Filed under: Healthy behaviors
Some think of quitting smoking as a loss, rather than considering all they have to gain. There are nearly 45 million smokers in the U.S. And even though 70% say they’d like to quit, only 5% are able to stop on their own. Smokers have long been warned about the negative impact of tobacco on the body, including risk of cancer, lung disease, and emphysema. The negative statistics might inspire you to make a change, but have you also considered what you can gain? Maybe you’re driven to avoid negative outcomes, but you also might be motivated by positive incentives. So, what can you gain by quitting smoking?
- Improved well-being. Quitting smoking is associated with fewer bouts of depression and anxiety as well as improved mood and quality of life. While you might not see these benefits immediately—especially during efforts to quit smoking—“losing tobacco” means you have a lot to gain in the way of well-being.
- Less medication. If you’re currently on medications, you might be able to reduce your dosages since nicotine increases the metabolism of certain drugs. If you’re suffering from side effects or paying for costly medicines, quitting smoking also might reduce how much you need.
- More vitality. Perhaps you’re struggling to keep up on the playground with your kids or at the gym. Maybe you’re performing at suboptimal levels during your Physical Fitness (PFT) and Physical Readiness (PRT) tests, which in turn interferes with your ability to get promoted. Remember: You just don’t reduce the risk of disease or death when you quit smoking. Instead of focusing on adding more years to your life, think about how quitting can add life to your years.
Quitting isn’t easy, and most people need outside help to kick the habit. Visit the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center website to learn more. And check out the Great American Smokeout for more resources. Make sure to visit HPRC’s Tobacco section too. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Turn small nutrition goals into healthy habits! A habit is a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition. It’s an action associated with a cue that’s associated with a performance. For example, service members always cover their heads before stepping outside. The cue is “going outside,” and the action that follows is “putting on your cover.”
Once you form a habit, you do the action without thinking. And if you don’t do it, you likely will realize that something isn’t quite right. These same principles can be linked to changing healthy eating behaviors. So, use these tips to make a new “healthy eating habit.”
- Set a small goal. You might think, “I’ll eat an apple every day.”
- Plan a simple action you can do daily. You might think, “Every time I work out, I’ll eat an apple afterwards.”
- Choose a time and place to perform the action. You might think, “I’ll go to the gym every afternoon.”
- Do the action during the designated time. The cue is “working out,” and the action that follows is “eating an apple.”
- Write it down. Sometimes it helps to keep a written record while you’re working on a new goal. Doing so can help you track progress and celebrate successes.
It’s commonly thought that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. However, recent evidence suggests it actually takes 66 days to 10 weeks before the habit’s yours for good. Remember: It gets easier each day that you do it. Before long, you won’t be thinking about it at all. The more you tie your actions to cues and make the actions automatic, the easier it will be to include the habit into your daily life.
Still, you might experience setbacks along the way. Don’t get discouraged. Try again the next day. Take the time to make one new eating habit, which will give you confidence to make other healthy changes!
Those TV ads your children enjoy watching impact their food choices and their health. Kids see many commercials that advertise foods high in fat, sodium, and/or added sugars, especially during Saturday-morning children’s TV programming. The more kids are exposed to advertisements of unhealthy foods, the more likely they are to request—or sometimes beg—to eat them.
TV commercial viewing has also been linked to children’s weight problems. Kids who watch these commercials have an increased chance of eating foods containing too many calories and few nutrients. And the impact of TV commercials on kids’ food choices extends beyond what they eat at home. It’s also been linked to how often families eat at fast-food restaurants.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children under 2 years old avoid all TV and screens, while children 3 and over watch no more then 2 hours of TV each day. Limiting the amount of time your kids watch TV means more time for them to be physically active. And less TV time means kids are exposed to fewer commercials that encourage unhealthy food choices.
Make sure to watch what your kids are watching—that means the shows and the commercials. When possible, watch TV together and move more during commercial breaks. Encourage them to get active by doing some jumping jacks, sit-ups, or push-ups!
Remember that commercials can influence kids’ food choices, so teach them to spot advertising tricks too. Keep the conversation going about the importance of healthy eating habits. Heading to the grocery store? Point out nutritious alternatives to your little ones, and ask older kids to help compare labels.
Since the number one killer of men and women in the U.S. is heart disease, it’s important to know your cholesterol numbers. Cholesterol, an important substance made by your liver, forms cell structures, produces hormones, and helps with digestion. Here are the cholesterol numbers to know:
- Good, or high-density lipoprotein (HDL), cholesterol helps prevent fat and cholesterol from clogging your arteries. Know your HDL: Think H for healthy! A healthy number is greater than 60 mg/dL.
