I’ve been practicing internal medicine for over 20 years, and I’m still surprised that people think they need to make tedious, earth shattering life changes to achieve better health. The truth is, simple changes can make a world of difference not just to how long we live, but to how “well” we live.
I DON’T WANT TO BE A BOARD-CERTIFIED, state-sanctioned pill pusher. With small adjustments to eating and activity habits, I’ve helped patients control high blood pressure, diabetes, acid reflux, obesity, and other common conditions as much as possible, without prescribing medication. You too can get started improving your health with these three easy steps.
1. IDENTIFY A NEGATIVE HABIT AND TAKE STEPS TO BREAK IT
Most of us have at least one. It might be sweets, alcohol… any number of things. If your morning habit is grabbing a café-latté-mocha-frappé, maybe you should have peppermint tea instead. If you have two glasses of wine a day, you could start by having only one, then you might reduce that to only four times a week, and so on. The bottom line is that you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to do better.
2. MAKE BETTER FOOD CHOICES—BECAUSE, YES, YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT
I often tell my patients, if you’re driving a Ferrari and you put bad gas in it, it’s still going to leave you on the side of the road. My rule of thumb is keep it simple. Use whole foods—carrots, garlic, tomatoes—and foods with ingredients you can pronounce. Limit your intake of processed foods. Even if your budget doesn’t allow you to buy organic, free-range, wild caught foods, you can still choose the best meats, veggies, and produce your money can buy. Try to get at least two servings of fruits and vegetables daily, and drink water… lots of it!
3. MOVE! YOUR HEALTH DEPENDS ON IT
They say sitting is the new cancer, and it’s not far from the truth. When you’re sitting in one spot for extended periods, it changes how your eye muscles work, how you use your body, your hips, your neck. It even affects circulation in your legs and your heart. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking through the hallway at work for five- or 10-minute intervals is a great start. In my office, people who work in the back, print in the front, and vice versa, forcing them to get up and move. Another good habit is to drink lots of water; that way you have to take more bathroom breaks.
You don’t have to join a gym or start crossfit training, you just have to try to get in at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise three to four times a week. The first step to better health is putting yourself on your to-do list. Make these simple changes, stick to them, and you’ll be on your way to a healthier you.
Dr Michelle Morrison is a board-certified internist with a practice in Pembroke Pines, Florida.