. These are great lifestyle changes (on the zealous end of the spectrum, I admit), but he also has a $3000 executive physical once a year at the Cooper Clinic. 

 

Others profiled in this article exchange thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars for genetic tests that might reveal their risk of not-entirely preventable diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease, memberships at high-end health resorts, truly personal trainers and chefs, and treatments such as Vitamin C infusions.

 

I think the majority of us want to live longer, especially if we can stay physically and mentally fit. Who wouldn’t want the added time to fit in what we don’t have time in our busy lives to do now? Vacations, travel, finally pursuing interests set aside, spending time with friends and family. But do we need to spend our life’s earning to do so?  I was cheered to see that one woman profiles, a farm wife, is making some easy, basic, inexpensive lifestyle changes that could add years to her life, following the advice of Drs Mehmet Oz and Michael Roizen, in their book, You: Staying Young, The Owner’s Manual for Extending Your Warranty. ($26.00)  By making simple changes like eating less, adding flax seeds to her diet and taking omega-3 capsules, exercising with handheld weights, and using her treadmill, this former champion oreo-eater has lost 120 pounds and now has great optimism that she will live well past 100 years.

 

Recent scientific articles tout the growing evidence for the value of lifestyle changes for preventing or delaying disease and increasing longevity. These changes can be made by through a variety of investments, including, time, energy, emotional commitment, strategic planning to actually make the healthy changes you set out to make actually happen, and yes, some reasonable financial investments for the rest of us who can’t afford the $100,000 Smart Money says it might take to add another ten years to our lives. Put on your $100 walking shoes and start walking to your 100th birthday party. Pick out some beautiful produce at the farmer’s market; create your own home gym on a budget.

 

What are you willing and eager to spend on improving your health and wellness? There’s an investment plan for every budget. You just have to make the decision on how much you want to budget for your health.

 

If you want to read the full Smart Money article, here is the link: http://www.smartmoney.com/cover/index.cfm?story=june2008-healthy-living

 

I wish you well with your investments.

 

Beth Tansey Peller, RN, BS is a health writer and wellness coach certified by Wellcoaches Corporation. Beth focuses on helping women dealing with the multiple responsibilities of midlife amid the hormonal shifts of perimenopause to achieve long-desired positive changes in fitness, nutrition, stress management and overall wellness.

 

Beth offers affordable e-booklets in her series, Make It Happen in Midlife!, as well as a range of individual and group coaching services. You can find out more about Beth by visiting www.bewellwithbeth.com. Register to receive your free e-booklet, This Change Will Do You Good.

 

 

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Eating Your Vegetables

Well, I was going to write about weather and its impact on wellness because we’ve had some beautiful days lately, but when I read the New York Times last night, I had to make a shift in my plan. In addition to my favorite part of the newspaper, The Science Times, which is published on Tuesdays, I discovered a special section, Well, a collection of articles on what we might need to know about staying well as we age. As a wellness coach, I am always interested in what we can do to take better care of ourselves.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that there is a place for medications, used appropriately. After working as a nurse in pediatric oncology and as a medical advertising copywriter and creative director, I’ve seen the benefits of pharmaceuticals. But, lifestyle changes are a huge part of the equation when seeking better health and wellness. An integrated approach is best, but not one where you think taking cholesterol-lowering medications is a license to eat with abandon, let’s say. Several articles in Well address the magical effects of positive, healthy lifestyle changes on different structures and organs of the body. I won’t review all of them, but the one about having a healthier heart speaks volumes.

 

In the Well piece on the heart, Eating Your Way to a Sturdy Heart, Tara Parker-Pope writes that “simple and even pleasurable changes in the foods you eat can rival medication in terms of the benefit to your heart”—an organ you’ll need for the rest of your life. She mentions that there is a lot of data to show that just a few small changes, including eating more fish, nuts, vegetables, and fiber, can make a huge difference in heart health. So, why aren’t people making those changes? Are you eating more of these foods lately?  If not, what steps could you take to move closer to that way of eating? When will you start? Speaking of steps, Gina Kolata’s Well article on exercise, More Than An Exercise In Vanity” focused on functional fitness, endurance and strength as key to aging well. If you happen to fall when you’re older, you do want to be able to get up. If exercise isn’t a regular part of your routine, how could you make that happen? What would happen if you don’t exercise?

 

Do you want to change your diet? A diet rich in fish-derived omega fatty acids can lower the risk of death by almost 25%. Send the grilled salmon right over here, please. She went on to mention that some studies show that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids from fish, nuts and other sources can lower cardiovascular risk by 60%. Adding a salad to your day isn’t difficult these days, with the wide variety of bagged greens and produce available. I don’t know about you, but I want my heart to hold out for as long as possible.

 

Another enormous contributor to heart disease is smoking. The good news is that fewer people are smoking these days, helping to reduce the rate of cardiovascular disease.  Interestingly, as I finished reading Well and The Science Times section, I reached for the first section of the paper, and right on the top left was the headline, Cigarette Bill Treats Menthol With Leniency.  What’s that about, I wondered? It turns out that Congress wants to give the FDA the right to regulate tobacco for the first time, but menthol would be exempt from regulation. Lobbyists for the tobacco industry are protecting mentholated brands, which make up 25% of the $70 billion dollar industry, probably because these brands seem to help new smokers tolerate the taste of tobacco and likely encourage addiction. It seems that they are heavily marketed to African-Americans; about 75% of African Americans smoke mentholated brands, a fact I didn’t know before reading this article. But, because of the way our legislative system works, the exemption for menthol must be tolerated in order to pass the larger issue of tobacco regulation. This is very unfortunate, as African-Americans, who are generally underserved medically in this country are often diagnosed late when they develop lung cancer, which places them at a distinct treatment disadvantage.

 

I’m not sure that regulating tobacco is the answer, as it seems there is infighting within the industry, with some, such as Philip Morris, supporting regulation and others not. This may give cigarette makers the ability to say that the FDA has approved their brands as less harmful. Is that a benefit?  I guess that’s in line with how the FDA operates, approving certain drugs that are less harmful than others…  My personal preference would be to engage tobacco industry executives and workers in purposeful work other than making cigarettes, which would eliminate a major source of many medical conditions (not just lung cancer) and out-of-control healthcare costs.

 

Let’s turn the page to Tuesday’s obituaries, where I came upon the life of Murray Jarvik, uncle of Dr. Robert Jarvik, who developed the first artificial heart implanted into a human. Murray Jarvik was a psychopharmacologist who contributed to development of the first nicotine patch.  The quote chosen to close his obituary, words he wrote in 1977, is telling:  “It is strange that people should go to such lengths to burn and then inhale some vegetable matter. We must find out what is rewarding about it

 

So, eating our vegetables is better for us than smoking them, but grilling and eating fish is good, too. And, it’s better to never start smoking.  What healthy lifestyle changes will you make—or think about making—today? You can find more ideas on www.nytimes.com/wellguide. 

 

I wish you well.

 

Beth

 

Beth Tansey Peller, RN, BS is a health writer and wellness coach certified by Wellcoaches Corporation. Beth focuses on helping women dealing with the multiple responsibilities of midlife amid the hormonal shifts of perimenopause to achieve long-desired positive changes in fitness, nutrition, stress management and overall wellness.

 

Beth offers affordable e-booklets in her series, Make It Happen in Midlife!, as well as a range of individual and group coaching services. You can find out more about Beth by visiting www.bewellwithbeth.com. Register to receive your free e-booklet, This Change Will Do You Good.

 

 

 

 

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