Many people pledge to become healthier in the New Year – but what does that mean? Where should you start? You may have more success if you set a concrete goal rather than a vague pledge to “eat healthier and get more exercise.” I would suggest you consider one or both of the goals below.
The first is one of the most common chronic health conditions nationally as well as locally. The second is an environmental health hazard present in our area that can be addressed relatively easily, but that most people would rarely if ever even think about.
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attack, chronic heart failure and stroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 1 in 3 American adults has high blood pressure, but only half of them know it. Risk increases with age, inactivity and poor diet.
See your primary care provider (PCP) regularly to keep tabs on your blood pressure. Generally, it should be below 140 over 90. If it’s higher your PCP may prescribe medication, which should be taken exactly as prescribed.
Whether your blood pressure is high or not, you can help keep it in check by making some simple but effective lifestyle changes. Change your diet to include less fats, sodium and processed foods and more fresh fruits and vegetables. Increase your physical activity, shooting for two-and-a-half hours of exercise per week. Limiting your alcohol consumption is important as well. These changes can also help you to avoid or manage Type II Diabetes, another common chronic health condition.
Windham County falls within the Environmental Protection Agency’s Radon Zone 2, which means there’s a moderate potential for radon exposure. Radon, an odorless naturally occurring radioactive gas, is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking.
Be sure to test for radon in your home. Test kits are available at many hardware and department stores for just $10 to $15. You may also check with the Northeast District Department of Health in Brooklyn by calling (860) 774-7350 and the CT Department of Public Health website for other options on procuring a free or low-cost test kit. If the test shows levels are above acceptable limits, there are steps you can take to reduce those levels in your home and protect yourself and your family.
Dr. John Graham is chief medical officer and vice president, medical affairs and quality at Day Kimball Healthcare.