MemorialCare Health SystemYour Health: Summertime Health
Hello, summer! With long, lingering days stretching into early evening, the warm-weather months provide a perfect time for making healthy changes in your life.
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Not only is the season free from the pressures and temptations of major holidays, but it offers a chance to think about how you can improve your health. As a result, it’s a great time to make important lifestyle changes that will contribute to your long-term physical well-being. Here are some ways you can take advantage of the golden opportunity that summer presents:
Get moving. Longer summer days offer the
perfect chance for walking, swimming, biking,
surfing and countless other physical activities—
before or after work. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. But if you’re
out of shape, you can begin with 5- to 10-minute exercise sessions, gradually building to 30 minutes a day. Tasks such as mowing
the lawn or cleaning the pool count, too. “Exercise reduces the risk of heart disease,
helps control weight, lowers cholesterol and
counteracts high blood pressure,” says Steven Cullen, M.D., an internal medicine specialist at Saddleback Memorial-San Clemente.
Eat smarter. Summer is a great time to get into the habit of including fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. Although there’s a plentiful supply of produce in markets year-round, it can’t compare to the high-quality, reasonably priced locally grown fruits and vegetables available during the summer months. These garden-fresh treasures provide a low-calorie, high-nutritional payoff. A five-ounce serving of fruit, for example, contains about 65 calories, but provides substantial amounts of vitamins A and C, potassium and valuable trace minerals. Additionally, fruits and vegetables are an excellent low-fat, low-sodium source of fiber, which lowers cholesterol and helps protect the body against certain types of cancer.
Step back from stress. A summer vacation can reduce stress by freeing you from the daily grind. But many people have never learned this lesson, viewing vacation as a luxury instead of a necessity. Studies show that one-third of employed Americans don’t use all their vacation days. Furthermore, many people who go on vacation not only take work with them, but stay connected to the office by e-mail and cell phone. But chronic stress can affect a person’s physical and mental well-being, resulting in heart disease, high blood pressure and other conditions. What’s the answer? If you can afford to travel, a getaway could be just what the doctor ordered. But even a weeklong vacation on your own front porch, free
from any connections to work, can help diffuse stress.
Catch your zzzzzzs. Light nights can turn into late nights, which can be bad news for sleep schedules. Currently, adults average fewer than seven hours of sleep during the workweek, with one-third of them getting
less than 6.5 hours. The average adult needs seven to eight hours every night for optimal daytime performance. If you shortchange your body of needed rest, you accrue a sleep debt. This can lead to reduced productivity, impaired motor skills and diminished alertness. To avoid this problem, experts recommend allotting enough time for a good night’s sleep, and sticking to your schedule—even on the weekends.
Keep your health screenings current. Summertime shouldn’t signal a holiday from prescribed medications or important doctor’s visits. Make sure to see your doctor on schedule—and before you go on vacation to ensure all is well. “If you’re crossing time zones, ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your dosage schedules before you leave,” says Brian Henry, M.D., an internal medicine specialist at Saddleback Memorial. Time changes can wreak havoc with medication.
With long, days stretching into evening, summer provides a perfect time for making healthy changes in your life. Not only is the season free from the pressures of major holidays, but it offers a chance to think about how you can improve your health.