Ten Nutritional and Lifestyle Resolutions for 2008

Ten Nutritional and Lifestyle Resolutions for 2008 to
Help Improve Overall Health & Wellbeing

Michael Garko, Ph.D.
Host – Let’s Talk Nutrition

Introduction

Getting out of debt or saving money, losing weight and developing a healthy habit such as exercising or eating healthy ranked first, second and third respectively in the top ten resolutions for 2008 in FranklinCovey’s third annual New Year’s Resolution Survey (see FranklinCovey, 2008).  It is that time of year when millions of folks make New Year’s resolutions. Most people make them with good intentions. However, everyone knows the road to hell and the breaking of resolutions is paved with good intentions.

It is worth noting that out of the top ten resolutions in the Franklin-Covey survey for 2008 three of them were health related in that they focused on losing weight (ranked 2nd), developing a healthy habit such as exercising or eating healthy (ranked 3rd ) and breaking an unhealthy habit such as smoking, consuming alcohol or overeating (ranked 9th). The health issues reflected in or implied by these resolutions are being overweight, living a sedentary life, eating an unhealthy diet, smoking, consuming alcohol or overeating.

There are more than a few people who suffer from any particular one, combination or all of these common nutritional and lifestyle health concerns. Statistically speaking, tens of millions of folks around the country would experience meaningful health benefits from making and then keeping any or all of the three health related resolutions of the FranklinCovey third annual New Year’s Resolution Survey of 2008. However, there are even more specific resolutions that can be made to address the health concerns implicated in the FranklinCovey survey, while at the same time providing a broad selection of nutritional and lifestyle resolutions for people to improve their overall health and wellbeing. 

Therefore, in the New Year’s spirit of making resolutions and providing some suggestions for those who are resolute in improving their overall health and well-being this coming year, the January issue of Healthful Hints outlines my top Ten nutritional and lifestyle resolutions for 2008.

Purpose & Nature of the Resolutions

My top ten nutritional and lifestyle resolutions for 2008 are intended primarily to serve as practical goals to help readers of Healthful Hints and listeners of Let’s Talk Nutrition (LTN) improve their current, overall health status. Although all of the resolutions, if kept, possess the potential to improve overall health and wellbeing, I consider the first two to be the most important resolutions because they create the framework for all of the other resolutions and are foundational to sustained health over the lifetime of a person. It is recommended that readers refer to earlier editions of Healthful Hints and archived broadcasts of LTN, both of which treat in considerable detail many of the health topics implied by the resolutions. In fact, information from earlier editions of Healthful Hints was used to describe and explain different resolutions.

As it turns out, the first five resolutions represent those things which should be included and increased in one’s day-to-day life, while the last five resolutions represent those things which should be excluded from or at least limited in daily living.

Resolution #1 – To Eat A Balanced Daily Diet of Fresh Whole Foods

A balanced daily diet of fresh whole foods is foundational to good health and wellbeing. According to Haas (1992), “eating a balanced diet is probably the most important aspect of nutrition in regard to long-term health” (p. 516). Haas (1992) devotes considerable attention to the following five aspects of nutritional and dietary balance:

• Macronutrients – Proteins, fats & carbohydrates 
• Micronutrients – Vitamins, minerals, amino acids & fatty acids
• Food Groups – Fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, dairy products, eggs, fish, poultry & meats 
• Flavors –  Red, orange, yellow, green, blue & purple
• & Colors – Sour, bitter, sweet, spicy & salty
• Acid-alkaline – Acid forming & alkalizing foods

To give the reader a sense of how important the concept of nutritional and dietary balance is, the following discussion on balancing macro- and micronutrients is offered. It is recommended that the reader refer to Chapter 12: The Components of a Healthy Diet in Haas’ book, Staying Healthy With Nutrition, to gain full understanding of how to create a balanced diet with respect to all of the five areas mentioned above.

Balance of Macronutrients

Macronutrients are our sources of energy. Diets high or low in one or the other of the macronutrients (i.e., Protein, carbohydrates & fat) cause all sorts of health problems and nutritional imbalances and deficiencies. For example, eating a diet high in carbohydrates will trigger insulin release. High insulin levels tend to result in the body storing fat. Eating complex carbohydrates and “good” fats will serve to counterbalance or otherwise offset the carb-insulin get fat effect. Eating a diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates and fat results in other potential problems, some of which are low energy levels and feeling lethargic, constipation from an adequate amount of dietary fiber, an overworking of the liver and kidneys and diminished cognitive functioning from lack of proper nourishment (i.e., glucose & essential fatty acids) to the brain, all of which can disrupt the flow of having a good time during the holidays.

The Untied States Department of Health and Human Services and Untied States Department of Agriculture (2005) created the following guidelines for the consumption of macronutrients:

• 45%-65% of calories derived from carbohydrates
• 20%-35% of calories derived from fats
• 10%-35% of calories derived from protein

Balance of Micronutrients

Micronutrients contain no calories or energy but serve as the activators of energy found in the macronutrients. They are the metabolic helpers of the body. Without them, life would not exist. There are approximately 52 essential nutrients. Essential nutrients are those vitamins and minerals and other micronutrients that the human body cannot synthesize or create in sufficient quantities which the body requires. They are nutrients obtained from food. Hence, this is why they are called “essential.” To ensure that that these essential nutrients are part of a daily diet, it is “essential” to eat a variety of fresh whole foods backed-up with a daily protocol of dietary supplements, which is discussed in Resolution #5.

