For many of us, this is the time of year to review our accomplishments and what still needs to change in our lives. Your concerns may be about your relationships, your employment or about motivating yourself to improve your health.
But, yes. It’s time to reflect, especially on your health, because without it, nothing else will get done.
The primary focus of this assessment should be this:
- How can you be a better version of yourself next year?
- What areas are lacking and where can you make changes?
Question your motives and desires and think about how much you’re applying your own principles to your daily life.
Because, really, this is not a group therapy assignment. The results you see are directly connected to the choices you’ve made.
- Are you practicing what you preach?
- Are you living your truth?
Critique yourself in the hopes of making positive changes and feeling better.
And, finally, consider how you can do even more to advance your heart health. Because by now you know…the heart is the boss.
A good place to start is with this World Health Organization study, “Worldwide trends in insufficient physical activity from 2001 to 2016,” published in The Lancet Global Health Journal, addressing the effects of sedentary lifestyles from around the globe.
This 15-year study reported that about one in three women and one in four men do not exercise enough to prevent chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, dementia, and cancers.
The trend towards a more sedentary existence is increasing, having risen from 23% of people reporting that they are mostly sedentary in 2010 to 25% in 2016.
That’s 1.4 billion people throughout the world!
And, because this is my life’s work, I can tell you that the percentage of sedentary people is much greater than the 25% who reported in.
➡ As of July of this year, more than 100 million U.S. adults are now living with diabetes or prediabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
➡ Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) accounts for approximately 800,000 deaths in the United States (US), or one out of every three deaths.
➡ Among Americans, an average of one person dies from CVD every 40 seconds.
➡ Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) accounts for the majority of CVD deaths, followed by stroke and heart failure.
➡ More than 90 million Americans carry a diagnosis of Cardiovascular Disease. Over 45% of non-Hispanic blacks live with CVD in the US.
To help you better understand, here’s a little background:
Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is a class of diseases that involve the heart or blood vessels.
➡ CVD includes Coronary Artery Diseases (CAD) such as angina (a condition marked by severe pain in the chest, often also spreading to the shoulders, arms, and neck, caused by an inadequate blood supply to the heart).
➡ CVD also includes heart attacks (referred to medically as myocardial infarctions)
Peripheral artery disease, which involves hardening of the arteries due to a buildup of plaque (fatty deposits), called Atherosclerosis.
We have a highly effective, easy, free prevention strategy for most chronic diseases in our culture, and yet that many people are ignoring it.
Maybe the problem is that people don’t really understand the power of exercise.
As a cardiologist, I can vouch for the fact that when it comes to preventive strategies for heart disease, stroke, and dementia, getting your heart rate up is one of the most effective.
It’s also important to note that heart disease affects more women than men, and this study demonstrates that there is a large discrepancy in the exercise patterns between the sexes.
➡ In the U.S., 48% of men are exercising compared to only 32% of women.
This isn’t just an interesting statistic. It demonstrates an extensive disconnect regarding the power of prevention and the damaging effects of a sedentary lifestyle for women.
Most importantly, it demonstrates that despite some of us making changes to our diets and medications, we are not doing what we could be doing to be better, healthier, stronger and longer-surviving versions of ourselves.
How do we get you and the world active?
Sadly, the public policy strategies we’ve come up with for this purpose haven’t made any meaningful changes in the numbers engaged in physical activity.
- For instance, The CDC created the Healthy People 2010 initiative, with a 10-year goal of improving exercise rates in Americans, with little effect. Now we’ve moved on to the 2020 version…with hope.
What else can we do? How do we make moving, instead of sitting around, the normal choice for ourselves, our families, our patients?
During my own contemplation, I thought a lot about human nature and our tendencies as people.
➡ I thought about how things that are challenging are difficult to incorporate into daily life. We’re all too busy and stressed and we don’t want to have to do one more time-consuming, unpleasant chore.
➡ We tend to get caught up in the endless pursuits of daily living while forgetting to look at the bigger, longer-term picture…the rest of our lives.
➡ I also thought about how many ways our choice to be sedentary are connected to the world of technology, as so many of us are perpetually hooked to our computers, our tablets, and our smartphones.
But some technology can be used for good.
An obvious example is the fitness watch, which has taken self-monitoring to a new level, helping people keep track of their steps, track their exercise and monitor their heart rate.
- Many people claim that this type of technology is motivating and makes them feel empowered to take control of their own health, as well as to find ways to make movement part of their daily lives.
…We’ve all heard people say that they have to get those 10,000 steps…
Technology is a good start. It’s just a matter of making it affordable, available and easy to use for everyone.
Heart Disease is something that we can prevent, and awareness is critical to making that prevention real.
Stepping back to take another look at the big picture, my assessment is that it’s time for a change.
It’s time to open our minds and our thoughts to the possibilities of better health, more vitality, and a better life through greater fitness.
Start by looking at and acknowledging where you are today. Then use a critical eye to analyze how to get to a better, healthier place and a longer life.
Why are you more sedentary than you should be? What would motivate you to get moving more often?
This year, I have one simple wish.
I spent decades packing my exercise clothes in my work bag for the next day, and scheduled time on my busy calendar to get my heart rate up and my body moving.
My wish is that each one of you will find a way to do better when it comes to moving your body, exercising and improving your fitness.
I do it to feel vital and strong and to continue to feel healthy. I do it to prevent heart disease, stroke, and dementia.
The research is there. The effects are real.
Will you join me?
Maybe this could be your wish for the new year ahead, too.