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Embarking on a Path to Health and Wellness

Living a healthy life encompasses more than just the right diet and exercise. Achieving health and wellness also includes a healthy balance of social, emotional, spiritual, environmental and the working worlds.

For the sake of brevity, we will focus on physical health – but the rest should not be ignored.

Physical health can be broken down into the three components: proper diet (including avoiding drug use and alcohol in excess), exercise and quality sleep.

Embarking on a path to healthier living should begin with an annual physical exam from your primary care physician. This will help evaluate cardiovascular risk factors such as weight, blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol levels, as well as sleep quality.

Healthy eating plan

A proper diet varies by the individual and is driven by whether he or she is trying to lose weight or maintain weight.

At the end of the day calories count.  It’s simple. If you want to lose weight you must consume fewer calories than you burn each day. If you want to maintain your weight, calories consumed should equal the calories burned per day.

Generally, to lose one to two pounds per week, you will need to reduce your calories by 500 to 1000 calories a day, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute under the National Institutes of Health.

Many diets have been out there for years but the diets that minimize carbohydrate consumption or “low carb diets” seem to provide the best results. In multiple studies, these diets show better weight loss than low fat diets – along with the benefits of improved blood pressure and an impact on blood readings such as sugar, good cholesterol (HDL) and triglyceride levels especially in diabetic patients.

Regardless of the diet, the most important thing is to stick with the diet protocols – and not quit after you have lost weight. Maintenance diets are just as important as the initial weight loss diet.

Get moving

Exercise, contrary to popular belief does not – I repeat – does not help you lose weight without a healthy diet. The recommended minimum exercise of 30 minutes per day of moderate aerobic activity, however, at best can help you maintain weight.

A typical 30 minute workout will burn about 300 to 400 calories which is equivalent to two glazed donuts or a bagel with cream cheese. Exercise helps maintain weight as well as improve body image. It also reduces cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension while raising your good cholesterol. Pick an exercise routine that is right for you and make sure it is at least of moderate effort to reach 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate.

Quality shut-eye

Finally, good, quality sleep is critical in helping to start and maintain a proper diet and exercise regimen. We all know a bad night’s sleep makes for a difficult day with mental fatigue and decreased motivation.

The average person needs seven to eight hours of quality, restorative sleep each night.

The subjective definition of quality sleep as determined in a study by the journal Sleep is the feeling of being rested and restored upon awakening. This coincides with the number of awakenings in the night with the fewer the awakenings associated with the better quality of sleep.

“Good sleep quality is associated with a wide range of positive outcomes such as better health, less daytime sleepiness, greater well-being and better psychological functioning,” said Allison G. Harvey, PhD, of the University of California at Berkeley, lead author of the study in a story in Science Daily. “Moreover, poor sleep quality is one of the defining features of chronic insomnia.”

If one does not feel they are getting quality sleep, several diagnosis should be considered such as insomnia due to mental or physical stress, Restless Leg Syndrome and Sleep Apnea to name a few.

These concerns should be discussed with your primary care physician with a possible a referral to a sleep specialist.

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