Resolution #2 – To Engage In Regular Physically Active

As Plato said over 2,000 years ago, “Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it” (Plato). Regular physical activity, whether in the form of a structured exercise program or just part of daily living routines, will help to keep the body energized and healthy throughout the year and your entire life.

Health Benefits of Regular Physical Activity

Chronic disease and premature death are inevitable consequences of a sedentary lifestyle. However, it is established firmly in the scientific literature that regular physical activity improves a person’s health in ways that can modulate and even eliminate the development of chronic diseases and conditions and extend life (see U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 1996; U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2002). In a report on Physical Activity and Health, the Surgeon General of the United States, relying on hundreds of studies, stated that “the body responds to physical activity in ways that have important positive effects on musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, respiratory, and endocrine systems” (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 1996, p. 5).

Established health benefits associated with regular physical activity include the following: 

• Reduces the risk of either becoming sick or dying prematurely from CVDs and conditions and other leading chronic conditions and diseases (e.g., cancer & diabetes)
• Reduces the risk of developing Type II/non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus
• Reduces the risk of developing colon cancer (Findings are either too inconsistent or insufficient to draw firm conclusions regarding a relationship between physical inactivity and the development of endometrial, ovarian, testicular, prostate or breast cancer)
• Helps to lose weight and sustain a healthy weight, thereby, preventing overweight and obesity, risk factors for CVDs
• Helps build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints, thereby, resulting in managing osteoarthritis better, reducing the risk of developing osteoporosis and becoming stronger so as to walk and move about without falling
• Psychologically speaking, helps to lessen depression and anxiety, improve mood/state of mind and increase ability to accomplish daily tasks throughout the life span
• Improves quality of life for individuals suffering from poor health by enhancing physiological and psychological well-being (see U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1996; U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2002)

Furthermore, on average, people who are physically active tend to outlive those individuals whose day-to-day existence is sedentary. Even a moderate amount (i.e., 30 minutes a day) of moderately intense physical activity on a regular basis helps prevent disease and promote physiological and psychological health for young people and adults, while lowering morbidity and mortality rates for both older and younger adults. There is “an emerging consensus among epidemiologists, experts in exercise science, and health professionals that physical activity need not be of vigorous intensity for it to improve health” (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 1996, p. 3).

On the flipside of the health coin, epidemiologic studies, cohort studies, case-control studies, cross-sectional studies and clinical trials have established that physical inactivity is a major risk factor for a variety of diseases and conditions, including the following:

• All-cause mortality
• Musculoskeletal problems (e.g., sarcopenia/loss of muscle mass, strength & function)
• Osteoporosis and bone fractures, osteoarthritis, low back/lumbar pain
• Metabolic conditions (e.g., overweight & obesity, Type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension/high blood pressure & metabolic syndrome)
• Cancer
• Neurological conditions (e.g., cognitive impairment & dementia)
• Cardiovascular disease (e.g., coronary heart disease & stroke) (see U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2002; U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2000; U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 1996; Vuori, 2004). 

Recommendations for Achieving Muscular & Cardiorespiratory Fitness 

Different types of structured and unstructured physical activities can improve muscular fitness, which includes such measures as muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, balance, agility and coordination. It is recommended that readers consider joining a gym or hiring a personal trainer or both to learn about how to use weights to create muscular fitness. 

While muscular fitness is important to achieving overall health-related fitness, endurance is of crucial importance when it comes to managing and losing weight, preserving and promoting cardiovascular health and creating overall health.

Endurance or cardiorespiratory endurance (also known as cardiorespiratory capacity, aerobic power and endurance fitness) is improved by continuous physical activity involving the use of large muscles of the legs and arms. Such endurance or aerobic activity contributes to cardiovascular health by making the heart work more efficiently during physical activity and while at rest. The heart’s workload is increased either by increasing the amount of blood it pumps or making it pump at a higher blood pressure (American Heart Association, 2006c). Endurance types of physical activity such as brisk walking, jumping rope, jogging, bicycling, cross-country skiing and dancing improve the heart’s workload function and are recommended by the American Heart Association (2006b).

With endurance fitness and aerobic activities in mind, the American Heart Association offered the following set of physical activity recommendations for people with healthy hearts:

• Vigorous activity for at least 30 minutes 3–4 days each week at 50–75 percent of maximum heart rate.
• Moderate-intensity physical activities for 30 minutes on most (and preferably all) days of the week provide some benefits. Physical activity need not be strenuous to bring health benefits. It’s important to include activity as part of the regular routine.
• Adults who maintain a regular routine of physical activity for longer periods or more intensity are likely to have greater benefits. However, don’t overdo physical activity, because too much exercise can result in injury.
• Scientific evidence also supports the idea that even moderate and low-intensity activities, when performed daily, can have some long-term health benefits. They help lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Older adults and people with disabilities can gain significant health benefits with a moderate amount of physical activity, preferably daily (American Heart Association, 2006c, p. 1).

