Having a strong family and social network makes our lives more enjoyable and fulfilling. But did you know that having these meaningful connections can lead to a healthier and longer life? For instance, men with satisfying marriages and marital-type relationships have a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, parenthood—with all of its trials and tribulations—is linked to longevity. Now that school is back in session, here is some homework for a healthier family.
We are often overly optimistic when we estimate our daily accomplishments. Here are some tips for looking at the eye-opening numbers:
• Identify empty calories, such as those in beverages
• Track exercise and other activity—make it a family game or competition (for example, number of goal-reaching days each week)
• Record number of hours of sleep
• Schedule enough time for a morning routine that accommodates breakfast, a stress-free departure, and a timely commute
Good eating habits, regular exercise, and a full night’s rest are the foundation to keeping the human machine running smoothly. Here are some other tips to ace your health exam:
• Handwashing between every activity
• Good dental hygiene (reduces the risk of heart disease, especially when started early in life)
• Minimize antibiotic use, which can cause resistant bacteria to develop (most upper respiratory infections are caused by viruses rather than bacteria)
• Recognize declining emotional health
Your family health history can be essential for early identification, prevention, and treatment of such conditions as heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, and depression. The initial signs of many common adult ailments often go unrecognized early in life. It is never too early to identify and thwart these health threats.
You know what they say about all work and no play. Daily demands seem to be increasing for all age groups. Break the daily rut with new routines such as:
• A family walk or other physical activity
• Regular family mealtime—a lot can be accomplished around the dinner table
• Dedicated weekend family activities
Communication is the key to any relationship. Although teaching by example leaves a lasting impression, don’t be afraid to state the obvious or ask those difficult questions. We all can fall into bad habits and can sometimes use a loving reminder to put us back on track. Keeping an open dialogue also encourages your loved ones to communicate their needs.
Accidents are the No. 1 cause of death early in life. Take these preventative measures:
• Seat belts for everyone in the vehicle
• Helmets not only while riding a bicycle, scooter, or motorcycle, but also while roller skating, climbing, or engaging in other potentially risky sporting or other activities.
• Life vests during all water sports
• No alcohol consumption during any of the above (loving reminders are never too frequent)
• All family members should carry emergency contact numbers
You are now ready for your final exam. No. 2 pencil not needed. Here’s to a future of straight A’s when it comes to a healthy family.
Look for my article on “What Women Can Do for Men’s Health” in the next issue.
Scott D. Miller, MD, is the Medical Director of Robotic Surgery at WellStar North Fulton Hospital. He is a urologist with WellStar Urology in Roswell and has practiced in Atlanta for over 20 years. WellStar North Fulton Hospital offers the Know Your Heart Screening that can determine your risk of heart disease, stroke and other serious conditions. Call 770-956-STAR (7827) to learn more or schedule an appointment.
Scott D. Miller, MD WellStar North Fulton Hospital • (470) 956-4230 • www.scottdmillermd.com