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M. P. Ravindra Nathan
Healthy New Year’s Resolutions
By M. P. Ravindra Nathan, MD, FACC

Once again, it’s that time of year to start mulling over New Year’s resolutions - those special self-imposed, holiday binge-inspired rules that dissipate by the end of January -

As evidence accumulates that Indian Americans are succumbing to many diseases prematurely, it has become imperative to focus on achieving favorable levels of all risk factors simultaneously. Here are my top 10 New Year’s “suggestions” for you.

Check your blood pressure: Even slightly elevated BP increases the cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk, beginning with a SBP/ DBP of 115/75. Normal is < 120/80, pre-hypertension is 120-139/80-89, and hypertension is 140/90 and above. The relation between BP and CVD risk is graded and continuous; that includes pre-hypertensives too.

Check your blood sugar: Ideally, check fasting blood sugar, blood sugar after meals and hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c is a marker of diabetes). Latest studies show elevated blood glucose level is a risk marker for CVD, even in apparently healthy individuals.

Check your cholesterol level: It is common knowledge that high cholesterol, especially the combination of high LDL (bad cholesterol), low HDL (good cholesterol) and high triglycerides is correlated with high prevalence of heart disease and strokes.

Quit smoking: It is the leading cause of preventable death in this country and a major risk factor for heart disease, strokes and many types of cancers. Although addictive, there are ways to lessen its hold: nicotine patches, gums or special medications to reduce the craving for cigarettes.

Eat healthier: With supersized meals, excessive alcohol intake and an increasingly sedentary life style, Americans are constantly waging their own “battle of the bulge.” Obesity is rapidly rising among children, too. A diet restricted in saturated fats, lower in carbs and high in proteins seems to be optimal.

Get enough sleep: Sleep-deprived people have a higher incidence of motor-vehicle accidents, obesity, migraines, infections and stimulants overuse, among other things. Individual sleep requirements vary and are genetically predetermined; that is, you cannot “get used to less sleep.” Eight hours is usually enough. Definitely not less than six hours.

Annual mammograms/Pap smear for women: Breast cancer affects one in eight women in the U.S. Mammograms should be done annually in women over age 40. Cervical cancer is another under-diagnosed life-threatening condition, and Pap smears should be done annually in women over age 18 (or earlier if sexually active).

Regular exercise: Just 20 minutes a day, five days a week can go a long way to help your body. Ideally, the exercise should be something you enjoy as an activity, not just as a health benefit, so that it motivates you to stick with it. It helps to have an exercise buddy to keep you on track, especially on those lazy Sundays in February.

Spend a few minutes daily on meditation and prayers: This helps to see your own image and life in a positive light, bolster personal energy, and connect you with the divine presence in life. Many studies have shown that prayers help healing.

Avoid stress: It may sound like a tall order in the current world. But try you must.

The old axiom “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is not true for your body. It’s more like, “It is not what you know that kills you but what you don’t know.” With these 10 points in your arsenal, though, you will hopefully be on your way to several more healthy New Years to come.

Cardiologist Dr. M. P. Ravindra Nathan lives in Brooksville.

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