Recommended endurance activities for people with healthy hearts include brisk walking, hiking, stair-climbing, aerobic exercise, jogging, running, bicycling, rowing, swimming and activities that require continuous running such as soccer and basketball (see American Heart Association, 2006c).

In identifying low intensity, endurance activities appropriate for those with heart defects, the American Heart Association made the following recommendations: “Low intensity sports like golf, baseball and doubles tennis – and activities like dancing, casual swimming, cycling and power walking – don’t put much strain on the heart. They’re fine for almost anyone with congenital heart defects. Household activities such as digging in a garden, raking leaves, mowing the grass and vacuuming are also fine. Shoveling snow isn’t a good idea” (American Heart Association, 2006b, p. 1). The American Heart Association recommends further that some people with heart defects need to limit their physical activities and avoid more strenuous exercises such as isometric exercises, weightlifting, rope climbing, sit-ups, chin-ups and pull-ups. Depending on the nature of their heart defect, the American Heart Association recommends that some heart patients avoid high-intensity sports such as basketball, competitive swimming, rowing, competitive cycling, jogging and wrestling (see American Heart Association, 2006b).

Tips For Success

The American Heart Association offers some useful exercise tips on what to do and what to avoid:

Do 

• Wear comfortable clothes and flat shoes with laces or sneakers.
• Start slowly. Gradually build up to at least 30 minutes of activity, five or more times per week (or whatever your doctor recommends). If you don’t have a full 30 minutes, try two 15-minute sessions or three 10-minute sessions to meet your goal.
• Exercise at the same time of day so it becomes a habit. For example, you might walk Monday through Friday from noon to 12:30 p.m.
• Drink a cup of water before, during and after exercising (but check with the doctor, because some people need to limit their fluid intake).
• Ask family and friends to join you. You’ll be more likely to keep exercising.
• Note your activities on a calendar or in a log book. Write down the distance or length of time of your activity and how you feel after each session. If you miss a day, plan a make-up day or add 10–15 minutes to your next session.
• Use variety to keep your interest up. Walk one day, swim the next time, then go for a bike ride on the weekend.
• Join an exercise group, health club or YMCA. Many churches and senior centers offer exercise programs, too. (Get your doctor’s permission first.)
• Look for chances to be more active during the day. Walk the mall before shopping, choose a flight of stairs over an escalator, or take 10–15 minute walking breaks while watching TV or sitting for some other activity.

Don’t

• Get discouraged if you stop for awhile. Get started again gradually and work up to your old pace.
• Do isometric exercises that require holding your breath, bearing down or sudden bursts of energy. If you’re taking part in an exercise class or physical therapy, ask the leader or therapist what these are. Also avoid lifting weights and competitive or contact sports, such as football.
• Engage in any activity that causes chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness or lightheadedness. If these happen, stop what you’re doing right away.
• Exercise right after meals, when it’s very hot or humid, or when you just don’t feel up to it (American Heart Association, 2006a, pp. 1-2).

Designed for people starting a structured exercise program or increasing the amount of physical activity in their daily routine, the American Heart Association created the following helpful tips for success:

• If you’ve been sedentary for a long time, are overweight, have a high risk of coronary heart disease and stroke or some other chronic health problem, see your doctor for a medical evaluation before beginning a new physical activity program.
• Choose activities that are fun, not exhausting.
• Add variety. That way, exercise will never seem boring or routine.
• Wear comfortable, properly fitted footwear and comfortable, loose-fitting clothing that’s appropriate for the weather and the activity.
• Find a convenient time and place to do activities. Try to make it a habit, but be flexible. If you miss an exercise opportunity, work activity into your day another way.
• Use music to keep you entertained.
• Surround yourself with supportive people.
• Find a companion to exercise with you if it will help you stay on a regular schedule and add to your enjoyment.
• Don’t overdo it. Do low- to moderate-level activities, especially at first. You can slowly increase the duration and intensity of your activities as you become more fit. Over time, work up to 30–60 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week.
• Keep a record of your activities. Reward yourself at special milestones. Nothing motivates like success!
• Pick rhythmic, repetitive activities that challenge the circulatory system and exercise at an intensity appropriate for you.
• If you decide that walking is a great activity for you, choose a place that has a smooth, soft surface; that doesn’t intersect with traffic; and that is well-lighted and safe.
• Because muscular adaptation and elasticity generally slow with age, take more time to warm up and cool down while exercising. Make sure you stretch slowly.
• If you plan to be active more than 30 minutes, then try to drink some water every 15 minutes, especially when exercising in hot, humid conditions. As you age, your sense of thirst tends to decrease and you can’t completely rely on your internal sense of thirst (American Heart Association, 2006c, p. 1).

Resolution #3 – To Drink At Least Two Liters of Water Daily

Water is essential for optimal health. The human body is made-up of at least two-thirds water. It is implicated in nearly every major bodily process (e.g., circulation, digestion, absorption, elimination, etc.) essential for sustaining life and maintaining good health.

