Tuesday, June 9, 2009

My Top 10 Tips for Staying Healthy

My blogs for the remainder of the week will cover the first meetings of the HIT Standards Committee Workgroups - Clinical Operations, Clinical Quality, and Privacy/Security. Thus, I'm doing my more personal blog of the week today.

Now that I'm 47, I'm learning to appreciate the challenges of staying healthy as I age. Based on my personal experience, here are my top 10 tips.

1. Maintain a normal Body Mass Index
A Body Mass Index between 18.5 and 24.9 is ideal. An ideal BMI is more about lifestyle than diet. It takes effort!

For me, the combination of daily exercise, a vegan diet, and green tea for the past 8 years has worked well to keep my BMI in the mid-normal range at 21.7

2. Exercise daily
I try to exercise every day through a combination of Kayaking on the Charles River, Cycling through the rural byways of Needham/Dover/Sherborn, Hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Nordic Skiing in Noanet Reservation, and very vigorous gardening (hauling, digging, mulching etc)

My goal is 3500 calories burned via exercise every week. This seems to keep my BMI stable.

3. Eat a vegan diet
It's easy to eat badly as a vegetarian. Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey is Vegetarian. Chili-cheese dip is vegetarian. Eggnog is vegetarian. Trying eating badly as a vegan (only foods that grow in the ground) . You could drink pure olive oil, but it's really hard to eat badly. If you further limit yourself to locally grown, organic foods (for the majority of your diet - tea and chocolate are not locally grown), you're going to eat a high fiber, low calorie, low fat diet. That's good for your heart and good for your BMI.

4. Drink green tea
I drink two pots of green tea every day, usually Gyokuro Asahi tea from Kyoto. It's very low in caffeine and high in polyphenols, reducing cholesterol and providing anti-oxidants. It has zero calories without the artificial sweeteners and chemicals found in diet drinks. Staying hydrated keeps your energy up and your mind clear.

5. Drink red wine in moderation
I drink 6 ounces of red wine with dinner each night. It do not consume wine as thirst quencher or as a stress reliever, I drink it as a complement to food. It's high in polyphenols and reduces heart attack/stroke risk.

6. Eat dark chocolate
Dark Chocolate is very high in anti-oxidants and has several health benefits including reduced cholesterol and blood pressure.

7. Use sunscreen
The time I spend outdoors can dry out my skin and increase my chance of skin cancer. I use SPF 45 on my face, neck and arms whenever I'm doing outdoor activities.

8. Take Vitamin D and a Multivitamin daily
Since I use sunscreen generously and do not drink milk, I do not get all the Vitamin D I need. Also, as a vegan, I get limited B12 (it does not exist in plants but small amounts are found in soil, which inevitably makes it way into our diet when we eat root vegetables). Taking Vitamin D and a Centrum Silver daily works for me.

9. Avoid caffeine and lifestyle medications
Rather than starting each day with a boost of caffeine and ending each day with a mixed drink, I just stay even all the time. I also avoid 'lifestyle medications' such as mood enhancing drugs, nicotine, energy drinks, sleeping aids, etc. Although they may have positive short term effects, the long term effects and side effects are ultimately deleterious.

10. Have a positive attitude
Each day is filled with success and failure, joy and sorrow, energy and fatigue. Having a positive attitude about the complexities of life and realizing that all will be well goes far to keep you healthy, active, and energized.

Maybe I should package these 10 items into a best selling book called "The CIO Diet - a prescription for a healthy lifestyle"!


Teddy Douglas said...

Definitely write the book - if you have time! Ay, there's the rub.

Healthcare technology guy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bernz said...

Combine #3 and #5! Drink organic red wine! They are more and more common and even a few get a >95 from Robert Parker.

John Halamka said...

Great recommendation. Here's a Guide to buying organic red wine.

Caprica said...

nice posting. As a vegetarian with a widening girth I totally agree with point 3.

btw. what do you use as your source of Omega 3?

Caprica said...

also is it possible to get vegan chocolate? (most chocolates contains dairy)

what about red wine? (many wine makers use eggs)

John Halamka said...

Yes, I typically drink unfiltered vegan wines (no egg whites or bone char used to clarify them). I also enjoy vegan chocolate from Taza Chocolate.

Doug said...

As a variation on green tea, I recommend matcha instead. I make my own from Japanese Sencha green tea by grinding it up in a coffee bean grinder.

A level teaspoon of matcha gets added to about 8 oz. of orange juice, and it takes a fair amount of shaking to keep it in suspension for drinking.

A researcher at Purdue recently published that the ECG components of GT were greatly enhanced by the presence of citrus.

The taste is good, though perhaps a bit acquired. I find that it takes the place of morning coffee. I take another cup around noon today for a decent boost during the mid-day.

Powered by Tofu said...

So true, so true on #3...I know a lot of overweight vegetarians, but few overweight vegans. I grew up vegan, but am now 95% vegetarian. I "went vegan" for one week last month and it was more difficult than I remembered: http://www.poweredbytofu.com/2009/05/13/its-vegan-week/

Overall, exercise is where it's at!

And to Caprica and John - my favorite vegan chocolate would have to be truffles from Missionary Chocolates, a Portland company.

Unknown said...

Where does a good night sleep fit in? I am suprised it did not make it to the top 10.

Perry Hewitt said...

I think I'm really only doing #10, sadly. But my personal calibration of caffeine and juniper seems to keep an even keel!

- Perry

John Halamka said...

Regarding the answer about Omega3, my wife Kathy notes

Many kinds from flax seed, or algal sources, in capsules, or as oils for foods. She takes these

Regarding a sleep, you are correct that rest of recovery is very important. Luckily I have been able to do well with a limited amount of sleep.

Unknown said...

Amazing.....your tips are very helpful for staying healthy.i am 24 year old and i want mention my body healthy and fit.i think theses tips are helpful in living healthy and fit for everyone.

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Unknown said...

I agree with your 10 steps to staying healthy. You might want to check out http://www.chocolate-truth.com for more reasons to eat chocolate (as if we need a reason). There's some good info about dark chocolate in the book they have there. Of course all the studies they have now about dark chocolate are all based on high antioxidant cold processed cocoa, not your typical chocolates.

John Stuart Mill said...

Dr. Halamka: Could you cite the evidence for your belief that green tea reduces cholesterol and 2)caffeine is harmful?

Do you have an intuitive feeling?

Unknown said...

Yes, they are great recommendation. and dont forget this. Stay relaxed...
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Todd said...

I am reading Dean Ornish's new book Spectrum. He has done an excellent job of including evidence based references to support dietary changes like drinking green tea, etc.

Todd Rowland, MD

Unknown said...

true, true, true, drink red wine, eat choclate.
ı agree this 10 steps.

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