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Stay ahead: Prevent problems before they start

February 28, 2013
By KAYLA VAN DYNE - Times Leader Staff Writer , Times Leader

In today's society there is much focus on being healthy and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But there are more benefits to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, especially when taking simple preventive measures will further your life.

Two of the biggest culprits of an unhealthy lifestyle are heart disease and diabetes. One common factor for both is too much sugar intake.

"With diabetes, too much sugar overworks our pancreas which is the primary organ for regulating our insulin. Unbalanced blood sugar plays a factor in nerve damage and heart failure. Simple sugars and refined sugars induce big sugar spikes, so it is best to limit or avoid these foods. Stick to as many vegetables as possible. In addition, consume grains like brown rice, and beans contain fiber that keep sugar levels balanced," said Glenda Myers, a certified nutrition consultant.

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GET?SOME?sleep. A?good night’s rest can have far more positive health impacts than the average person might believe. A lack of consistent sleep can have just as many negative consequences.

"With heart disease, too much unchecked sugar in the bloodstream damages our arteries, setting the stage for heart problems. In addition, sugar creates more acid in the body. When we have more acid, we aggravate inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis. When looking at cancer, another inflammatory disease, sugar feeds the abnormal cells and encourages them to grow."

That's why it's important to make healthy food choices, she said. With fast food, the body is filled with too many fried, processed and "fake" healthy foods which results in cells not getting the much-needed antioxidants.

"It is at the cellular level where diseases and problems start," said Myers.

She recommends the following steps:

Eat several vegetables a day-perhaps a large salad, take carrot sticks in your lunch, add onions or peppers to a morning egg.

Add whole grains such as brown rice in place of white pasta. Whole grains add the fiber that your digestive system needs.

Include new protein sources, such as beans and lentils, to your diet. When eating meat, try to get meat free of antibiotics and hormones-these can disrupt a body's balance.

Try to avoid processed foods as much as possible, and when unsure, read the ingredients. Too many preservatives and chemicals are added to many foods. They mess with a body's cells and hormones, setting us up for problems.

Get active. Try stretching or yoga and going for walks a few days a week. You don't have to become a marathon runner. When you exercise, circulation is improved. You reduce your risk of heart disease, lower your blood sugar, and relieve aches and pains.

Bad habits die hard, but it is imperative to get rid of the smoking habit. Many people think that smoking only affects the lungs, when it can also harden our arteries, increasing our chances of having heart disease or a heart attack.

Sleep and stress. A lack of sleep impairs the body's ability to repair itself. Stress disrupts our digestive system, which then disrupts the immune system. It is necessary to put stress reduction and sleep as a priority. Turn off the computer at night, relax with a book or music. Stretch, drink calming tea, look into getting a message every once in a while, and mark time on your calendar each week to do one thing you enjoy.

Invest in good supplements. Our foods do not always meet our nutritional needs-especially since foods have changed so much over the years. Do research, and speak with a knowledgeable professional or a nutritionist about what supplements would be best for you.

"Overall, look at these steps as "baby steps," Myer said. "Try to do 3 of them, then move to a new one each week. When we see preventive health as the key to a longer and happier life, we have fewer trips to the doctors and spend less money on medicine. I'd rather spend my money on good blueberries and carrots than on an antibiotic!"

Other steps that can prevent diseases include regular checkups with your family doctor, which can help monitor sugar and cholesterol levels.

Van Dyne may be reached at



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