Change Your Choices

Change Your Life…Tips for a healthier you

What’s the deal with Cholesterol?


We recently had our health screenings at work and I was surprised to see that my “bad” cholesterol is a touch higher than it was last year.  The nurse suggested that I should add some exercise to my daily routine.  Really?  I teach 6 classes a week at the Y and run/walk and lift weights at lease every other day so I don’t think lack of exercise is the problem.

I did my own investigating and found that you can “control” about 25% of your cholesterol, the rest is in the DNA (manufactured by your body).  It’s possible that you are doing everything correctly and will still need to take medication because you have inherited high cholesterol.  This doesn’t mean  you should give up, you still need to eat right and exercise but don’t get discouraged if your cholesterol remains higher than you like. 

So…how do we control that 25%?  By eliminating bad fats, reducing our intake of salt and high sodium foods, and stop drinking sugar-sweetened beverages.  Once we have done that, here are some foods to start eating.

1- Fruits and Vegetables.  I know, that’s a shocker!  It seems no matter what part of our body needs correcting, the answer is eat more fruits and vegetables.  So why aren’t we? 

2-Choose Healthy Fats. I went through a phase where I tried to eliminate all fat.  What I should have done was eliminate bad fat and choose good fat.  Fats should comprise about 25% of your diet, you need it to fight internal inflammation, improve cholesterol levels, boost the immune system, and keep your brain and central nervous system healthy. What’s a good fat?  olive, canola, flax, walnut, peanut, and sesame oils are excellent choices. 

3-Fiber. I think of fiber as little scrub brushes that just clean away all the bad stuff!  Barley, apples, and oatmeal are very good at attaching to the bad stuff and whisking it away.  There are some great double fiber breads and fiber cereals that will also help.  Warning!  Add fiber gradually.  You will notice a change in your bowels and gas output if you add too much at once.  I have given up on eating Fiber One bars, those things hit my system and I have to avoid other people the rest of the day!

4- Nuts to you!  Nuts can help lower bad cholesterol and contain  antioxidants but they  are also fairly high in calories so eat them in moderation. Good choices are walnuts, almonds, and peanuts- choose no or low salt varieties.  One serving is 1/3 cup, you need to measure this out as it is easy to eat WAY too many without thinking.  Eat nuts 3-5 times per week. 

5- Beans. I have talked about the wonderful bean before and here it is again! All variety of beans, such as kidney, chick peas (garbanzos), lentils, split peas, black-eyed peas, and white beans, are high in antioxidants and fiber, and can help improve your cholesterol reading.  Again- be cautious when adding beans to your diet and don’t add to much at once! Your body needs to adjust to the added fiber. 

Can I still eat meat?  Yes- but there are good and not so good choices.  More on that topic tomorrow.



Have You Looked at Your Tongue Lately?

I had a routine cleaning at the dentist yesterday and it seems each time I go they add something to just the usual scraping and flossing.  They not only check pulse and blood pressure, they now do a screening for oral cancer.  As the dentist was pulling on my tongue and taking a look around my mouth, I thought about oral/mouth cancer and wondered if it is really a big deal because I never hear about it.  Breast, testicular, and lung cancers seem to get the most attention but they really aren’t the most common nor the most deadly of cancers, they just have organizations that are really good at getting the word out. Famous people who have had oral cancer: Jack Klugman, George Harrison, Eddie Van Halen, Rod Stewart, Roger Ebert, Babe Ruth.

In doing some research, it turns out that close to 37,000 Americans are diagnosed  with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year. It will cause over 8,000 deaths, killing roughly 1 person per hour, 24 hours per day. Of those 36,000 newly diagnosed people, only slightly more than half will be alive in 5 years. Why is the death rate from oral cancer higher than most others?  It isn’t difficult to diagnose or treat but most people ignore or don’t notice the symptoms until it is too late to cure.

A Lifestyle Disease

Oral cancer is considered a “lifestyle” disease as the top 2 causes are Tobacco use (Both smoking and chewing) and excessive alcohol use.  Exposure to ultraviolet light is also a factor and  studies are showing that it is more prevalent in people with a diet low in fruits and vegetables.  HPV16, a sexually transmitted disease is also linked to this cancer and is affecting more young people and women.  In fact, this was a disease that affected old male smokers (look at the list above) but most new cases are   in people under 50 and is greatly increasing in women.   However, cancer is a very complex disease so even if you do not have any of the risk factors, you should still be aware of the symptoms as it can strike anyone.

So… why does the dentist feel your neck and look at your tongue? Many times he or she can feel tissue changes before  any outward signs appear. (I kinda like the little neck massage!).  Your dentist is also looking for small red or white patches on your tongue or small sores or lesions.  We really should take a look around our tongue and mouth once a month and not just twice a year at the dentist.  Mouth and tongue cancer often mimics a canker sore or that lesion you get when you bite your cheek.  If you have a sore in your mouth that does not heal in 14 days, see your doctor.  Also see your doctor if  a lump or mass is felt inside the mouth or neck, pain or difficulty in swallowing, speaking, or chewing, any wart like masses, hoarseness which lasts for a long time, or any numbness in your mouth or face.  If you really want a reality check- do a search for images of oral cancer- yikes!

Going to the dentist is so much more than just getting a new toothbrush it might also save your life!

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When it’s Time to Change…

In the words of the great Peter Brady …

Change is what I have been doing!  This blog has changed its name, changed format , and will change your life!  Well, the changing your life part is up to you- I’m just going to dole out some stuff to keep you learning and motivated. 

My all time favorite management book (and I’ve read tons of them) is Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson, MD.  It’s a fun story and a quick read but I refer to it all the time in working with lots of different kinds of people and getting people to embrace change.  It is available online, I recommend taking an hour or so to read it.  A favorite quote from the book – “Change can be a blessing or a curse, depending on your perspective.”

Let’s Move Some Cheese!

I decided to change the name as Viva la Vida was just a bit too difficult to remember-  I think is not only easier to remember but it conveys the essence of this blog.  We make choices all day long, they aren’t always major life changing choices like buying a house or getting married, but you did have to decide which underwear to put on today and what to have for breakfast.  All day, every day our choices affect not only ourselves, but others as well. 

Small changes and choices in how you live your life whether it is what you eat, how much you move, and how you treat others can make a big impact on how healthy you are, both in mind and body.  I’m not looking to do anything drastic here, just some simple tips and hints to help us survive in an ever evolving world. 

A few more favorite quotes-perhaps one can become your motto:

>Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.- Arnold Bennett
>Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself- Leo Tolstoy
>God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference- Reinhold Niebuhr

>As simple as it sounds, we all must try to be the best person we can: by making the best choices, by making the most of the talents we’ve been given- Mary Lou Retton

So- is today the day that you decide to Change Your Choices


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