New Years is historically a time of change and personal growth. While most people might be creating goals based on outward appearances -- lose weight, start arriving to work on time -- hopefully a few of you will start the New Year thinking about your colon's health.
The formula to staying healthy and doing your best to avoid illness is not a secret, it's a well-known equation that involves three factors: Healthy food, activity, and mental health. To achieve a general state of wellness, all three factors must be balanced. You can't work out five days a week and maintain wellness on a diet of puffed corn snacks and beer. Likewise, you can eat nothing but tofu and salad, but if you don't exercise, tofu alone won't improve your cardiovascular health.
Food. Don't be fooled -- it is not easy to eat healthy in today's convenience-driven world. However, there are a few things you can do daily to improve your eating habits and benefit your colon:
- Avoid convenience-type or fast foods. These foods are usually salt-laden chemically-altered versions of the real deal. Instead, get up a few minutes early and pack your home-cooked leftovers or a healthy lunch and snacks.
- Limit or avoid alcohol altogether. It's packed with calories and has no nutritional value.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Every cell in your body needs water to work correctly. Try not to rely on thirst to drink, because technically by the time you're thirsty, you're already mildly dehydrated.
- Cook, chop and dice fruits and vegetables ahead of time. If you prepare healthy meals, then freeze them, you may be less inclined to reach for that freezer pizza when hunger strikes. Same thing goes for snack foods -- wash and chop fresh fruits and vegetables, and store them in baggies for a quick snack.
Mental Health. If you rush through moment after moment of life, you may be letting stress get the best of your mental health. To improve your mental health in 2013 try these simple daily tips:
- Breath deeply every once in a while and really focus on the act. The simple task of breathing -- one of those few bodily functions you can control -- can help relieve built up stress.
- Consciously relax your face. Right now, this second, pay attention to how you are holding your face. Is it set in a permanent scowl? Are you rushing to finish reading this so you can be off to your next task? Becoming more conscious of your body language might help you get in better tune with what you really feel this very moment.
- Learn how to communicate better. Communication has two key factors -- someone to listen and someone to converse. If you're on the listening end, make sure that you're doing just that -- listening to what the other person is saying, not making a mental grocery list. When it's your turn to speak, take a page from Dr. Seuss and "Say what you mean."
Physical Health. Exercise daily -- no excuses. If your doctor has said you are fit to exercise, make it a part of your daily routine. You can walk, run, go to a gym, or even take part in a sport you enjoy, as long as you set your timer and work up to about 2 and a half hours of physical activity per week. Remember these tips if you are just getting started:
- Don't go from zero to 60. If your current idea of a workout is reaching to find the TV remote, it would be unwise to dive into a rigorous 90-minute aerobics routine daily. Start slow and safe, and work your way up to that 90-minute routine over weeks and months.
- Talk to your doctor or physical therapist if you have a pre-existing medical condition or injury. Even for someone with a chronic disease, the right kind of exercise can benefit you and provide more energy and muscle strength.
Here's the unwanted disclaimer -- despite your best intentions, there is always a chance that you can develop colon cancer. Science has yet to unlock all the mysteries of this disease, but has at least proven that there are known factors to help reduce your risk of colon cancer.
Harvard School of Public Health. (n.d.). How Much Exercise Do I Need? Accessed online December 22, 2012.
University of Maryland Medical Center. (n.d.). Relaxation Techniques. Accessed online December 22, 2012.
American Cancer Society. (2006). American Cancer Society’s Complete Guide to Colorectal Cancer. Clifton Fields, NE: American Cancer Society.