Thursday, June 1st, 2000
Top 10 list of health tips for a long life

By Dr. Anthony Policastro
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital

David Letterman made the top ten list popular. Now everyone does one. I decided that I would provide my own version of the top ten medical things that individuals should do. Some of them are things that are included because they are easy to do. Others are included because they affect large numbers of people. Others are included because they make a major difference in medical care in our country.

10. Take simple steps to protect your unborn and newborn baby.
Women who do not get prenatal care are at risk of a variety of medical problems for their child. They should see the obstetrician as early as possible and keep all appointments. As part of this preventive effort, all women of child-bearing age should take a daily vitamin preparation that includes folic acid. This prevents spina bifida and related problems. Once the child is born remember to lay him/her on their back to sleep. This prevents SIDS. Sids is the number one killer of infants outside the newborn period.

9. Support your child's self-esteem.
Most problems associated with teen rebellion are founded in poor self-esteem. Children need to know that they are loved. Tell them that. Hug them often. Look for opportunities to praise them. Attend their school and sports functions. Support their hobbies.

8. Follow your doctor's advice.
Studies show that only 50% of patients take their medicine as prescribed. We know from seeing patients with chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease that they do not follow directions well. The result is poorer quality of life and an earlier death than is necessary.

7. Parents must understand their role in setting the example for the child.
Children want to be like their parents. They will use alcohol if they see their parents do it. They will smoke if they see their parents do it. They will also learn good habits if they see their parents do them. We must make sure those moves are the right ones.

6. Get appropriate check ups with your physicians.
We do a good job of bringing our children for their well baby visits. However, as they get older and we get older, there is a tendency to only see the doctor when we are sick. There are a number of things that should be checked on a regular basis. The older you get, the more important this becomes. Early detection of either cancer or heart disease can add years to your life.

5. Exercise as much as you can.
The proper amount of exercise seems to be 30 - 45 minutes three days a week. More than that is good. However, even if you do not do regular exercise, there are opportunities for you to do more than you currently do. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park at the far end of the parking lot. Walk down the hall instead of using the telephone to contact a co-worker. Do something physical during the time you currently spend watching TV or using your home computer.

4. Pay attention to your diet.
That does not mean you should immediately change everything you eat. It does not mean that you should look for chances to substitute something healthy for something unhealthy. Order the healthy meal from the menu in the restaurant. Have fruit for a snack instead of junk food. The rules are the same as for exercise. Try to find little ways of having better nutrition. Eat something good for you every day.

3. Don't drink and drive.
This is one of the obvious ones. We all know how bad it is. However, it continues to happen. It endangers the driver. It endangers others. Adolescents still do this much too frequently. We have come a long way in this area. Unfortunately, there is still a long way to go.

2. Wear your seat belts and buckle up your children.
Motor vehicle accidents remain the biggest cause of death for individuals under 35 years of age. A majority of deaths in those instances are related to poor seat belt usage. In children, proper use of car seats is still a problem. The amazing thing about this suggestion is that buckling a seat belt is the cheapest life insurance we can buy. It costs nothing. It takes no time out of our day. There are a lot of dumb excuses that people use for not wearing seat belts. They are all dumb excuses. There is no such thing as a good reason. Many of the individuals who used dumb excuses are now dead.

1. Don't smoke.
The statistics are clear. Tobacco is the number one preventable cause of death and illness in this country. There is no reason to smoke. It is a difficult addiction to break. The best approach is to not smoke to begin with. Unfortunately, our children start smoking at younger and younger ages. Smoking commonly begins in the fifth or sixth grade. Adults who smoke should be making every attempt to quit. That is easy to say. It is not so easy to do. You should ask yourself the question as to how many of these areas you can make an improvement. None of us are so healthy that we can say that we are 100% in line with them. The goal is to make changes in things now. That will prevent you from winding up one of the top ten lists for things that people die from.

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