Beliefnet
A Prescription for Healthy Living

Let’s face it: Most of us don’t tend to dwell on our cholesterol levels until we have been given reason. Naturally when we find out we have elevated cholesterol, our minds tend to gravitate toward the bacon double- cheeseburger we may never again be able to enjoy! But the fact is, a person’s cholesterol level plays a prominent role in other areas of our overall health. Gaining and maintaining control of this important part of our physical makeup will help us to stay healthy on many different levels.

Managing Your Cholesterol

High blood cholesterol levels can lead to so many different health problems such as heart disease, heart attack, stroke and peripheral artery disease. Many proactive steps can be taken inorder to manage cholesterol while simultaneously maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Bad Cholesterol Versus Good Cholesterol


“Bad” cholesterol is also known as LDL or low-density lipoprotein. Low-density lipoprotein actually delivers bad cholesterol to the body. “Good” cholesterol or HDL (high-density lipoprotein) on the other hand, removes bad cholesterol from the bloodstream. An LDL level between 100-129 is optimal, while HDL should be at 60 or higher. Triglycerides, another type of fat contained in the blood, should not exceed 150 mg/dL.

How to Manage Cholesterol Levels

Many lifestyle modifications can be made in order to reach optimal cholesterol levels.

Diet: A healthy, well-balanced diet is essential in order to maintain healthy cholesterol. Daily intake of fats and saturated fats must be reduced regardless of whether or not you are taking prescribed medication to lower your cholesterol. Many foods contain certain proven health benefits that have the power to control cholesterol and improve overall health by also providing the basics in nutrition that we need each day. Increase your intake of such foods as brocolli, fish or fish oil supplements, green leafy vegetables, oranges or orange juice, carrots, garlic, fiber and oats. These foods are proven to help improve heart health, regulate blood pressure, and help achieve and maintain healthy cholesterol.

Making little tweaks here and there to how you grocery shop and put together healthy dinner menus may make the undertaking a little less overwhelming. Below is a list of food groups that contain the best choices of each.

Breads: Rather than white bread, opt for healthy whole grains such as whole wheat, rye or pumpernickel rather than white bread.

Cereal: Avoid cereals such as granola and museli which tend to be high in fat content. Choose hot and cold whole grain cereals that are also high in fiber.

Rice: Brown rice contains many more health benefits than white. Not only will brown rice help maintain healthy cholesterol levels, but it is also a low glycemic food which will help to regulate blood sugar.

Grains: Whole grains are essential to a healthy diet. Choose such grains as bulgur, couscous, quoinoa, barley, hominy and millet.

Fruits: Fruits are an integral part of a well-balanced diet. Avoid canned fruit in heavy syrup and opt for light syrup or fruit packed in its own juices. Better choices include fresh, dried and frozen fruit.

Vegetables: You cannot go wrong by increasing your vegetable intake. However, to receive those health benefits, choose fresh or frozen vegetables and avoid vegetables prepared and packaged in cream and cheese sauces.

Milk: As delicious as it may be, children are the only people who should drink whole milk. Fat free and 1% milk are healthier choices for adults.

Cheese: Limit your intake of cheese to three grams of fat per serving.

Juice: Choose fresh or frozen juices.

Meat: When choosing red meat, opt for lean cuts.

Chicken/Turkey: White or light meat contains the most health benefits. Always remove the skin before eating.

Fish: Most white fish are low in fat and are very good for you. Choose light or white meat tuna packed in water.

Other Ways to Manage Cholesterol

Exercise is important to incorporate into your daily routine. Doctors recommend 30-minute sessions between four and six times a week. Consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen. Consistent exercise does have the power to raise HDL and reduce LDL and triglycerides.

Certain supplements such as Omega-3 fatty acids and red yeast rice have been proven to reduce cholesterol levels. Ask your doctor or healthcare professional before beginning a new supplement to be sure it does not contraindicate with any other medication you may currently be taking.

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Smoking!

It has been said that it is more difficult to quit smoking than it is to quit using drugs! Smoking cigarettes is not only physically, but psychologically, addicting as well. While it is virtually impossible to convince a person, much less your own self, to quit smoking, there has never been a better time to stomp out the habit than today…right this very minute.

