Neurology Insights

Happy New Year? How about a Healthy New Year!

Happy New Year -2016

Every year we promise ourselves that this is the year we are going to get healthy. We start out with the best of intentions. We will change our diet, will exercise more, sleep longer, and pay better attention to our overall health. We put so many things on our “to do” list for health, and end up falling short.

But the goal is the same. We want to be healthy. So this year, let’s approach it one step at a time.

Quitting cigarettes:

This is a daunting task, but by chunking it down into simple steps, it can be done and it can be done relatively easily. First, you’ll need to have a clear soap container. Get rid of the opaque cigarette pack. Let’s say you smoke 10 cigarettes a day. Start by putting nine cigarettes in the clear container each day and take that with you. When you get down to three or four cigarettes each day, you are in control as to whether or not you need to have that next cigarette, and when you need to have it. By cutting down one cigarette per day each week, you’re back in control both with regards to changing your habit (psychological craving) as well as regards to the nicotine and chemical withdrawal (physical craving and dependence).

Eating Healthy:

This one is tough. We all have to eat for basic nutrition. Some of us forget that we should eat to live, rather than live to eat. So how does one start with diet modification and make eating changes when there are so many different diets and so many different programs out there. Let’s turn to our friend Jack Lalaine. You remember, the exercise guru from the 60s who lived to his mid 90’s. He even swam the English Channel at age 93. Here was his secret. He had six servings of protein per day and pointed out that we each have our own measuring cup. If you look at the palm of your hand, as well as your whole hand, that gives your two different sizes of servings. Three servings of protein the size of your palm, and three servings of protein the size of your whole hand each and every day. This can include fish, nuts, chicken, etc. I DARE you to try this for one week; you will feel better, feel full throughout the day without hunger pangs, and have a tremendous amount of energy. Making a commitment for one week should be an easy thing to do; with a little bit of attention and focus this can be accomplished.

Another option is to try the gluten-free route. When I recommended this years ago it was quite challenging, as it was hard to find the right foods without getting out a comprehensive food guide to determine what did and did not have gluten. Now, I tell my patients to go to Whole Foods. Anything at the perimeter of the store is fair game. This is usually where the fruits and vegetables, fresh meat and poultry are. There are three aisles of gluten free products. I have my patients make out a one-week food chart for breakfast, snacks, lunch, snack, dinner and they fill up that chart. That is all they put in their mouth, nothing else! I have them do this for three weeks and at the end we discuss their health. Invariably, each and every patient tells me that they feel much better, they’ve lost weight, and they have tremendous amounts of energy.

What ever diet modification you plan on doing, don’t forget to increase your water intake. That is essential for success in any diet change.

What about exercise?

This is a challenging habit to start, but once started is well worthwhile. I ask patients what they enjoy doing, whether it’s walking, riding a bike, doing yoga or tai chi or Pilates. There are so many different activities that one can get involved with. The worst thing to do is to force a patient to do an activity that they don’t enjoy. We are fortunate in Florida to have access to swimming pools, and I have many of my patients do water exercises and water walking. 20 to 30 minutes every day is essential in helping to make the mind and body feel alive and well. At first it may be a struggle. Muscles are sore, joints are inflamed; but day by day it gets easier. And I point out to patients they must exercise at their target heart rate. The way to calculate this is to take 220 minus age and multiply that by 60% and 80%. (THR = 220-age X .6 and .8)

These are just a few of the ways to make changes for the New Year. For more information about improving your health, contact Neurology Office, Joseph Kandel, M.D. and Associates.

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