Give yourself the gift of better health

What if you could give yourself the gift of better health? Wouldn’t that be better than any monetary gift that you could ask for this Christmas? Although good health is never guaranteed in life, there are certain things that you can do to decrease your risk of developing certain diseases, like diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Use the checklist below as a guide. This list is not all inclusive, but will be a great starting point for giving you the gift of better health.

A checklist for better health:

Schedule a physical examination.

Identify your risk for obesity.

Have your blood pressure tested.

Have the following blood tests: Hemoglobin A1c (A1c), and cholesterol and lipid levels.

Get the proper amount of sleep.

Evaluate and reduce your stress level.

Exercise regularly.

Schedule a comprehensive eye examination.

Quit smoking and/or using tobacco products.

Schedule a visit with a dietitian.

Begin by having a complete physical examination by your doctor. Ask your doctor to calculate your body mass index (BMI) to determine your risk for obesity and obesity-related health problems. At your visit, find out what your blood pressure (BP) is and speak with your doctor about treatment options if your BP is greater than 120/80.

Ask your doctor also to test your hemoglobin A1c (A1c) to determine your risk for diabetes. An A1c of 6.5 or higher is considered as having the diagnosis of diabetes, and an A1c of 5.7 - 6.4 is considered as having pre-diabetes. If you are in the pre-diabetes range, treatment still is necessary to prevent complications. If you already have been diagnosed with diabetes and your A1c is greater than 6.5, speak with your doctor about additional treatment options to lower your risk. Have your cholesterol and lipid levels tested as well. Abnormal levels of cholesterol and/or lipids in your blood can increase your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

If you are not getting seven to eight hours of sleep per night, are having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or are waking up feeling tired, discuss it with your doctor. Lack of sleep has been associated with diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, elevated BP and weight gain. Also, don’t let stress be a factor that increases your health risk. Evaluate the stress in your life, and take steps to decrease any factors that you can. If you have a stressor that is more than you can handle, make sure to discuss it with your doctor.

Exercise regularly. This one change will reap many rewards. Getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day can actually help to improve weight, BP, A1c, cholesterol/lipid levels, sleep and stress.

Schedule a comprehensive eye examination once a year even if your vision has not changed. Diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol all can be discovered during a routine eye exam.

If you use any tobacco products, now is the time to quit. Nicotine increases your risk for not only heart disease and stroke, but cancer as well. Develop a plan with your doctor, and select a date to quit.

Finally, ask your doctor to refer you to a registered dietitian. Nutrition education plays a key role in helping you prevent and treat diabetes, heart disease and stroke. To speak with a registered nurse or registered dietitian about improving your health, contact the Blount Memorial Diabetes Management Center at 977-5767.

Barbie Haas is a registered nurse and diabetes nurse educator for the Blount Memorial Weight Management Center.

© 2010 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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