There are at least four good reasons to drink a minimum of two liters of water daily. First, water is a natural appetite suppressant. It creates a feeling of satiety/fullness, thereby, functioning as an appetite suppressant to help prevent overeating.

Second, water is a natural way to help detoxify the cells, tissues, organs and systems of the body, ridding them of toxins. Toxins can stem from the (1) normal metabolic processes within the body, (2) outdoor environment (outdoor & indoor) in the form of hazardous chemicals (e.g., organophosphates – typically used as insecticides, organochlorides – typically used pesticides, carbamates – typically used as fungicides & herbicides, phthalates – typically used to soften plastics & prolong shelf life of fragrances & solvents) and heavy metals (e.g., aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, nickel, platinum & mercury), (3) indoor environment in the form of aerosol sprays, asbestos, bleach, carbon monoxide, paint, paint remover, plastics, tap water, tobacco smoke, to mention a few,  (4) medical/dental toxins and (5) processed and preserved foods (see Watson & Stockton, 2006).

Third, staying well hydrated will assist the detoxifying systems of the body such as the gastrointestinal system (i.e., liver, gallbladder, colon & entire gastrointestinal tract), respiratory system (i.e., lungs, bronchial tubes, throat, sinuses & nose), urinary system (i.e., kidneys, bladder & urethra), lymphatic system (i.e., lymph channels & nodes) and integumentary system (i.e., skin) to work more effectively in removing toxins from the body. 

Fourth, drinking lots of water can help prevent dehydration. Dehydration can cause headaches, an inability to concentrate, drowsiness, constipation, impatience, irritability and fatigue, among numerous other effects that can contribute to a poor sense of wellbeing. 

Resolution #4 – To Eat At Least 35 Grams of Fiber Daily 

Include fiber rich foods (i.e., grains, fruits, vegetables & legumes) or supplemental forms of fiber in your daily diet to increase the odds of staying healthy. Many people do not eat enough fiber rich foods to reach the goal of eating a minimum of 35 grams of fiber a day. Therefore, using fiber supplements is a useful way to get fiber into the diet. By the way, be sure to drink plenty of water when eating fiber to prevent constipation and improve digestion and elimination.

There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Each type of fiber has its own unique chemical and physical properties, which provide certain health and gastrointestinal benefits.

Some of the health benefits of soluble fiber include:

• Helps regulate blood sugar/glucose and insulin levels by slowing down digestion in the stomach and small intestine, thereby, delaying the conversion of other carbohydrates into glucose which in turn delays the release and absorption of sugar and stabilizes blood glucose levels
• Helps increase the uptake of vitamins and minerals and other nutrients by slowing down the digestion in the stomach and small intestine and, thereby, allowing more time for food nutrients to remain in the digestive process and become absorbed
• Reduces blood cholesterol levels by dissolving in water and creating a thick gel which slows digestion and binds with cholesterol and bile salts preventing them from becoming absorbed
• Increases the feeling of satiety or fullness, thereby, helping to prevent overeating and weight gain 

Some of the health benefits of insoluble fiber include:

• Promotes regular bowel movements
• Helps to move bulk through the intestine
• Facilitates or speeds up the transit time in the colon by adding bulk to the stool allowing for a faster passage through the intestine, removing toxic waste material in less time and allowing for fermentation to take place along the entire length of the colon including the end.

It is recommended that at least 35 grams of fiber be consumed daily. It is recommended further that a variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes be eaten daily during the holidays so as to incorporate the two different types of fiber into one’s diet. In order to achieve the greatest health benefits from fiber, soluble and insoluble fiber need to be eaten daily in a ratio of 50:50. The following foods are good sources of insoluble fiber:

• Barley
• Cereals made from bran or shredded wheat
• Crunchy vegetables
• Grains
• Rye flour
• Wheat bran
• Whole wheat pasta
• Whole wheat products

Good sources of soluble fiber include:

• Apples
• Barley
• Citrus fruits
• Dried beans
• Oat bran
• Oatmeal
• Oats
• Pasta
• Potatoes
• Raw cabbage
• Rye flour
• Strawberries

The table below provides excellent examples of different categories of foods and their fiber content. Additional information about the fiber content of other specific foods can be found at the United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database.

Food   Serving   Fiber (g)
Legumes       
Navy beans, cooked from dried 1 cup 19.1
Kidney beans, canned    1 cup 16.4
Split peas, cooked from dried      1 cup 16.3
Lentils, cooked from dried  1 cup 15.6
Refried beans, canned     1 cup 13.4
Cereals and grains      
100% (wheat) Bran Cereal     1 cup 17.6
Quinoa, cooked     1 cup 9.3
Bulgur, cooked     1 cup 8.2
Pearled barley, cooked   1 cup 6.0
Oat bran, cooked      1 cup 5.7
Instant oatmeal, cooked    1 cup 3.7
Rice, long-grained brown, cooked   1 cup 3.5
Vegetables      
Artichoke hearts, cooked 1 cup 9.1
Spinach, frozen, cooked   1 cup 7.0
Brussel sprouts, cooked   1 cup 6.4
Winter squash, cooked     1 cup 5.7
Mushrooms, cooked from fresh  1 cup 3.4
Fruits       
Prunes, uncooked  1 cup, pitted 12.1
Asian pear     1 pear 9.9
Guava, fresh     1 cup 8.9
Raspberries, fresh     1 cup 8.0
Blackberries, fresh     1 cup 7.6
Nuts and Seeds      
Almonds     1 ounce (23 kernels) 3.3
Pistachio nuts      1 ounce (47 kernels) 2.9
Pecans    1 ounce (20 halves) 2.7
Peanuts    1 ounce (33 kernels)   2.4 