Nicotine is the substance contained in cigarettes that causes a person to have a physical addiction. The psychological dependency comes from the parts of our lives in which we include cigarettes. For instance, most cigarette smokers crave that first cigarette of the day, a smoke with a cup of coffee or alcoholic beverage, when we are stressed out or worried about something, or when we pick up the phone. It is inconceivable to think about having that morning cup of coffee without also having a smoke. But there are so many reasons, besides the fact that a pack can cost as much as $10 in some parts of the world, to quit a habit that has the potential to take years off of your life. If you feel you are ready to break the habit, it is important to first find avenues where you will receive support and encouragement from the people around you. You will have to re-learn how to do certain things without the accompanying cigarette. Learning to handle various triggers, as well as the stress that can sometimes push a person to smoke, will put you on the right track to quitting smoking forever.

Are You Ready?

Now that you have taken this major step to quit this addictive habit, you will need to set up and implement a plan of action. Pick a date on the calendar that is within two to four weeks of your decision to quit. This will give you time to prepare for the big day. Jot down the reasons why you want to stop smoking. Make sure that the reasons are yours, and not because your great-aunt Tilly wants you to quit. Keep this list of reasons where it is easily accessible and can be referred to each time you experience the urge to smoke. Rid your home, car and office of any smoking paraphernalia right before your scheduled stop date.

Who Can You Turn To?

Finding a person or group of people who will support you and provide you with encouragement when you need it most is an important step on your path to living smoke free. Carefully choose the people you want to include in this circle of support. Once you have established your group, make sure you use them. Make sure they are aware that by agreeing to be part your your accountability system, they are committing to receiving a phone call from you day or night, if they situation requires it.

Handling Stress Without Smoke

Most smokers light up in the midst of a stressful situation. While it will be difficult to find a coping mechanism that works best for you, consider relaxing by taking a hot bath, going for a walk, or doing some deep breathing exercises. You can also modify the certain things you did during the day in which you included a cigarette. For instance, if you enjoyed a cigarette with your morning coffee, try drinking your coffee later than usual, or in a setting where you are not permitted to smoke.

Handling Physical Withdrawal

Your physical withdrawal from cigarettes will depend on how heavy a smoker you were. If you smoked for a long time, then your body will indeed experience certain symptoms of withdrawal. For example, you may notice that you are feeling tense and irritable; you may experience headaches for the first couple of days upon quitting; or you may have trouble concentrating.

There are over-the-counter products that you can purchase to help get you over the initial hump. Nicotine replacement medication can help wean you off the nicotine rather than going cold turkey, which may be helpful in terms of lessening the withdrawal symptoms. Certain prescription medications such as bupropioon and varenicline may also be helpful in fighting the initial urges you may have to smoke.

Some of my patients have asked me whether electronic cigarettes are a safe alternative to smoking regular cigarettes. My answer to them is no; there simply is not enough research today to confirm or deny the safety of electronic cigarettes.

Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself if you go back to smoking. Just pick a new start date, write down the reason or situation you may have been in that caused you to smoke so that you can avoid it next time. While quitting smoking is difficult, your body will thank you!

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Have you recently experienced bouts of unexplained fatigue, or problems with your memory that went beyond where you left your car keys? Of course these symptoms could be the result of stress, but they could also originate from a small gland located in the front of the neck called the thyroid. The thyroid is responsible for the production of hormones that control a person’s metabolism. Hypothyroidism, often confused with its counterpart hyperthyroidism, is a condition in which the thyroid does not produce enough hormones. Clinical studies reveal that hypothyroidism occurs more frequently in women than it does in men.

What Causes Hypothyroidism?

It has been reported that several conditions may play an active role, or at least act as a catalyst in the development and onset of hypothyroidism. These conditions may include the following:

– Certain medications such as lithium and amiodarone
– Some women tend to develop hypothyroidism during and after pregnancy. If this condition remains untreated, it could potentially jeopardize the health of both mother and child.
– Thyroid surgery
– Treatment of hyperthyroidism
– Subacute thyroiditis: This condition refers to the inflammation that affects the thyroid gland following a viral infection.
– Pituitary and hypothalmic disease
– Iodine deficiency: Only cases of severe iodine deficiency have the power to start hypothyroidism. This condition is rare in the United States.
– Autoimmune thyroiditis: Otherwise known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland, which results in enlargement or goiter, as well as the progressive destruction of the thyroid.

What Are the Symptoms of Hypothyroidism?

