This week's “Check It Out - Check It Off” is all about making your 2009 healthier. Being in good shape can be a time and money-saver. Look over these ideas and consult your physician. Our contributors:
John Sensenbrenner has been a private practice physician for 21 years in Charlotte.
John Powderly has been a practicing oncologist since 2002, and a physician since 1995. He is founder of Carolina BioOncology Institute, Cancer Therapy and Research Center in Huntersville.
Brad Bills has been a family dentist 12 years. His practice – Caldwell, Bills, & Petrilli – is located at the Arboretum in Charlotte.
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Brian Boyle, physical therapist, is an owner of Gaston Rehab Associates and works with both businesses and individuals.
Wake up/get down
Your activity in the first five minutes of the day can improve the first few hours of the day. Burn out the sugar – glycogen – in your system and you can improve your metabolism for several hours. Glycogen is an energy reserve in the body that can be a “kick start” for our organs as it is made available from, mainly, the liver.
ACTION 1: Each day, roll out of bed and do “burn-out push-ups,” or push-ups until tired. Then, roll over and do 30 crunches, then another set of push-ups. It's especially good for the upper body.
ACTION 2: For the lower body, strategically use the stairs. Climb three flights three times a day, but take the elevator going down. You lift yourself up and get good exercise, but your joints pound when going down stairs. Also, three flights isn't enough to pit you out for work. Sensenbrenner
Screen for spots
Melanoma (skin cancer) is the only cancer where we predict survival based on fractions of millimeters growth of the tumor. The Carolinas' have a high incidence of melanoma and it is on the rise. Melanoma's first symptom may be a change in the size, shape, or color of a mole, or a new mole. More than 50,000 people a year are diagnosed with melanoma.
ACTION 3: Buy several tubes of SPF 50 sun block and put the containers where you will see them and use them – the garage, mud room, golf bag, locker. Do a self-check for spots. See melanoma.com for ways to check. A self-check doesn't replace a visit to a physician, but it's a quick start for prevention. Powderly
See the light
But sunlight is needed. Sensenbrenner says he is talking to more people about vitamin D these days. People may take an oral supplement of D, but don't know that sunlight converts it for our bodies. Sensenbrenner notes that people ride in a UV protected car, park in a deck, walk to work in an overstreet mall and sit in a UV protected office, often avoiding any real sunlight. Even make-up often has UV protection.
ACTION 4: Get 10 minutes of unprotected sunlight twice a week to convert vitamin D from your milk, cheese and other food sources or supplements. Sensenbrenner
Improve oral health
Studies increasingly show the correlation between oral health and overall physical health. Bacteria can take hold in the mouth and spread to the circulatory system and possibly affect the immune system. Good oral health can protect the rest of the body (and save money on repairs to teeth and gums). The tools – a soft bristled toothbrush (hard bristles aren't needed to remove plaque and can irritate gums or harm tooth enamel), dental floss (floss is cheap and effective) and an antiseptic mouthwash.
ACTION 5: Make a 2009 oral health kit: Buy 4 toothbrushes, floss and a germ-fighting mouthwash. Label the toothbrushes for the first day of January, April, July and October. Put a Post-it note on your mirror to floss daily.
ACTION 6: Visit your dentist every six months. Ask for a lesson in flossing and ask if there's evidence you are grinding your teeth. Bills
Think posture and ergonomics
As people increasingly use computers for work and personal use, our bodies are at rest more from the neck down. Long hours, fatigued posture, and poor ergonomics at the workstation can all be detrimental. The results can be pain in the neck, shoulder, low back, wrist and hand. Increased inactivity can also easily lead to weight gain, which correlates to heart and joint health problems.
ACTION 7: Do a home and office ergonomic assessment, and work on your posture. Gaston Rehab Associates has an assessment at www.GastonRehabAssociates.com, so does SafeComputingTips.com. Boyle
Create a family health tree
Patients who know their families' medical history can arm a doctor with information to help a diagnosis or preventive care. Sometimes it's “nature” and sometimes it's “nurture” that affects health. Some cancers can be hereditary, such as breast, ovarian, colon and melanoma. Genetic blood tests are now available to family members at high risk. Help your doctor help you.
ACTION 8: Talk to your parents and grandparents about their health issues. Pay particular attention to issues such as cancer, blood pressure, dementia, depression, heart disease and addictions. Write it down. Powderly
You knew this would be on the list. Smoke affects smokers and nonsmokers. In the U.S., 35 percent of children live in homes where residents or visitors regularly smoke (Archives of Pediatric Medicine). From 50 to 75 percent of U.S. children have detectable levels of cotinine in the blood, a product of nicotine. A California EPA study says secondhand smoke is responsible for up to 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections in children under 18 months. Bottom line – secondhand smoke can cause poorer health and more doctor visits for children.
ACTION 9: Stop smoking. Check out www.cdc.gov/tobacco for resources about how to quit tobacco use. Sensenbrenner, Powderly