Diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) all can lead to serious complications, and yet patients can act to control these conditions. To take control, make general New Year’s resolutions to improve your diet and increase your exercise. While these might sound daunting, you can create reasonable, specific resolutions to meet these goals.
Although people with diabetes especially need to manage their condition day in and day out, these ideas for resolutions can help people with high cholesterol and high blood pressure, too.
Start with some of my favorite diet tips as part of your resolutions.
• Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. For example, I recommend vegetables low in starch, such as spinach, broccoli or green beans, with meals.
• Buy whole-grain foods rather than processed grain products. For example, try brown rice and whole-wheat spaghetti.
• Include fish in your meals two or three times a week.
• Too much sodium can increase blood pressure and the risk of heart attack and stroke. To reduce sodium intake, choose and prepare foods with little or no salt. Prepared foods such as canned and boxed foods contain higher amounts of sodium. Try frozen, or better yet, fresh foods. Aim to eat less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. If you have hypertension, are at least middle-aged or are African American, you should consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day.
• Aim to reduce fat intake and to eat less than 300 mg of cholesterol each day. To meet this target, choose skinless chicken and fish first, then opt for lean read meats such as pork loin and sirloin. Select fat-free, 1 percent fat and low-fat dairy products.
• Even with healthy foods, remember to limit your portion sizes.
As you reduce your consumption of calories and fat, you also need to burn calories through exercise. I remind my patients with diabetes that exercise burns glucose and thus reduces your blood glucose level. It also makes the body more sensitive to the glucose that you produce.
You can start being more physically active by doing chores around your house or apartment every day or by working in the garden when spring arrives. If you have errands near your home, walk instead of drive. Take the stairs instead of riding the elevator or escalator whenever you can. When shopping, park at the far end of the lot and walk to the store.
Your routine should include aerobic exercise, strength training and flexibility exercises. However, if you have a chronic health condition or a family history of heart disease at an early age, talk to you practitioner prior to starting a new physical activity program.
Aerobic exercise increases your breathing rate, raises your heart rate and works your muscles. I recommend starting with brisk walking, dancing, low-impact aerobics, swimming or water aerobics, ice skating or roller skating, tennis or riding a bicycle outdoors or a stationary bike inside.
If you want other ideas for resolutions to improve your health in general, a Harvard Medical School study found that men could reduce the risk of heart failure to only 10 percent by doing four or more of these:
• Maintaining a normal body weight
• Not smoking
• Exercising regularly
• Drinking alcohol only moderately
• Eating breakfast cereals
• Eating fruits and vegetables
Some of those same practices also helped women prevent high blood pressure.
Now that I have identified New Year’s resolutions for you, I also will make my own resolution: To provide or arrange for my patients with diabetes to have the regular screenings recommended by the American Diabetes Association. These include measurement of blood pressure, blood cholesterol (the LDL-C test) and blood sugar control (the HbA1c test); screening for kidney abnormalities (the urine microalbumin test); a foot examination; and an annual eye examination by an ophthalmologist (even if no vision problem is apparent).
I would be happy to help you make your resolutions and start living a more healthy life. To learn more, call Northern Nevada Medical Group at 352-5300 to schedule an appointment. Same-day appointments and walk-ins are welcome, and we accept most of the area’s health plans, including Medicare.
Cynthia Davis, APN, received her bachelor’s and master’s of nursing from the University of Nevada, Reno Orvis School of Nursing. Davis is certified with the American Nurses Credentialing Center and practices at the Northern Nevada Medical Group at Vista Medical Terrace, 2345 E. Prater Way, Suite 111.