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Healthier By The Dozen

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August 2005
Healthier By The Dozen

Twelve Simple Steps To Feeling And Looking Your Best

A dozen donuts. A 12-pack of soda. Why is it that when we think of the number 12, we often associate it with less-than-healthy foods?

What about a dozen long-stemmed roses? Or, as suggested by nutritionist Lisa Talamini, RD, 12 easy ways to improve your health, weight and wellbeing?

"When most people think about changing their lifestyle, they automatically assume drastic changes need to be made," says Talamini. "Interestingly enough, similar positive benefits can be reaped just by making simple nutritional adjustments and increasing physical activity levels. A commitment to taking small, yet significant, changes can really make a big difference."

Try these 12 simple steps to success:

1. Enjoy oatmeal at breakfast, a whole-wheat sandwich bread at lunch, and brown rice at dinner. Three whole grain servings a day can lower your risk for type 2 diabetes by 20 percent or more.

2. Snap on a pedometer and walk your way up to 10,000 steps. You'll be on the right path to reducing your risk for heart disease, hypertension, osteoporosis and certain cancers.

3. Add 1/2 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries to cereal, pancakes and smoothies. Studies show they help improve balance, coordination and short-term memory.

4. Trade out a beef burger for its soy counterpart, or enjoy soy milk, tofu or soy-based cereals and snacks. Twenty five to 50 grams can significantly reduce your LDL (bad) cholesterol level.

5. Moo-ve up your dairy intake to three serving per day with nonfat/lowfat chocolate milk, fruit-flavored yogurt and reduced fat cheese. You'll improve heart health, strengthen your bones, and promote a healthier colon.

6. Slip in a can of salmon next to the roast turkey in your deli drawer. Increasing your fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, etc.) to at least two servings a week decreases LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

7. Savor pizza, tomato soup, and spaghetti with marinara sauce. The lycopene in these cooked tomatoes guards against prostate, breast and cervical cancer.

8. Fortify your fats by selecting margarines that contain plant sterols. Just two to three grams of plant sterols decreases total cholesterol by nine to 20 percent.

9. Protect yourself with a straw hat and sunscreen. More than 90 percent of all skin cancers are caused by sun exposure, and the number of new cases exceeds those of the breast, prostate, lung and cancer combined.

10. Practice yoga, Pilates or other mindfulness-based physical activities. Not only will you strengthen and stretch muscles, you'll also lower stress levels.

11. Take a mini-vacation. A few deep abdominal breaths, focused yoga poses, or one-minute visualizations can enhance heart health, normalize blood pressure and boost immunity by 48 percent.

12. Remember your multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. For many whose food intake falls short in nutrients like iron, calcium, folate and vitamin E, it's the closest thing to a magic pill.

Cholesterol and Diabetes:

Getting to the Heart of It

If you are one of 18 million Americans affected by diabetes, you already know how important it is to monitor your blood sugar levels. However, do you also keep close track of your blood lipids? Abnormal levels of blood lipids, which are actually fats in your blood, can lead to cardiovascular disease, a leading cause of death for patients with type 2 diabetes.

Many people with diabetes have an abnormal lipid profile -- high-density lipoproteins or HDL (good cholesterol) levels that are too low, and triglyceride levels that are too high. Also, low-density lipoproteins or LDL (bad cholesterol) particles are unusually small and dense, which can be especially harmful to blood vessels. This combination of factors is known as diabetic dyslipidemia, and can lead to heart attack and stroke.

"Diabetic dyslipidemia means your lipid profile is going in the wrong direction," said Mehmood Khan, M.D., F.A.C.E. "It is a deadly combination that puts patients at risk for premature coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis -- where the arteries become clogged with fat."

A recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 70 to 97 percent of individuals with diabetes have diabetic dyslipidemia. To decrease complications from this condition, people with diabetes need to control their lipids as carefully as they monitor their blood sugar. The American Heart Association reports that for every one percent you lower your LDL cholesterol, you reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease by one percentage point.

There are steps you can take on your own to manage your lipid profile and diabetes. This includes making sure you have healthy eating habits, and incorporating some form of physical activity into your daily routine. These lifestyle changes can help reduce your risk of complications from diabetes.

Another step to controlling your lipid profile is to schedule an appointment with your physician or to have your blood lipid levels checked. If there are any problems, you can work with your physician to develop a treatment plan that is right for you, which may include cholesterol-lowering medication. If you are currently prescribed medication for type 2 diabetes, ask your physician about its effects on your cholesterol, as some diabetes medications may have the potential to impact your cholesterol profile.


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