Many symptoms are associated with hypothyroidism; however, just because you experience one or even several of the symptoms listed below, a trip to your healthcare provider and a simple blood test will either rule out other possible reasons for the symptoms, or it will confirm a diagnosis of hypothyroidism. This list of symptoms is not exhaustive; therefore, if you experience a persisting symptom that lasts for more than two weeks, make an appointment with your doctor. The following is a list of common symptoms associated with hypothyroidism:

– Unexplained fatigue and generalized weakness
– Intolerance to cold
– Muscle aches and cramps
– Constipation
– Unusual weight gain
– Dry, rough skin
– Goiter
– Swelling of the eyes and face
– Coarse hair or hair loss
– Irregular or heavy menstruation
– Increase in cholesterol levels
– Memory loss and slow recall
– Poor appetite
– Change in the sound/tone of voice

What Are the Risk Factors Associated with Hypothyroidism?

– Age: Hypothyroidism most frequently tends to strike the over-50 age group
– Gender: Most people with hypothyroidism are women
– History: If you have an autoimmune disease, you may be at a higher risk of developing hypothyroidism
– Family history: If a member of your immediate family (going back as far as your grandparents) has an autoimmune disease, you may be at an increased risk in developing this condition.
– Surgical history: You may be at an increased risk of developing hypothyroidism if you have had radiation therapy to the neck or upper chest, or if you have had thyroid surgery.

What Treatment and Drugs Are Available for Hypothyroidism?

Treatment for hypothyroidism typically consists of such oral medications as Synthroid. This particular type of medication is prescribed to restore and balance out the body’s hormone levels. Thyroid medications generally take several days and up to two weeks before you begin to notice a change in your physical well being. Feelings of fatigue and reversal of weight gain may be the first things you notice. You may also notice a drop in your cholesterol numbers. Thyroid medication must be taken daily and is generally a lifelong treatment. Regular follow-up appointments with your endocrinologist are vital as a blood test to check TSH levels will be necessary. Dosage of thyroid medication may need to be tweaked along the way and this is usually determined by the results of the TSH test.

Because the gland is so small and the work it does is not physically tangible, it is very easy to leave hypothyroidism untreated. However, if this condition is left untreated, hypothyroidism could cause more severe conditions such as heart disease, high cholesterol, birth defects and miscarriage. If the TSH blood test is not a routine part of your annual physical, request that it be included.

 

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It’s been noticed without even relying on statistics that the majority of men over 50 are liable to having prostate problems which could directly affect two vital activities which are urination and having sex. It’s never good news when you’re being informed of having a prostate problem, however there are things you could do to minimize or even avoid chances of hiving this problem.

The prostate is a gland in men about the shape and size of a walnut. It’s a part of the reproductive system. As a man ages, the prostate can grow larger and this enlargement could squeeze the urethra causing problems in passing urine and in some cases impotence.

 Symptoms of enlarged prostate may include:

–       Trouble starting to urinate

–       Having to urinate more frequently and more often at night

–       Feeling that the bladder is not empty after urinating

–       Having a sudden urge to urinate

–       Some patients complain of having to stop and start repeatedly while urinating

 

If you are experiencing any of the above mentioned symptoms, it’s very important that you talk to your doctor as it’s very important as early treatment could save you some more serious complications. Your doctor could prescribe some medications like alpha-blocker and 5 alpha-reductase inhibitors. Those could help with the symptoms and could also help shrink the prostate.

How to maintain a healthy prostate:

There is no garaunteed way to prevent prostate enlargement as it’s a part of aging, but there are few things that could help delay the problem and improve symptoms.

–       Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.

–       Watch your diet. Eat more fruits and vegetables, especially those that have Lycopene such tomatoes, watermelons and grapefruits. Also, zinc is a vital mineral for the health of prostate. It’s found in oysters ,chocolate, peanuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and sesame oil

–       Some supplements are believed to help like Saw Palmetto over-the-counter

–       Avoid too much caffeine, alcohol and fatty food.

–       Include more soy in your diet

–       Quite smoking

–       Stay warm

–       Get a PSA blood test regularly beginning at the age of 50. If you have a family history of prostate problems then you need to begin testing at the age of 45.

–       Cranberry juice could help prevent urinary tract infections which could worsen your condition

 

If you have prostate problem it’s very important to ask your doctor or your pharmacist before taking any over the counter medication.

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