Resolution #5 – To Augment Daily Diet with a Basic Supplement Protocol

It is important to take nutritional supplements daily so that you can provide your body with the nutrients its needs to stay healthy or otherwise be at optimal nutritional status. At a minimum, it is recommended that you take a good multiple vitamin and mineral formula. Use the multiple as the foundation of your supplement protocol. Among other benefits, a multiple vitamin and mineral supplement will help restore those nutrients depleted by sugar (e.g., chromium & copper) and stress (e.g., Vitamin A, E & C, the B vitamins, zinc, selenium, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, sulfur & molybdenum) and assist in keeping the body at an optimal nutritional level.

The multiple vitamin and mineral can be augmented with a greens supplement. This will assist in keeping the body in an alkaline state and provide the body with those phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, enzymes and other nutrients found in energizing green foods. 

Augment the multiple vitamin and mineral formula with probiotics, digestive enzymes and a fiber supplement to help create a healthy digestive system. You are not just what you eat. You are also what you absorb. An unhealthy digestive system prohibits the proper absorption of nutrients to maintain an optimal nutritional status.
It is also recommended to take a potent antioxidant formula, immune formula and Omega 3 fish oil to keep the nutritional status of the body at an optimal level.

Resolution #6 – To Limit Daily Intake of Refined, Processed Carbohydrates

Consuming refined processed carbohydrates is what gets people into a lot of dietary and nutritional trouble. Carbohydrates in and of themselves are not bad. In fact, carbohydrates are essential to a healthy diet. They are the master fuel for the body. Carbohydrates can provide the necessary “good” calories, vitamins, minerals and fiber needed to meet energy demands and to stay healthy throughout the year. The nutritional recommendation is to eat the “good” carbohydrates derived from fruits and vegetables. The “bad” carbohydrates are found in foods made from highly processed white sugar and white flour. Highly refined white flour and white sugar in the form of sucrose (table sugar), dextrose (corn sugar), and high-fructose corn syrup are found in many of the foods such as cakes, cookies, candy, crackers, soft drinks, pastries, potatoes and white rice to name a few. These refined carbohydrate foods contain lots of empty, non-nutritional calories and are high on the glycemic index (GI) scale. Eating foods with a high GI index rating will cause a rapid spike in insulin levels. Elevated insulin levels leads to the body storing more fat than it normally would, resulting in weight gain.

Sugar

When it comes to refined, processed carbohydrates, sugar deserves special attention. To say that sugar is toxic to the body is an understatement. The documented deleterious effects of sugar are almost too numerous to list. Nevertheless, some of the harmful consequences of consuming too much sugar on holiday health would include:

• Suppressed immune system
• Elevated blood glucose and insulin levels
• Hypoglycemia
• Mineral imbalance (i.e., depletion of chromium and copper)
• Interference with the absorption of calcium and magnesium
• Interference with protein absorption
• Headaches
• Increase in systolic blood pressure
• Constipation
• Dyspepsia/Indigestion
• Acidic digestive tract
• Increase in sodium and water retention
• Hyperactivity and anxiety
• Increase in cholesterol, triglycerides and homocysteine
• Increase in low density lipoproteins (LD)
• Decrease in lipoproteins
• Trigger food allergies
• Weight gain

The B vitamins, vitamin C, zinc, chromium, L-glutamine can help to modulate sugar cravings and assist in sugar withdrawals. Also, a diet made-up of complex carbohydrates (e.g., whole grains & vegetables) and protein will help to stabilize blood sugar levels and blunt the craving for sugar.

Resolution #7 – To Limit Daily Intake of Saturated & Trans Fats

Much has been written on the unhealthy aspects of saturated and trans fats. Suffice it to say that eating a diet containing high levels of saturated and trans fats is among the most deleterious dietary practices to overall health and wellbeing. High fat diets have been associated with cardiovascular disease (coronary heart disease in particular), cancer, diabetes, obesity, liver dysfunction and infertility, among other diseases and disorders. For readers who want to learn more about fats/lipids and their relationships to health and their relationship to disease it is recommended they read Mary Enig’s book, Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol.

 Resolution #8 – To Avoid Daily Intake of Excess Sodium

Ecological, epidemiological, and experimental human studies have established a positive correlation between blood pressure and the intake of sodium, a relationship that was recognized initially a century ago. Another established relationship is that of increasing blood pressure and cardiovascular morbidity and mortality (see Alderman, 2000).

