Let’s be honest, we all skip the fine print sometimes, and most of the time we get away with ignoring the information in six-point font. But when it comes to our health, the details can make or break our quality of life. Which is why, now that you are back from the beach, vowing to get back to the gym, your first stop should be an annual check-up with your doctor. Discuss the results with your physician and take that information to your personal trainer. Sounds like a lot of work before your first set of bicep curls? Here’s the thing, the size of your biceps is the not best measure of the two health risks that pose the greatest threat to your long-term wellbeing: cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Test results can be scary, but rest assured, most of the time they come back perfectly fine. The key to ensuring that you live your best life is to have baseline information so that you can spot potential health risks early. Tracking test results over time can help you, your doctors and your trainer develop effective programs to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and avoid the onset of diabetes. Let’s take a look at the two biggest health challenges of our time and discuss how we can avoid becoming just another statistic.
Cardiovascular diseases, mainly heart attacks and strokes, are the leading cause of death worldwide. Furthermore, evidence is showing that the numbers are rising. Genetics, socio-economics and environmental factors play a role in determining individual risk, but healthy lifestyle choices are essential to keeping your cardiovascular system happy.
Obesity, poor diet, inactivity and smoking create inflammation within the cells lining the arterial walls. This inflammation, or plaque, reduces the volume of oxygen and nutrient rich blood carried away from the heart to organs and muscles. Eventually, plaque breaks away from the wall of the artery, choking off the supply of oxygen rich blood to vital organs. Heart attacks are the result of blockages in the heart and strokes are clots blocking blood flow to the brain.
The great news is that you can dramatically reduce your risks through early detection and by educating yourself about how to stay heart healthy. Speak to your doctor, do the necessary blood work and perform a cardiac stress test. The results will provide you with an excellent baseline to guide healthy lifestyle changes. Working with a personal trainer to ingrain these positive behaviour changes, including an exercise regime and healthy diet, is a highly effective way to ensure your best years are still to come.
The skinny on sugar
Fact: Your brain runs on sugar. It must get a constant supply of glucose, the form of sugar found in the bloodstream, as neurons cannot store this precious fuel.
Fact: The World Health Organization states that 347 million people worldwide have diabetes, calling it an emerging global epidemic, linked directly to rapid increases in obesity and physical inactivity. Children account for almost half of newly diagnosed cases of Type 2, or non-congenital, diabetes.
The question is then, how to we balance the need for glucose to fuel our brains and bodies with our desire to stay fit and healthy? The answer lies in balancing our energy needs with whole foods that provide sugars that are slowly released into our bloodstream. In short, simple sugars are the bad guys!
Think of it this way, complex carbohydrates, found in natural foods, contain long chains of sugar molecules that break down slowly. This is time-released sugar and should be our main
source of carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates, found primarily in refined foods, are short-chained molecules and break apart quickly. It is the equivalent of injecting sugar directly into the bloodstream. When eaten, your body instantly responds by releasing insulin, sending the message to strip this influx of energy from the bloodstream for later use. The brain isn’t getting the energy it needs, and your body begins to store excess fat. After years of overloading your body with simple sugars, insulin receptors begin to malfunction and become resistant to the hormone. If this happens, you need to begin injecting insulin to maintain safe blood sugar levels.
Type 2 diabetes increases your risk of cardiovascular disease by 50%, can cause nerve damage, blindness and kidney failure. This all sounds pretty dire, especially when you consider that simple lifestyle changes can prevent ever getting the disease in the first place. The prescription is simple, maintain a healthy body weight and engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on most days. Eat a balanced diet made up of whole foods and reduce the amount of refined foods and drinks you consume. Eliminate nicotine and moderate alcohol intake. Once you get the all clear from a simple blood test, speak to a qualified personal trainer about making these healthy habits part of your everyday life.
The bottom line
Staying healthy requires that you pay attention to the details of how your body works and what it needs to thrive. Ask questions of your health care providers and vow to establish healthy habits with the help of a trainer. Taking care of your heart and feeding your body well will ensure that your annual check-ups continue to be ‘no sweat’. So forget about beating yourself up over skipping your last workout before you left for the beach and remember, it is what’s inside that really counts!
Patti Bruns is a Personal Trainer at Aspria Royal La Rasante firstname.lastname@example.org