Saturday, October 25, 2008

Taking the First Steps toward Better Health

(ARA) – Taking the first step toward a healthier lifestyle can seem overwhelming. The American Medical Association (AMA) suggests that one way to start might be with small changes that can lead to big health benefits.

“Improving eating habits, increasing exercise and reducing or eliminating unhealthy behaviors can seem like daunting tasks if you try to tackle everything at once,” says Dr. J. James Rohack, president-elect of the AMA. “By incorporating small changes into your daily life, the process of getting healthier can be more manageable.”

Every little step counts when you are trying to live a healthier life. Here are some easy tips to do right now to begin living a healthier lifestyle.

To improve eating habits:

* Order your sandwich on whole wheat bread instead of white bread, and opt for low fat meats, cheeses and sauces.

* Drink water or unsweetened iced tea instead of high sugar sodas.

* Feed your sweet tooth with naturally sweet fruit instead of candy bars or cookies.

* Pack lunch at home at least one day a week instead of ordering out.

To increase physical activity:

* Take a walk during your lunch break.

* Park at the far end of the parking lot, and use the stairs instead of the elevator.

* Get off the bus a stop or two farther than usual and walk the rest of the way.

* Stand up while talking on the phone.

* Take a 15-minute break in the afternoon to walk around and stretch.

To reduce or eliminate unhealthy behaviors like excessive drinking or smoking:

* Ask your physician for help quitting smoking. No amount of smoking is safe and medications are available to help smokers quit for good.

* Get rid of all cigarettes and ashtrays in the home and car and ask family, friends and co-workers for support.

* Pay attention to how much you are drinking and sip slowly. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines moderation as just one drink per day for women and two for men.

* Never drink on an empty stomach. Food will help your body absorb the alcohol more slowly.

* If you need help to reduce or stop drinking, talk to your physician.

“Making strides towards a healthier lifestyle is not an all-or-nothing process,” says Dr. Rohack. “Taking even small steps every day, like choosing a healthier lunch option or walking a few flights of stairs a day, can add up to big changes in your health. The important thing is to just keep going. Believe it or not, one healthy change often leads to another.”

To better help patients adopt a healthier lifestyle, the AMA recently launched the AMA Healthier Life Steps program. At www.ama-assn.org/go/healthierlifesteps, you’ll find free tools and tip sheets to help you partner with your physician to improve the key health behaviors that have been linked to an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and many other conditions. The program also includes resources for physicians so they can easily incorporate healthy lifestyle counseling into patient visits.

The program tool kit includes a patient self-assessment questionnaire, action plans and tips to get started and progress tracking calendars. The site also provides links to additional resources, and offers other helpful information, like healthy recipe options, a BMI calculator and a frequently asked question section where you can read answers to the most commonly asked questions about diet, exercise and unhealthy behaviors.

“Living a healthier lifestyle not only greatly reduces the risk for chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease, but it makes you feel better so you have more energy to go out and enjoy life with your loved ones,” Rohack says. “It’s never too late to start living a healthier lifestyle.”

To learn more about the AMA Healthier Life Steps program and to begin using the program’s free tools to help improve your health, visit www.ama-assn.org/go/healthierlifesteps.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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