Self-care is more than making sure you get enough sleep every night, eat healthy foods and get regular exercise. Visiting your doctor for a yearly check-up (every six months if you are over 50) is also an important part of a good self-care program. Many diseases and disorders do not cause symptoms severe enough to send you to a physician until they have reached an advanced stage. By then, treatment is likely to be more extensive and expensive.
Self-Care for People With Chronic Conditions
High Blood Pressure and Diabetes
In addition to taking medications as prescribed by your doctor, self-care for common health issues is essential to preventing your medical problems from worsening. For example, if you take medication for high blood pressure or diabetes you can help boost the benefits of your prescriptions by doing the following:
- Exercising–you don’t have to visit a gym every day but taking bicycle rides or power walks three to four times a week works just as well as engaging in stationary exercise
- Watch what you eat–start looking at food labels to avoid eating foods high in fat and salt. Eat potassium-rich foods as well as plenty of fresh fruit and whole grains. Although it won’t harm you to go off your diabetes diet occasionally, stick to your diet as closely as possible and monitor your glucose as needed
- Learn to breathe–many people do not realize how beneficial it is to their overall health to learn to breath deeply rather from the abdomen rather than the upper chest area. Short to normal breaths often do not contain enough air mass to supply red blood cells with good amounts of oxygen. As a result, your heart, circulatory system and other organs must work harder to provide your body with sufficient oxygen
- Get treatment for sleep apnea–if you frequently snore during sleep or have been told you stop breathing while sleeping, you may be suffering from sleep apnea. Sleep apnea commonly affects people who are overweight and may contribute to high blood pressure and diabetes. Sleep apnea can be clinically detected when a polysomnography records your brain waves, breathing rate, heart waves and blood oxygen levels
Self-Care for the Brain
Pound for pound, your brain needs more healthy calories to function than any other organ in your body. The number of subconscious brain processes that run even during sleep can leave you feeling hungry in the morning. Providing your brain with enough calories and the right vitamins and minerals can help keep you mentally fit as you age. Brain-friendly foods include:
- Salmon and tuna–rich in omega-3, these types of oily fish promote brain cell health and improved communication between neurons
- Fruit with red or purple flesh–-the colors come from different antioxidants present in the fruit which help to break down harmful chemicals in your bloodstream. Antioxidants are also present in red wine and dark chocolate
- Leafy, dark green vegetables--spinach, broccoli, and kale provide folate and vitamin E to reduce levels of an amino acid called homocysteine that could damage your brain’s nerve cells. Some research indicates that eating leafy vegetables, oily fish and fruits may help delay the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease
In addition to feeding your brain, using your brain is also a big part of cognitive self-care. Your brain is actually a big muscle that requires exercise to stay healthy. Studies have shown that doing crosswords, learning a new language or taking an online education course can help support memory and concentration skills.
Self-Care and Stress
When you feel stressed-out and tired all the time, your endocrine system floods your body with hormones and neurotransmitters meant to “prepare” your body for intense physical and mental activity. Although these chemicals are beneficial in normal amounts, they can cause a variety of health issues if not regulated. In fact, stress is directly associated with hypertension, diabetes, recurring infections, weight gain and high cholesterol.
Tips for managing stress include:
- Taking up a hobby that is enjoyable and relaxing
- Talking to someone you can confide in and trust
- Learning to manage stress by taking meditation or yoga classes
- Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes
- Decreasing work hours whenever possible
For more information about the importance of self-care or to make an appointment with a physician, please call Brevard Health Alliance today.