Take heart: It’s not too late to start

Heart Health - Running

By Marshall Dawer M.D., Medical Director, UnitedHealthcare of North Texas and Oklahoma

Remember your 2015 New Year’s resolution to get healthy? Maybe it included losing 20 pounds by summer, running seven days a week or eating at least six servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

But with New Year’s Day behind us and another chilly day ahead, perhaps your enthusiasm has started to wane. It’s already February and you have yet to start on your 2015 resolutions.

Take heart:  It’s not too late to start!

February is American Heart Month, a reminder that heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in America, according to a report from the American Heart Association. American Heart Month is an opportunity to focus on your heart health and start your healthy turnaround. It’s also a good time to right-size your plan and stick to it. Here are five tips for your “take heart” start:

Know your numbers. Getting healthy is about more than just reducing your waist size. It’s about reducing your biometric numbers – cholesterol, Body Mass Index (BMI), blood pressure and blood sugar – all of which are key indicators for one’s risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and other major illnesses. Visit your doctor, get your biometric numbers and then work to improve them.

Moderate your meals. We have all heard that vegetables and fruits are crucial to a healthy diet. The goal each day is to limit your intake of foods high in sugar, fat and cholesterol, and eat 3-5 servings of vegetables and 2-4 servings of fruits, as well as 2-3 servings of lean meats and 1-2 servings of dairy products. But that doesn’t mean you have to take an all-or-nothing approach. Start by reducing your portion sizes, and think of creative ways to add vegetables and fruit to your meals. Visit www.uhc.com/health-and-wellness/healthy-recipes for some delicious recipe ideas.

Get active. Did you know our state ranks near the bottom when it comes to physical activity? More than 27 percent of Texans admitted they had not exercised in over a month, according to the 2014 America’s Health Rankings® report. Help change that trend by increasing activity and exercising more. The goal is to get at least one hour of physical activity each day from aerobic activities like walking, jogging, biking or swimming. You can even increase your activity in small ways, such as taking the stairs at work, parking farther away from the store, pacing while you’re on the phone, or walking around the block after dinner. Five to 10 minutes here and there can add up and noticeably boost your activity levels.

Make hydration a habit. Up to 60 percent of the adult body is water; your body needs water not only to survive, but to thrive. Make hydration a habit by keeping a tall glass or reusable bottle filled with cool water at your desk or in your car. And start each meal with a full glass of water. Water can make you feel full and help you eat less. The Institute of Medicine recommends that women drink at least 91 ounces and men drink 125 ounces of water each day, including water that comes through food and other beverages.

Record your results. Write down realistic, measurable goals for diet, exercise and weight loss and record your results. Writing it all down will help you track your progress and help you stay focused. It also demonstrates how making small changes every day can add up to real results over time. Be patient, stay committed and watch as you fulfill your 2015 New Year’s resolution.

Protect yourself from the flu

Flu Shot

By Marshall Dawer M.D. M.S. F.A.C.P. ABEM
Market Medical Director, UnitedHealthcare of North Texas

With the flu season lasting until May each year, it is not too late to get a flu shot.  Flu cases have been rampant this flu season – in fact the Centers for Disease Control declared it an epidemic.

Influenza – or the flu, as it is commonly known – is a serious disease that afflicts between five and 20 percent of the population each year, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and can lead to hospitalization and even death.  It also costs our nation more than $87 billion and 17 million lost workdays each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Unfortunately, the flu is not just a cause of missed work and school.  Every year, thousands of people die from Influenza and its complications. More than 100 of the victims this past year were children.

The best way to protect yourself and reduce your chances of getting the flu is to get a flu vaccine. According to the CDC, everyone who is at least 6 months of age should get a flu vaccine. Getting vaccinated is especially important for people who have certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes or chronic lung disease, as well as for pregnant women, young children and people 65 or older.

Despite the evidence and recommendations, many people won’t get vaccinated this year – which makes it more likely they will get and transmit the flu and put themselves and those around them at risk.

Consider the following:

The flu shot is not expensive.
In most cases, the cost of a flu shot is covered by your health plan, whether you buy health insurance on your own or are covered through your employer, Medicare or Medicaid. Many employers offer free onsite flu shot clinics at the office, given that the financial, personal and professional costs of the flu far exceed the cost of the vaccination.

Young, healthy people get the flu, too.
Influenza does not discriminate by age or health habits. Just because you’re young or don’t typically get sick doesn’t mean you can’t catch the flu. Keep in mind you can catch the flu from someone who has yet to exhibit any symptoms.

Getting the flu shot vaccine is fast, easy and convenient.
Getting a flu shot takes no more than five minutes. Most neighborhood pharmacies even offer walk-in options, so you don’t need to make an appointment. If you are unemployed or your employer doesn’t offer flu shots, you can go to your primary care doctor or nearby wellness clinic, most retail pharmacies or contracted flu shot providers. To find a list of flu shot providers near you, visit Flu.gov and enter your zip code.

Take Preventive Measures
In addition to getting vaccinated, please remember to take preventive measures like washing your hands regularly to help reduce the spread of germs. And if you are sick with the flu, stay home to prevent spreading flu to others.

Flu season runs from October through May. So if you haven’t gotten a flu shot, now is the time to make your family’s health a priority.