Vol. XXI, No. 1; Winter 2013
Barnstable County Report
This Short List Of Resolutions Works For Better Health At Virtually No Cost
By George Heufelder, MS, RS, Director,
Barnstable County Department of Health & Environment
If you are a faithful reader of To Your Good Health, you know that one of our purposes is to provide a wealth of simple tips to promote your good health and welfare and help you live longer. By now, that ambitious exercise plan or other resolution you made in late December may be history, but I would like to suggest a short list of five simple things from our past columns that are guaranteed to promote your good health in this New Year.
Walk 30 minutes a day. No matter where you are in the health spectrum, what habits you have that you would like to change, how much weight you think you should lose, the best marginal benefit you can get from the “investment” you make is in the first 30 minutes of any exercise, and walking is the “cheapest” investment. This miracle medicine can reduce the advance of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by 50 percent; the rate of pain and disability from knee or other joint arthritis by 47 percent; the risk of hip fracture for post-menopausal women by 41 percent; for those who suffer from anxiety, a reduction in episodes by 40 percent; and depression by 30 percent.
- Aim to reduce television viewing time by 50 percent. The average American watches approximately 153 hours of TV every month at home (which takes about 2.3 days off your life expectancy for every month you do according to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine). Children, independent of the level of physical activity, who experience higher television and screen entertainment exposure, experience a 24 percent increase in indicators of psychological distress, compared those experiencing lower exposure.
- Get screened! The old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is so relevant here. Talk to your health care provider about the appropriate screenings such as for high blood pressure, diabetes as well as various cancers. Early detection often prevents the need for extensive intervention and hospitalization.
- Get crazy about sun protection! Nearly every town on Cape Cod has a higher-than-average skin cancer rate. The solution is simple, cover up with protective clothing, use sun screen when outside for extended periods and have a thorough check-up at least annually. Become educated in the process of self-examination and how skin cancers can appear. And avoid artificial tanning! The melanoma risk increases by 87 percent for individuals who started using tanning beds before the age of 35.
- Finally, no one likes to talk about ticks, but if you are an outdoor and/or pet-lover you are at a high risk for tick-borne diseases. Tick-proof your yard. For a handy guide, check out www.capecodextension.org. Learn about the safe products for repelling ticks, and the signs and symptoms of our local tick-borne diseases. The Centers for Disease Control also has useful information at http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/symptoms.html.
So, there you go. If you are one of the six in 10 who signed up for that health club in January and only step into it once, take heart. These five simple things will guarantee a healthier and happier new year–with no cost at all.