According to Alderman (2000), “the pharmacological capacity to reduce blood pressure has produced one of the great public health accomplishments of the 20th century.” Notwithstanding Alderman’s observation of the ability of drugs to lower blood pressure, there are nutritional and other natural methods to help with the lowering blood pressure but without some of the serious side effects of blood pressure medications, a topic thoroughly explored on Let’s Talk Nutrition.

Although Alderman’s (2000) review of the literature on Salt, Blood Pressure and Human Health raises interesting questions about the beneficial health effects of low sodium diets on overall and cardiovascular health, generally, and blood pressure, specifically, the body of scientific studies from medical literature on the ability of sodium to contribute to higher blood pressure readings and the negative impact of high blood pressure on cardiovascular health, suggest that it would be prudent for everyone to adopt the New Year’s resolution of avoiding the daily intake of excess sodium, especially the elderly and those with high blood pressure readings who should monitor and modulate their intake of sodium in conjunction with a doctor.

Resolution #9 – To Limit & Manage Daily Stress

“No one can live without experiencing some degree of stress all the time,” so said Dr. Hans Selye, who coined the term “stress” in 1936. Stress is an inevitable part of everyday modern life as evidenced by 75% of Americans experiencing at least “some stress” every two weeks, with half of those experiencing moderate or high levels of stress during the same two week period (U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1990).
In a survey conducted in 2004 by the American Psychological Association (APA), 54% of Americans reported being concerned about the level of stress in their day-to-day lives, while two-thirds of those surveyed reported they were likely to seek professional help for stress. Findings from the same survey revealed that 73% of Americans considered money to be the number one stressor in their lives. Sixty-two percent mentioned work as a significant factor in raising their stress levels, with 25% taking a mental health day off from work in order to cope with stress (APA, 2004). These statistics and findings from numerous other studies reveal stress to be a defining feature of contemporary life.

Effects of Stress On Overall Health

There are a myriad of physiological, behavioral and psychological effects stemming from chronic stress. The American Institute of Stress (AIS) has identified 50 signs and symptoms of stress. They are as follows:

1.  Frequent headaches, jaw clenching or pain  26. Insomnia, nightmares,
       Disturbing dreams
2.  Gritting, grinding teeth   27. Difficulty concentrating, racing
       thoughts
3.  Stuttering or stammering   28. Trouble learning new information
4.  Tremors, trembling of lips, hands   29. Forgetfulness, disorganization,
      confusion
5.  Neck ache, back pain, muscle  spasms   30. Difficulty in making decisions.
6.  Light headedness, faintness, dizziness   31. Feeling overloaded or  overwhelmed.
7.  Ringing, buzzing or “popping sounds    32. Frequent crying spells or suicidal thoughts
8.  Frequent blushing, sweating    33. Feelings of loneliness or worthlessness
9.  Cold or sweaty hands, feet   34. Little interest in appearance,  punctuality
10. Dry mouth, problems swallowing    35. Nervous habits, fidgeting, feet tapping
11. Frequent colds, infections, herpes sores    36. Increased frustration, irritability,  edginess
12. Rashes, itching, hives, “goose bumps”  37. Overreaction to petty annoyances
13. Unexplained or frequent  “allergy” attacks   38. Increased number of minor accidents
14. Heartburn, stomach pain, nausea   39. Obsessive or compulsive behavior
15. Excess belching, flatulence   40. Reduced work efficiency or productivity
16. Constipation, diarrhea   41. Lies or excuses to cover up poor work
17. Difficulty breathing, sighing   42. Rapid or mumbled speech
18. Sudden attacks of panic   43. Excessive defensiveness or suspiciousness
19. Chest pain, palpitations   44. Problems in communication, sharing
20. Frequent urination   45. Social withdrawal and isolation
21. Poor sexual desire or performance   46. Constant tiredness, weakness, fatigue
22. Excess anxiety, worry, guilt, nervousness   47. Frequent use of over-the-counter drugs
23. Increased anger, frustration, hostility   48. Weight gain or loss without diet
24. Depression, frequent or wild mood swings     49. Increased smoking, alcohol or drug use
25. Increased or decreased appetite   50. Excessive gambling or impulse  buying     
(AIS, 2007, p.1)

AIS’ list indicates how broad ranging the effects of stress can be on behavior, emotions and mood. AIS also identified a host of emotional and physical disorders connected to stress including the following:

Depression, anxiety, heart attacks, stroke, hypertension, immune system disturbances that increase susceptibility to infections, a host of viral linked disorders ranging from the common cold and herpes to AIDS and certain cancers, as well as autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. In addition stress can have direct effects on the skin (rashes, hives, atopic dermatitis, the gastrointestinal system (GERD, peptic ulcer, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis) and can contribute to insomnia and degenerative neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease (AIS, 2007, p. 2)

According to AIS, “it’s hard to think of any disease in which stress cannot play an aggravating role or any part of the body that is not affected. This list will undoubtedly grow as the extensive ramifications of stress are increasingly being appreciated” (AIS, 2007, p. 2).

