Tips for reaching weight, cholesterol and blood pressure goals in 2012

Tuesday, January 3, 2012
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If "get healthier" was on your list of new year resolutions, we've got some tips to help you. Numbers -- weight, cholesterol, blood pressure -- often are indicators of health. Here are some ways to lower those numbers in 2012. The good news: Lowering one, often leads to the others going down, too.

WEIGHT

1. Create a supportive environment. Talk with your family, friends and coworkers. Get people on your side to encourage and support you. Ask them to help you keep your goal a priority, and to provide constructive feedback when you meet difficult challenges that could potentially interfere with accomplishing your goal.

2. Talk with your doctor. Bring your doctor on board early on to help you set a goal and ensure you make healthy weight-loss decisions. Weight loss between 5 and 10 percent is shown to have significant health benefits and reduces the risks of diabetes and heart disease.

3. Get moving. Being active can help weight loss and is critical to maintaining weight loss. Find an activity that you enjoy, and begin to include it in your daily activities. Also try exploring some new activities that involve different muscle groups in your body.

4. Re-evaluate regularly. As you go through your weight loss process, re-evaluate your personal motivation, and check in with your doctor, family, friends on a frequent basis to review how you are doing in accomplishing your goal. Continue to set small, attainable goals such as a 5 percent weight loss.

CHOLESTEROL

1. Eat healthy. Avoid saturated fat, trans fats, and dietary cholesterol, which tend to raise cholesterol levels. Other types of fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, can actually lower blood cholesterol levels. Eating fiber can also help lower cholesterol. For some people, eating too many carbohydrates can lower HDL (good cholesterol) and raise triglycerides. Drinking alcohol can also raise triglycerides. Too much alcohol can cause high blood pressure, which increases the risk for heart disease and stroke.

2. Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can raise your bad cholesterol levels. Losing weight can help lower your cholesterol.

3. Exercise regularly. Physical activity can help maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol. The Surgeon General recommends that adults should engage in moderate-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.

4: Don't smoke. Smoking injures blood vessels and speeds up the hardening of the arteries. Smoking greatly increases a person's risk for heart disease and stroke. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease and stroke. Your doctor can suggest programs to help you stop smoking.

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BLOOD PRESSURE

Like cholesterol, maintaining a healthy weight and diet as well as exercising regularly are the best ways to lower blood pressure. Here are some other steps.

1: Reduce sodium. Even a small reduction in the sodium in your diet can reduce blood pressure by 2 to 8 mm Hg. A lower sodium level -- 1,500 mg a day or less -- is appropriate for people 51 years of age or older, and individuals of any age who are black or who have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.

2. Cut back on caffeine. The role caffeine plays in blood pressure is still debatable. Drinking caffeinated beverages can temporarily cause a spike in your blood pressure, but it's unclear whether the effect is temporary or long lasting. To see if caffeine raises your blood pressure, check your pressure within 30 minutes of drinking a cup of coffee or another caffeinated beverage you regularly drink. If your blood pressure increases by five to 10 points, you may be sensitive to the blood pressure raising effects of caffeine.

3. Reduce your stress. Stress or anxiety can temporarily increase blood pressure. Take some time to think about what causes you to feel stressed, such as work, family, finances or illness. Once you know what's causing your stress, consider how you can eliminate or reduce stress.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mayo Clinic and ARA Content

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