Tips for protecting your most valuable asset – your health

April 19, 2015 | by Dr. Robert Goode

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I love to talk about preventive medicine. Individuals who are proactive about their healthcare and choose to live a healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce their chance of developing certain chronic health conditions. It’s simple to live a healthy life – it just requires some ongoing commitment and discipline.

Below are several major areas important in keeping us healthy. Our busy lives may preclude us from hitting all targets all the time. That is certainly true for me.

  1. Exercise. Moving helps just about everything. Generally 30 minutes of aerobic exercise most days of the week is considered ideal. Some people like to go to the gym (there are several good options here on Mercer Island), others choose to work out in the privacy of their home, while some individuals like to get their exercise naturally through outdoor activities (Mercer Island has many good walking trails), or by weaving physical activity throughout their day. If you are not able to get 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week, do what you can, because everything helps.
  2. Sleep. It is key that we get enough sleep to wake up feeling refreshed and to have good energy throughout the day. No longer is eight hours recommended for everyone. Some people do fine with 6-7 hours a night while others need 9-10 hours to feel rested. Listen to your body. Chronic sleep deprivation stresses the body and elevates cortisol levels which can suppress the immune system and make us more prone to infections, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers. Sleeping in on the weekends does not make up for sleep lost during the week.
  3. Stress management. Stress has negative physical effects on the body. It can also contribute to hypertension, weight gain, headaches, and can worsen certain medical conditions. Some of the psychological manifestations of chronic stress include depression, anxiety, and insomnia. We all have stress in our lives; there is no way around it. What makes a difference is how we process it. If we can effectively deal with it, put it behind us, and not ruminate on it, then the negative effects on the body are minimal. This is one characteristic of people who live long and well. Most people have their “go to” way to manage their stress. Exercise, yoga, or Pilates (there are several good studios here on Mercer Island), biofeedback/relaxation therapy, reading, and talking over issues with your significant other, friend, or a therapist (Mercer Island has quite a few good therapists) are some examples. Whatever way works best for you, do it on a regular basis to de-stress yourself during the day and at the end of the day.
  4. Relationships. Personally, this is one area of my life that I work hard on. It is very important for us to have strong and healthy relationships with our significant other, family, friends, and colleagues. Our social networks provide valuable support and encouragement. Nurture them.
  5. Medical. Everyone should have a primary care physician whom they trust and have a good relationship with. Whether you are healthy and on no medications or have several chronic medical conditions, it is important to have an advocate for you and your health. See your doctor regularly for checkups and physicals. Get your preventive screening tests on time. Make sure your vaccinations are up to date. If you do not have a primary care physician, I encourage you to get one. If you do not have a good connection with your current doctor, look for another. There are many out there. You deserve to have one that you connect with and who cares about you. See your doctor as your partner in health, not someone to avoid.
  6. Other. If you drink, do so in moderation. Limit alcohol intake to one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. Avoid all tobacco products. Do not use nicotine products (e-cigarettes, patches, etc.) unless you are trying to quit smoking. Try to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day. Most of us run a little dehydrated. Of course 1 to 2 cups of coffee a day is healthy.

Here’s to wishing you many years of good health and healthy living.

Dr. Robert Goode is a board-certified family medicine physician who started Lake Washington Primary Care, a concierge medical clinic, on Mercer Island in 2014.  He practices medicine the way he knows it works best—partnering with his patients to deliver holistic, comprehensive, and thoughtful care that in turn promotes excellent health.