- Bad, or low-density lipoprotein (LDL), cholesterol can cause cholesterol buildup and block your arteries. Know your LDL: Think L for lousy! A healthy number is less than 100 mg/dL.
- Your total cholesterol score should be less than 200 mg/dL.
Starting at age 20, get your cholesterol checked every 5 years. Doctors use these numbers along with your age, blood pressure, and weight to help you manage your cardiac health. Smoking, diabetes, and heredity play important roles too.
There are ways to manage your cholesterol and heart health! Regular physical activity can lower LDL and raise HDL. A diet low in saturated fats can help as well, so make sure to check out the New Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
HPRC’s foundation is Total Force Fitness—“The state in which the individual, family, and organization can sustain optimal well-being and performance under all conditions.” The American Heart Association recommends 7 simple steps that demonstrate how HPRC’s domains can combine for your health and performance:
- Don’t smoke. Visit HPRC’s Tobacco resources for help quitting.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Explore HPRC’s Fighting Weight Strategies for ideas on maintaining a healthy body weight and condition. Don’t rely on dietary supplements as a short cut; visit Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) Weight Loss FAQs to learn why.
- Move more. Visit HPRC’s Physical Fitness Exercise pages for enough fitness programs to keep your workouts going. Information from HPRC’s Environment domain can keep you going any time, any place.
- Eat a nourishing diet. Start with HPRC’s ABCs of Nutrition and move on to Performance Nutrition to achieve your best performance.
- Manage your blood pressure. In addition to diet, keep your stress levels down. Visit HPRC’s Mind-Body Stress Management pages to learn how.
- Take charge of your cholesterol. That means staying away from saturated fats. To learn more, read HPRC’s Nutrition FAQ about fats, and while you’re there explore other Nutrition FAQs.
- Keep your blood glucose at healthy levels. Watch your carbs and sugar. Use HPRC’s carbohydrate needs calculator to make sure you don’t get more than you need. As for sugar, save it for special occasions. Learn how to read Nutrition Facts labels and spot hidden sources.
If you follow these steps, get your own personal health plan from My Life Check® – Life's Simple 7, and combine information from HPRC’s domains, you’ll be well on your way to total fitness. Pass it on. Practiced by all service members and their families, it’s a huge step toward Total Force Fitness.
Man up and eat your greens! (And your reds, oranges, yellows, purples, and whites). June is Men’s Health month and a good reminder that what you eat matters. What can eating more fruits and veggies do for you?
- Reduce your risk! Eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables can help reduce your risk of stroke, heart disease, some cancers, and type 2 diabetes.
- Fill you up. Fiber-filled fruits and vegetables fiber can help lower your risk of obesity.
- Provide phytochemicals. Vegetables and fruits pack a powerful punch of these chemicals, which may reduce the chance you will experience chronic disease.
- Pump up your performance. Fruits and veggies contain water, electrolytes, vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates, all essential nutrients for top performance in the gym or on the field.
What’s a great way to ensure you’re eating enough fruits and veggies? At meals, fill half your plate with fruit and/vegetables. Remember that raw, cooked, steamed, chopped, whole, sliced, and diced all count. Eat your way to health by making fruits and vegetables a colorful part of every meal. For more colorful tips, read HPRC’s articles on pink, orange, white, and purple produce.
Do you know that many kinds of chewing gum—including the gum in MREs—contains a sugar sweetener called “xylitol”? This natural sweetener can be good for your teeth and gums! Xylitol has been found to offer preventive dental benefits, including reduced bacteria and acids that cause cavities and significant decreases in plaque. Most studies have shown that the use of chewing gum or mints with xylitol three to five times a day, especially after eating, result in the greatest benefits. Other sugar-free sweeteners used in gum and mints offer some oral health benefits, but for maximal benefits use products with xylitol. For more information, read this health fact sheet xylitol and how it can protect your teeth. Although chewing gum or mints with xylitol helps reduce cavities, they do not replace the benefits of regular brushing and flossing.
Solid fats are solid at room temperature, come mainly from animal products, and are high in saturated or trans fats. Examples are butter, milk fat, cream, stick margarine, shortening, and beef, chicken, and pork fat. Some saturated fats increase blood cholesterol levels in the body. Oils are liquid at room temperature, and come from many different plants, and are good sources of heart healthy unsaturated fats. Examples are olive oil, canola oil, safflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil, and peanut oil. Coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil are high in saturated fats and are considered solid fats. When using fats, replacing solid fats with unsaturated oils will provide essential nutrients to the diet and help lower blood cholesterol levels. Read about food preparation to promote health for more information.