Managing Stress

The catalogue of diseases and disorders associated with chronic stress serves to remind al of us of how important it is to learn how to manage stress. There are hundreds if not thousands of books, articles and classes on how to manage stress. If readers are interested in making the resolution to limit and manage stress in their day-to-day lives so that it does not become a chronic condition, then it is recommended that they commit to learning about stress and the ways to manage it. It is a resolution that would have a profound impact on the resolution maker’s health and wellbeing.

Resolution #10 – To Limit Daily Intake of Alcohol & Tobacco 

It is firmly established in the medical literature that the excessive use of either alcohol or tobacco has serious and devastating health consequences. Both alcohol and tobacco use have been associated with everything from cardiovascular disease to cancer and numerous other life threatening maladies. 

Effects of Tobacco Smoke on Overall Health

The Surgeon General’s 2004 report on The Health Consequences of Smoking is a sobering account of the devastating effects of tobacco smoke on virtually every cell, organ and major system of the human body, including the heart and cardiovascular system.

Studies reveal that compared to nonsmokers regular smokers and individuals exposed repeatedly to passive tobacco smoke have more of an increased chance for (1) biomolecular oxidative damage to DNA, proteins and lipids than nonsmokers, (2) endothelial injury and dysfunction, a primary determinant in the development in atherosclerosis, (3) blood clots/thrombi along the arterial walls (4) plasma fibrinogen, a protein increasing the formation of blood clots, (5) localized arterial inflammation and systemic inflammation, reflected by increased levels of such biomarkers as leukocytes and C-reactive protein, (6) adverse lipid profiles, measured by higher concentrations of low density lipoprotein (LDL) and lower concentrations of higher density lipoprotein (HDL), (7) a higher oxygen demand induced by the release of catecholamines, which are associated with an increase in baseline heart rate, contractability and vascular tone, (9) deficient blood flow to the heart caused by a constriction of proximal an distal arteries and increase in coronary vessel tone, all of which results in a decreased oxygen supply to heart tissues and (10) lower levels of antioxidant micronutrients such as Vitamin C and carotenoids to neutralize free oxygen radicals that damage the endothelium of the coronary arteries  (see U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2004).

Even 42 years after the Surgeon General’s first report of the effects of smoking on human health, the catalogue of diseases and harmful effects associated with tobacco smoke continues to grow. In addition to coronary heart disease (CHD) and all other forms of cardiovascular disease (CVD), there is now substantial evidence to infer a causal relationship between active smoking and abdominal aortic aneurysm, acute myeloid leukemia, cataract, cervical cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, pneumonia, periodontitis, stomach, bladder, esophageal, laryngeal, lung, oral, and throat cancers, chronic lung diseases, reproductive effects and sudden infant death syndrome (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2004).

By the way, most researchers and healthcare providers, including the Surgeon General of the United States, consider smoking to be the most important, lethal and preventable modifiable independent risk factor for CVD, generally, and CHD, specifically (see U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2004).

Effects of Alcohol on Overall Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2001),  “excessive alcohol consumption is the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States … and is associated with multiple adverse health consequences, including liver cirrhosis, various cancers, unintentional injuries, and violence” (p. 866).

The CDC (2004) presented the following sobering (no pun intended) account of its estimated number of alcohol-attributable deaths (AADs) and years of potential life lost (YPLLs):

In 2001, an estimated 75,766 AADs and 2.3 million YPLLs were attributable to the harmful effects of excessive alcohol use … . Of the 75,766 deaths, 34,833 (46%) resulted from chronic conditions, and 40,933 (54%) resulted from acute conditions. Overall, 54,847 (72%) of all AADs involved males, and 4,554 (6%) involved persons aged <21 years. Of the deaths among males, 41,202 (75%) involved men aged >35 years; of those deaths, 41,202 (58%) were attributed to chronic conditions. For males and females combined, the leading chronic cause of AADs was alcoholic liver disease (12,201), and the leading acute cause of AADs was injury from motor-vehicle crashes (13,674). In addition, in 2001, an estimated 11 lives were saved because of the potential benefits of excessive alcohol use, all of which were attributable to a reduced risk for death from cholelithiasis (i.e., gall bladder disease).

Of the estimated 2,279,322 YPLLs, 788,005 (35%) resulted from chronic conditions, and 1,491,317 (65%) resulted from acute conditions …. Overall, 1,679,414 (74%) of the total YPLLs were among males, and 271,392 (12%) involved persons aged <21 years. Of all YPLLs among males, 973,214 (58%) involved men aged >35 years, of which 53% were attributed to chronic conditions. Deaths from alcoholic liver disease resulted in 316,321 YPLLs, and deaths from motor-vehicle–traffic crashes resulted in 579,501 YPLLs (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2004, pp. 866-867).

With respect to nutrition, alcohol contains a lot of calories and its diuretic effect promotes dehydration and the loss of nutrients. According to Haas (1992), “alcohol … uses nutrients that it does not provide for its own metabolism, impairs the metabolism of many others, and reduces liver stores of even more” (p. 952). Alcohol suppresses the immune system; it impairs the digestion and absorption of nutrients from the small intestine, especially the B-vitamins (e.g., B-1, B-2, B-6, B-12, choline & folic acid); it impairs the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (e.g., Vitamins A, D, E & K) by the liver; and it impairs brain function. There are many other deleterious effects of alcohol on the body.

