January 21, 2014

Eat, Drink and Be Merry!

Mary MahoneyBY Mary Mahoney

J. Robinson Group Blog

Moving past health-care reform and the Affordable Care Act, My Strategic View will examine trends, innovations and important issues in health care.

Eat, drink and be merry? Isn’t this January? This is the month when we’re all supposed to make resolutions to take better care of ourselves, to live healthier and happier lives by eating better, losing weight and exercising more. Before you sign up for a marathon and commit to a diet of kale and zero carbs, let’s take a look at the latest studies and trends for healthy living. 

In CNN’s article, “Make a New Kind of New Year’s Resolution,” Dr. Amy Crawford-Faucher, a family physician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, says, “Good health happens when the physical, emotional and social or environmental parts of our lives are in balance. When people resolve to ‘lose weight,’ they are actually saying, ‘I want to feel and look better.’ “

Studies are released nearly every day on how to live a longer, healthier and happier life. The good news is that much of what the research points to does not require a gym membership or drastic diet. Health Career Web’s article, “Drink Cocktails, Eat Chocolate, and Live Longer,” is an approach we can all get used to. To extend mortality, the article suggests that we live in the country, own a pet, meditate, decrease stress, drink alcohol and coffee moderately (versus abstaining), eat chocolate and garlic, keep indoor plants and be active as often as possible.

Even though we can all breathe a sigh of relief knowing that deprivation and countless hours of exercise are not necessary to live longer, healthier and happier lives, the article makes the stark point that “if you’re a cubicle-dweller, you need to know that even if you try to get in your daily exercise, sitting in your desk chair for most of your waking hours can still actually kill you.”

“We just aren’t really structured to be sitting for such long periods of time, and when we do that, our body just kind of goes into shutdown,” says Dr. Toni Yancey, a professor in the health services department and co-director of the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Equity at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has worked for years on developing programs to motivate people to get up and move.  

Epidemiologist Steven Blair, a professor of public health at the University of South Carolina who has spent 40 years investigating physical activity and health, found that “men who reported more than 23 hours a week of sedentary activity had a 64 percent greater risk of dying from heart disease than those who reported less than 11 hours a week of sedentary activity, many of whom exercised routinely.” As reported in an NPR story, “Sitting All Day: Worse for you Than You Might Think,” Blair says scientists are just beginning to learn about the risks of a mostly sedentary day.

If exercise is a part of your life or you want to incorporate more into it, there is good news. Recent studies about exercise suggest that moderate exercise may be as good as, or better, than intense exercise.  Research presented by the American College of Sports Medicine said that people who “exercised moderately, running one to 20 miles per week at a pace of about 10-11 minute miles (a jogging rate), had an even lower risk of dying than those who ran more than 20 miles a week or at a pace faster than seven miles per hour,” the research said.

The real interesting news about how to live longer – 12 years longer – is to be positive. That’s right, as in positive attitude. “People with a positive outlook are usually less stressed and better able to deal with challenges,” said the Health Career Web. “That positive outlook has been linked to decreased mortality risk.

Positive thinking doesn’t mean that you keep your head in the sand and ignore life’s less pleasant situations. Positive thinking just means that you approach the unpleasantness in a more positive and productive way. “You think the best is going to happen, not the worst,” says a Mayo Clinic study cited in a CNN article.

So here’s to a less stress, a big smile and a healthier 2014! Happy New Year!

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