Get on track with your health goals this year

By Kristel Rush

For The Cordova Times

January and February have come and gone, and with it, our New Year’s resolutions also tend to vanish. Whether it is exercise, losing weight, or cutting back on other excesses that had crossed your mind on Jan. 1, I would like to encourage you to persevere this year and meet your goals. And if making positive change is not really on your radar, I would love inspire you to think about little things (or big) that would help bring energy and well-being into your life. Over a series of 12 articles, I am going to be talking about the things that bring us health, and other things that rob us of our health and well being.

So let’s talk numbers and medical lingo. Morbidity is a term that refers to the presence of illness or the rate of disease in a population. The three biggest causes of morbidity in the U.S. can be attributed to smoking, obesity, and chronic alcohol use (in that order).  These lifestyle choices then heavily contribute to the top four diseases that cause early disability and premature death in our population. These are 1) heart disease, 2) cancer, 3) chronic lower respiratory diseases such as COPD or emphysema, and 4) stroke.

Over the next few months I will be highlighting the things that are leading to increased morbidity and hopefully inform and inspire you to make the changes that will help you live a long and full life.  This will include the evidence-based diets and foods that help prevent heart disease, stroke, and cancer and the amount and type of exercise that is proven to be beneficial. And, of course, the single-most beneficial thing you can do for your health, hands down, is that if you are a smoker, find a way to stop, this instant, the sooner the better.  Smoking is an independent risk factor for heart attack and increases the chance of all subtypes of stroke.  Smoking more than 20 cigarettes a day is associated with a 6-fold increase in heart attack in women and 3-fold in men.  It is the biggest cause of lower respiratory diseases and not only is the cause of most lung cancers, it also increases your chance of other cancers.  Randomized control studies have long proven smoking linked to colon cancer, head and neck cancers, esophageal cancer, bladder cancer, mesothelioma, myeloid leukemia, paranasal and sinus cancer, pancreas, penis, stomach, uterine and cervical cancer.  This is such an important topic, I will cover it again, but if tobacco is part of your life, the best thing you can do for yourself and your loved ones is to find a way to part with it. There are medicines and strategies that can help if you are ready to take the leap into a tobacco-free life.

As I have gotten to know a fair number of Cordovans over the past four years, I have been amazed at the feeling of solidarity and pride in the amazing place we live.  Many of you already have embraced a lifestyle that inspires me to make changes in my own life.  But if there are changes that you wish to make in 2017, whatever they are, your healthcare provider can help you achieve the goals you have for yourself. Whether it is smoking cessation, wanting to shed a few pounds or increase your exercise regimen, or wondering if your alcohol consumption is affecting your overall health, we would love to be able to help.  The old adage holds true in medicine now more than ever: that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Dr. Kristel Rush is a wife, mom, and board certified family physician in Cordova who loves caring for entire families and promoting health education.