Increasing the Chances of Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions

At the beginning of each and every year millions of people across the country make New Year’s resolutions, vowing to do better than the previous year in keeping them. However, each and every year millions of people across the country fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions. 

In FranklinCovey’s third annual New Year’s Resolution Survey for 2008, 35% of the respondents reported typically breaking their New Year’s resolutions by the end of January, with only 23% keeping them. Of those who broke their resolutions, 40% and 30% attributed the breaking of their New Year’s resolutions to having too many other things to do and being uncommitted to the resolutions they set, respectively. 

In order to increase the chances of success in keeping any or all of the ten nutritional and lifestyle resolutions/goals presented above, it is recommended that readers devise a realistic plan to put each resolution into action that includes such elements as achievability, conceivability, desirability, specificity, measurability, flexibility, simplicity and other factors (e.g., prioritizing goals, keeping a journal, etc.), which can contribute to success in sticking with adopted resolutions. Any good search engine can put the reader in touch with the numerous books and articles focusing on how to succeed in the setting of goals, objectives and resolutions, carrying them out and sticking with them.

Conclusion

When it comes to our health, we owe it to ourselves to make a strong commitment to keeping those resolutions that will improve our overall health and wellbeing and. Resolutions are only as good as the commitment to keep them and the specificity of plan to carry out and achieve them, along with the inspiration, and discipline not to let “other things” take priority over them.

The presented nutritional and lifestyle resolutions serve as a starting point and goal setting map to achieve and sustain good health and wellbeing in 2008. Certain readers may already be practicing on a sustained basis some or even all of the resolutions. While others may have yet to put into practice the nutritional and lifestyle recommendations represented in the resolutions.

I end each broadcast of Let’s Talk Nutrition by saying, “Your health is your wealth and your health is the wealth of those who care about and love you.”  My father taught me this principle at a very young age. It is a principle that has guided me throughout my life.

It is hoped this month’s newsletter of Healthful Hints on what I believe are ten important nutritional and lifestyle New Year’s resolutions serves as a reminder of how and why our health in all of its various physical, psychological and spiritual dimensions is indeed a source of wealth and resolving to do all that we can to sustain and protect is a goal that should be put into practice everyday of our lives.

Have a Happy and Healthy New Year. 

References

Alderman, M. H. (2000). Salt, blood pressure, and human health. Hypertension 36, 890-893. Retrieved December 31, 2007, from http://hyper.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/full/36/5/890.

American Heart Association (n.d.). Physical activity and a healthy heart. Retrieved December 21, 2006a, from http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifieer=1518.

American Heart Association (n.d.). Physical activity and exercise. Retrieved December 21, 2006b, from http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifieer=11081.

American Heart Association (n.d.). Tips for exercise success. Retrieved December 21, 2006c, from http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifieer=2218.

American Institute of Stress (n.d.) Effects of stress. Retrieved August 30, 2007, from http://www.stress.org/topic-effects.htm.

American Psychological Association (n.d.) Statistics for “apa survey stress.” Retrieved December 31, 2007, from http://www.apahelpcenter.org/search/?search_string=apa+survey+stress.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2004). Alcohol-Attributable Deaths and Years of Potential Life Lost –United States 2001. Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report. 53(37), 866-870. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Enig, M. G. Know your fats: The complete primer for understanding the nutrition of fats, oils and cholesterol. Silver Spring, MD: Bethesda Press.

FranklinCovey (n.d.). FranklinCovey survey reveals top 3 new New Year’s resolutions for 2008: Eliminate debt, lose weight, develop healthy habits. Retrieved December 26, 2007 from http://www.phx.coorporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=102601&p=irol-newsArticle_Print&ID=1088.

Haas, E. M. (1992). Staying healthy with nutrition: The complete guide to diet & nutritional medicine. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services & U.S. Department of Agriculture (2005). Dietary guidelines for Americans 2005. 6th Edition, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2000). Healthy people 2010: Understanding and improving health and objectives for improving health (2nd ed.). (Vol. 2, pp. 22/1 – 22/39).  Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2002). Physical activity fundamental to preventing disease. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (1996). Physical activity and health: A report of the surgeon general. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Atlanta, GA.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2004). The health consequences of smoking: A report of the surgeon general. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health. Atlanta, GA.

Vuori, I. (2004). Physical inactivity as a disease risk and health benefits of increased physical activity. Perspectives, 6, 1-72.

Watson, B. & Stockton, S. (2002). Renew your life: Improved digestion and detoxification. Clearwater, FL: Renew Life Press and International Services.

 1 The seven remaining resolutions from the FranklinCovey survey for 2008 in rank order were as follows:

#4 Get organized
#5 Develop a new skill or talent
#6 Spend more time with family and friends
#7Other
#8 Work less, play more
#9 Break an unhealthy habit (e.g., smoking, alcohol, overeating)
#10 Change employment (see FranklinCovey, 2008).