Be the CEO of Your Health
Posted 2/25/2016 by UHBlog
It’s often said raging hormones and a quest for independence make adolescence the most trying period of life, but many baby boomers are finding middle age can be just as unpredictable. For some, it may mean a newly empty nest, caring for or burying parents, divorcing or remarrying, an unexpected job change or economic uncertainties.
But one thing is certain: Folks in this age group have more reason than ever to be optimistic about their health, says internal medicine specialist Roy Buchinsky, MD.
“We often hear the term, ‘midlife crisis,’ but middle age is a great opportunity to take a snapshot of our health and learn what we can do to improve it so we can ultimately live a longer and better quality life,” he says.
Your genes influence just 30 percent of health and wellness, which means the remaining 70 percent is controlled by your lifestyle choices and external environment. This means you’re not doomed to get diabetes just because your grandmother had it. While you may be at a slightly higher risk, a combination of healthy habits and modern medicine can often help control your blood sugar levels and keep you off of high doses of insulin.
Dr. Buchinsky, the director of wellness at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, recommends seeing your doctor for a full physical to assess your current health. He also advises taking steps to minimize the risk of developing chronic illnesses by controlling what he calls The Four Biggies: smoking, physical inactivity, poor nutrition and stress.
Here are Dr. Buchinsky’s tips for taking charge of your health:
- Stop smoking – Kicking a nicotine habit improves your ability to breathe and reduces your risk of developing heart disease, lung disease, emphysema, stroke and certain cancers.
“A year after you quit smoking, your risk of heart disease is half that of a current smoker,” he says. “After 15 years, it's the same as a nonsmoker. The risk of lung cancer is half that of a smoker’s after 10 years of quitting tobacco. In addition, current male smokers are almost three times more likely to experience erectile dysfunction as nonsmokers.”
Additionally, the life expectancy of a smoker is a full decade less than that of a nonsmoker.
- Get moving – Walking just 30 minutes a day five days a week reduces the risk of developing both diabetes and cancer by 30 percent. Strive to raise your heart rate with cardio exercises – for example, walking, jogging, dancing and biking – for at least 20 minutes three times a week, and add resistance training (bands, light weights, using your body weight to do planks or push-ups) for the remainder of your workout.
- Eat up – Ditch the potato chips, pepperoni pizza and jellybeans. Load up on plant-based whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables and nutritious (non-white) grains. Throw in healthy proteins, like salmon or skinless poultry, and you’ve got the recipe for a smart diet.
“You will feel better eating these foods than eating refined carbs that come in plastic containers,” Dr. Buchinsky says. “Eating lots of sugar increases insulin levels, which, in turn, increases your risk of developing inflammation – which can lead to arterial disease, erectile dysfunction in men, dementia and other conditions.”
- Chill out – “There’s no magic prescription for beating stress, but I tell people to find the stressbuster that is right for them and practice it daily,” he says.
Not sure where to begin? Try yoga, deep breathing, meditation, exercise, prayer, reading or gardening.
“Make middle age your new beginning and use that beginning as a foundation for the next chapter of life,” Dr. Buchinsky says. “Hopefully, your healthy habits will fall to your kids and then their kids – and the whole community will become much healthier.”
To help baby boomers learn more about the health issues they face, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine is offering Mini Med School: Medical School for the Rest of Us. Beginning Wednesday, April 20, the five-session weekly series takes place from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the Wolstein Building, 2103 Cornell Road, Cleveland. Led by University Hospitals doctors who present their topics in plain English, the classes cover dermatology, autism, memory issues, leg surgery and back pain. For more information, call 216-983-1239.
Roy Buchinsky, MD is an internal medicine specialist and the director of wellness at UH Cleveland Medical Center. You can request an appointment with Dr. Buchinsky or any other University Hospitals doctor online.