Volume 2 December 2016
In this Issue:
Keys to a Healthy Heart
Pre-Diabetes: Are you at RIsk?
10 Ways to Simplify Your Life and Dial Down Stress Level
Can Exercise Help You Stay Mentally Sharp?
5 Ways to Keep Your Brain Healthy
Keys to a Healthy Heart
Keeping your heart strong and healthy isn’t hard. But, it does take a little effort. Taking care of your heart can pay off in good health for many years to come.
Visit your doctor. Have regular checkups. Include blood pressure and cholesterol level readings, as appropriate. Talk with your doctor about any risk factors. Discuss any illnesses, ongoing health concerns and family medical history. If you have health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, carefully follow your doctor’s instructions. And, keep him or her informed of any symptoms or changes.
Kick the smoking habit. Don’t put it off any longer. Many serious health risks are related
to smoking, including heart disease and elevated blood pressure. Try a quit smoking program or talk with your doctor about nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), such as gum or patches. Counseling or a support group also may be helpful. Quitting smoking may not be easy. But, your health—and life—depends on it.
Fuel up with good food. Eat foods that are low in saturated and trans-fats, cholesterol and sodium. But, remember that low in fat doesn’t always mean low in calories. So, read nutrition labels carefully. Be sure to include foods such as oats and beans in your diet—a diet high in fiber can help lower cholesterol. Fruits and vegetables also can supply fiber. And, they have many heart-healthy vitamins and minerals. If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.
Keep your body moving. Exercise is important for a healthy heart. However, that doesn’t mean you need to run marathons. Aerobic exercise such as walking, bicycling or swimming is great for your heart. Choose an activity that’s a good match to your fitness level. And, be sure to start slowly. Gradually work up to five days a week, 30 minutes a day. Remember, talk with your doctor before beginning any exercise or sports program.
Learn to manage stress and anger. Keeping life free of stress isn’t possible. But, you can make changes to the way you react to life’s daily challenges. Use relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, gentle stretching or meditation. Look at your daily and long-term priorities. Are your goals realistic? Do your best each day and let the rest go. Eating well and exercising also can help. Make time for good health and good relationships. It will do your heart good.
Pre-Diabetes: Are You at Risk?
Type 2 diabetes can start at any age. It can put you at risk for a number of health issues such as kidney disease, vision problems, heart disease and stroke. But, it can be managed. And, research has found it’s almost always preceded by a condition called pre-diabetes.
In pre-diabetes, blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not quite high enough for a diabetes diagnosis. There is good news. If pre-diabetes is detected early enough, you can take steps to prevent or delay the start of Type 2 diabetes.
Who Gets Pre-Diabetes?
There are factors that may put some people at a greater risk for pre-diabetes. These include being age 45 or older, having a family history of diabetes, having undesirable cholesterol levels or high blood pressure or being overweight or inactive. Some ethnic groups seem to have an increased risk, as well. But, anyone can develop pre-diabetes. Your doctor can help judge your risk.
How Is it Diagnosed?
There are two different tests that doctors commonly use to diagnose pre-diabetes. Both normally need to have you fast—or not eat—for a period of time. Then, your doctor will check your glucose levels either before you eat or after you drink a sugary substance on an empty stomach.
What Can You Do?
Being diagnosed with pre-diabetes gives you the chance to take action now to help delay or prevent Type 2 diabetes. Many people can get great results through lifestyle changes. If you’ve been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, your doctor may suggest the following:
Exercise. Staying active is a great way to prevent diabetes. Just 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity can make a difference. Work with your doctor to create a healthy exercise program for you.
Weight loss. If needed, losing five percent to 10 percent of your body weight may help. Your doctor can work with you to set a realistic weight loss goal. You also can ask your doctor for tips on how to reach and stay at your target weight.
Regular screenings. Routine blood sugar testing allows your doctor to monitor your diabetes risk. If the condition does develop, you’ll have the benefit of early detection.
10 Ways to Simplify Your Life and Dial Down Stress Levels
Stress may be inevitable. But how you deal with it is largely up to you. Here are some tools to help you manage the stress in your life.
It seems like everyone is stressed out these days – from your co-workers, to your friends, to the person standing next to you in line.
Stress, by itself, isn’t necessarily bad. Low or even moderate amounts of stress can be good for us, provided we manage it in healthy ways. But poorly managed stress can take a toll. Heart disease, fatigue, and obesity are just a few of the potential consequences.
If stress is bothering you, consider the following 10 ways to regain control:
- Recognize your symptoms. Your signs of stress may be different from someone else’s. Some people get angry. Others have trouble concentrating or making decisions. Some feel worried or depressed. For some, stress leads to physical symptoms such as headache, back pain, upset stomach, or trouble
- Identify the sources. What situations trigger your stress? Among other things, your stress may be linked to your family, health, work, or personal relationships. Keep in mind that stress is often caused by a change in your life, negative or positive. Marriage, divorce, job loss, or a promotion may all increase
- Evaluate your coping strategies. Examine the ways in which you deal with situations that cause you stress. Responses like smoking, drinking alcohol, or eating too much may feel good in the short run, but they can cause long-term
- Learn to say ‘no.’ Sometimes the best way to deal with unnecessary stress is to avoid it. Know your limits, and refuse to take on more responsibilities than you can
- Plan ahead. Don’t let your to-do list get out of control. Think about your day, and decide which tasks are the most important. Do those items first. Let other tasks drop to the bottom of – or even off – your
- Create time to relax. It’s not always easy, but it’s important to make time for yourself. Take vacations or other breaks. Make time to read a good book, listen to music, watch a comedy, or just have a warm cup of tea. Some people find deep breathing exercises helpful for relieving
- Exercise regularly. A brisk walk, a bike ride, and a trip to the gym are just some of the physical activities that can helpprevent or reduce stress. Aim to get 2 hours and 30 minutes of exercise each week. Talk to your doctor before increasing your activity level.
