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In Good Health

In Good Health .... from the pages of Suburban Family Magazine...

There are many times in life when we put others’ problems ahead of our own well-being. It’s no secret that we tend to become our own worst enemies when it comes to prioritizing our health in our own lives. When we aren’t feeling up to par we say, “I’ll see how I feel in a few days.” Then a few days pass, and a few more, and it’s possible to potentially be left with a serious health issue that could have been treated—or even prevented—had we chosen to seek the help of a medical professional sooner.

With the new year already in full swing, it is time to put your health at the top of your ‘to-do’ list with the goal of having a healthier you. Suburban Family spoke with medical professionals in our region about what you can be doing right now to ensure you have a happier and healthier 2018.

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Primary Care
The road to a healthier life starts with your primary care physician. This is your first point of contact for any medical issue you may have that is undiagnosed. Your primary care physician is the first person you should make an appointment with to be sure you are healthy and there aren’t any underlying medical issues you may be dealing with that need attention.

So, how often should you see your primary care physician? Dr. Greg Taylor, senior medical director of primary care at Kennedy Health Alliance, says there is a bit of controversy over the timeline.

“The general rule is if you are over 50— or have a chronic medical condition—you should be seen by your primary care doctor every year and that is pretty accepted across the board,” Taylor explains. “If you are under 50 and don’t have health problems, usually [we] say every three years.”

Taylor strongly recommends you follow your own primary care physician’s rules and urges patients over 50 years old who have not seen their own doctor in the past three years to make an appointment right away.

“A general rule as you age is that your risk of developing a medical issue increases,” Taylor says. “The big ones [to look out for] are high blood pressure (hypertension), heart disease, arthritis and diabetes.”

Why is this routine checkup necessary? It’s used as the time for preventative medicine if necessary.

“The preventative [checkup] really allows us to do the proper immunizations and screenings like breast cancer screening, colon cancer screening, routine lab work and [those sorts of things],” Taylor says.

When asked about lifestyle factors that could lead to serious health problems, Taylor told us some of the biggest things are smoking, diabetes and a sedentary lifestyle; people with these factors should see their primary care physician more often than someone who would be deemed as generally ‘healthy.’

Being more active is a great step toward a healthier year. Taylor says he tells his patients to aim for 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise every week. He says choosing to do an activity that you enjoy whether it is biking, swimming, the elliptical, walking or another form of exercise will help you to stay focused on that 150-minute goal.

Nutrition

 

A big part of staying healthy is having a proper diet. A well-balanced diet is one that provides a variety of fruit and vegetables, grains, protein and fat to meet all of our human nutritional needs, says Laura Sabban, MS, RD, CSR, lead dietitian at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center.

If you have a poor diet and want an easy way to transition into healthier eating habits, Sabban says you should find a way to consume more vegetables of all colors. If you are not someone who generally enjoys the taste of produce, she says you can try other forms of vegetables like carrot cake, fried sweet potatoes, plantain chips, etc.

Not only will having the proper nutrients your body needs keep you healthier in the long run, it even plays a hand in keeping serious medical conditions at ease and can even help prevent them.

“Almost all chronic conditions can be prevented by a good diet and exercise,” says Sabban. “Even if the disease is hereditary, the gene expression may be delayed with healthier living. The best examples are diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease and other obesity-related conditions like degenerative joint disease, sleep apnea, among others.”

Another part your nutrition plays in your health is curbing the obesity crisis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report three months ago citing that almost 40 percent of adults and 20 percent of adolescents are obese in the country.

“The obesity crisis is the result of many interrelated forces,” says Sabban. “The cure, I believe, is simple. Eat your vegetables.”

Cardiovascular Health
The No. 1 leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States is heart disease; so medical concerns relating to the cardiovascular system are not to be taken lightly— and neither is your health as it relates directly to your heart.

Dr. Vic Bahal of Advanced Cardiology of South Jersey echoes the typical doctor’s sentiment that both diet and exercise are very important to having a healthy cardiovascular system.  

“For years, it has been emphasized that having a body mass index (BMI) of 25 is ideal to reduce cardiovascular disease. Having a diet low in saturated fat is important,” says Bahal. “But more importantly, what a lot of people don’t underscore is you have to reduce total body inflammation because inflammation is the root cause of all cardiac and vascular diseases.”

Bahal instructs his patients to add more dark fruits into their diets—the darker the fruit, the more antioxidant properties it has and along with it, more anti-inflammatory properties.

Traditional lifestyle factors that can lead to serious heart problems are obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and even stress. But high cholesterol, sleep apnea, family history and even genetics also play a large role in determining if you will develop cardiovascular problems in the future. 

 

“Nowadays, we are doing a lot of genetic screenings and that helps physicians do what is called personalized medicine—which is what I do,” explains Bahal. “We customize a plan that incorporates hormone balancing, weight loss, and we try to prevent all of these traditional risk factors before they pay a toll on the body.”

Not paying attention to your health, especially where your heart is concerned, could result in an increased risk of stroke, peripheral arterial disease, aortic aneurysm, heart disease and other complications.  

Eyecare
One spoke on the overall wheel of health that may tend to get overlooked is eye health. Sometimes, we determine if we need to see an optometrist based on how well we can see. The truth is, we should be seeing our optometrists annually.

“You should visit your optometrist annually to ensure everything is in sync with your eyes and your visual system,” says Dr. Sally Halim, owner and optometrist at Village Eyecare. “Getting an annual eye exam is important in terms of evaluating a patient’s overall eye health. While checking for a prescription is [just] part of an eye exam, so is the evaluation of ocular health.”

Halim says conditions like glaucoma or signs of diabetes can show up in the eyes without any other symptoms. Unless a patient has regular eye exams, these conditions can easily go undetected.

The same goes for children—farsightedness and focusing issues are rarely screened for by a pediatrician or school nurse so it is important that children are having annual eye exams after the age of 3.

“Many times children are diagnosed with ADHD or behavioral issues because of their struggles with reading or math, when in reality; they need glasses or vision therapy to strengthen their focusing systems,” says Halim. “The visual demands on children today, including a lot of computer based tasks, means more children need to be evaluated more thoroughly to ensure their eyes are healthy.”

Even patients with contact lenses only have prescriptions that last 12 months. After that 12-month period, patients have to be evaluated by their optometrist to obtain a new prescription for new contact lenses.

“Patients with certain health conditions like diabetes or hypertension are sometimes evaluated more frequently,” explains Halim. “In addition, patients with ocular conditions like glaucoma, cataracts or age-related macular degeneration are seen at least two to four times a year.”

Patients with symptom-less conditions like glaucoma who skip on their annual checkups can lose a significant amount of peripheral vision as time goes on. “Once this vision is lost, we cannot get it back,” explains Halim. “[E]ven if the patient starts receiving treatment.”

 

 

Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 10 (December, 2017).

 

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Author: Kaytlyn Mroz

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