- Eat healthfully. Eating balanced, nutritious meals throughout the day will help you cope with stress by keeping you energized and focused. Also, cut back on caffeine. You’ll feel more relaxed and will likely sleep
- Talk to family and friends. Simply talking with supportive people can often bring stress relief, even if the stressful situation doesn’t change. By the same token, limit the time you spend with people who only add to your
- Get help. If stress seems overwhelming, consider talking to a mental-health professional. He or she can offer healthy stress-busting
Can Exercise Keep You Mentally Sharp?
Exercise helps both body and mind
Exercise maintains your body by keeping it fit and strong. Physical activity also helps ward off serious conditions like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. But exercise doesn’t just work wonders for your body. These effects apply to your brain, too. Physical activity sustains brain function and wards off declines in mental ability, too.
Experts say that exercise can help prevent mental decline as we age. Regular exercise may enhance memory and mood, and may improve our ability to juggle multiple mental tasks.
The aging brain
Severe memory loss or other serious mental impairments are most often caused by disease. But age-related mental declines may be the result of decreased brain activity and stimulation. Both mental and physical exercise can help keep your brain sharp.
Your brain with exercise
So how does physical activity boost brain power? It helps you:
Think more clearly. Getting your heart rate up pumps blood to the brain. This helps your brain perform better.
Low-impact exercises like walking may be best for “clearing your head” because muscles don’t work hard enough to use up extra oxygen and glucose.
Improves your memory. Experts say that exercise brings on the growth of nerve cells in the hippo campus, the region of your brain involved in memory. Studies show that seniors who walk regularly have better memories than inactive older adults. And the more you exercise, the better your memory gets.
Improves your ability to do complex tasks. One study found that aerobic exercise helped people with mild cognitive problems to organize information, pay attention and multi-task better. This may be because exercise helps the body move glucose to the brain, which improves its function.
Possibly wards off Alzheimer’s disease. There is growing research that suggests regular exercise is linked with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s. Brain activity has been shown to increase with physical fitness. One study found that adults who exercised three times a week had a much lower chance of getting Alzheimer’s than those who didn’t.
Eases depression and anxiety. Exercise increases the level of serotonin (a chemical that affects mood) in the brain. Low levels of serotonin are linked with clinical depression. Some studies show that exercise can work just as well as medication in treating mild depression in some people.
Reduces stress. Physical activity helps lower the release of cortisol in your body. Cortisol is a hormone linked with stress.
Helps keep your blood pressure in check. High blood pressure can harm blood vessels in your brain and reduce your brain’s oxygen supply. This damages nerve cells that are used for decision-making and memory.
Time to get moving
Check with your doctor first before starting an exercise program. Then use these tips to get moving:
Pick an activity you enjoy. Try walking, swimming or playing tennis. You’ll be more likely to stick with exercising if you enjoy doing it.
Start slowly. Work your way up to at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
Get a workout buddy. Exercise can help build friendships. It may be easier to stick to a fitness schedule if you have someone counting on you to show up.
Even if you’ve lived an inactive lifestyle up until now, regular activity will help keep your body – and brain – in shape.
5 Ways to Keep Your Brain Healthy
Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease. Research is ongoing to see if healthy lifestyle practices can help prevent it
Alzheimer’s is a devastating brain disease. It’s a major cause of dementia, or loss of cognitive abilities. Those who have it gradually lose their memories and struggle to communicate. Their personalities and behavior change. In time, they become dependent on caregivers.
The exact cause of Alzheimer’s isn’t known. But researchers continue to search for answers in the hopes of finding better treatments and ways to prevent the disease.
You can’t control two of the strongest risk factors for the disease: age and heredity. But experts are finding that, in fact, lifestyle may play a very important role when it comes to who gets Alzheimer’s and who doesn’t.
Five strategies for brain health
You can take steps to keep your brain healthy. Some of these steps may also have other health benefits, such as helping you to control your weight, lower your risk of heart disease, and live a healthy, active life as you age. Research is ongoing to see if these healthy habits can also prevent or slow Alzheimer’s disease.
- Stay socially engaged. Interacting with other people stimulates the brain. Spend time with family and friends. It’s also good to reach out to new people. Join a community group or volunteer at a library or senior center. Combining physical activity with socializing may have even more benefits. Join a walking group or square dance
- Keep your mind sharp. Just like with muscle strength, when it comes to brain power it’s “use it or lose it.” Challenge yourself by doing puzzles, learning new card games, or taking up a new sport. Don’t do the same things the same way with the same people. Seek out new experiences. Take a class in something you’ve always been curious about, whether it’s pottery, philosophy, or welding. Join a book club or quilting group. When you walk or drive, take different
- Eat a heart-healthy diet. Studies suggest that a diet that’s good for your heart is also good for your brain. A heart-healthy diet is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and salt, and includes plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Choose colorful fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants, such as blueberries, strawberries, broccoli, spinach, and red peppers. Add foods high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, such as tuna and
- Get regular exercise. Physical activity helps increase blood flow to the brain and can improve mood. It also lowers the risk of diseases that can lead to dementia, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Pick an activity you enjoy and can stick with. Even better, find a partner to do it with you. Walking, swimming, biking and yoga are some good choices. Remember, always check with your doctor before you increase your physical
- . Take measures to prevent head injuries, which can jar and damage the brain. This means wearing helmets for bike riding, skiing, and motorcycle riding. Also, wear seatbelts when driving.
Source: United Healthcare®
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