- How much should I weigh? There’s no question that being overweight is unhealthy. In fact, obesity has long been connected with several serious conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and stroke. Determining if your weight falls into the unhealthy category, however, isn’t simply a matter of standing on the scale. That’s because a variety of factors figure into the equation; for example, while muscle is preferable to fat, muscle weighs more than fat. So the number that shows on a scale doesn’t necessarily answer the question: How much should I weigh? To help answer that question, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers guidelines. Specifically, the CDC says that a waist size of more than 40 inches for a man, and 35 inches for a non-pregnant woman, is an indication of being overweight and at risk for obesity-related illnesses. Your body mass index (BMI), a ratio based on your weight and height, is a more precise measure of whether you’re at a healthy weight. The CDC provides a BMI calculator at this link: http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/healthyweight/assessing/index.htm .
- How hard do I need to physically push myself in order to get fit? Generally speaking, a slow, steady heartbeat is associated with good health. While a physician can draw some conclusions about your health by listening to your heart, taking your pulse won’t yield extensive information. If you’ve established an exercise routine that’s designed to improve your level of fitness, however, using your target heart rate does provide a measure of whether you’re doing enough to reach your goal. (It should be noted that, prior to starting any exercise program, it’s important to first consult a physician.) It’s also important to note that, while your target heart rate is based on a percentage of your maximum heart rate, reaching that maximum is not the goal. In fact, a heart rate of 50 to 85 percent of your maximum indicates you’re exerting yourself enough to become more fit. To calculate a rough estimate of your maximum heart rate, take the number 220 and subtract your age. Certain online resources offer more precise target-heart-rate ranges, such as the following: http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/healthtool-target-heart-rate-calculator.
- Should I switch from cigarettes to a “safer” tobacco? It has been medically and scientifically proven that tobacco use leaves in its wake a host of negative health consequences. Despite this longstanding fact, rationalizations, along with downright myths, abound about cigarettes and other tobacco products. People claim that there are “safer” ways of smoking, such as not inhaling, switching to light or low-tar brands, or hand-rolling their own cigarettes. Cigars are often touted as a healthier alternative to cigarettes, as are smokeless tobacco products. As the American Cancer Society unequivocally states, the bottom line is: All tobacco products damage your health and quitting all such products is the smartest step that any smoker can take. If you want to take that smart step, a good place to start is by visiting http://www.cancer.org/healthy/index and talking to your physician.
- Am I suffering from a mental illness? As a general rule, people tend to focus on their physical health versus their mental/emotional health. The reality, however, is that all components -- physical, mental and emotional -- are equally important to achieving good overall health. As a starting point in assessing your mental health, consider this definition provided by the U.S. Surgeon General’s office: Mental health is “the successful performance of mental function, resulting in productive activities, fulfilling relationships with other people, and the ability to adapt to change and to cope with adversity.” In contrast, the U.S. Surgeon General’s office describes mental illness as “all diagnosable mental disorders, which are health conditions characterized by alteration in thinking, mood, or behavior (or some combination thereof) associated with distress and/or impaired functioning.” Central to both of these descriptions is one’s ability to function. Specifically, if you feel that mental or emotional issues may be preventing you from successfully navigating daily life for an extended period, professional help may be warranted, and you should consult with your physician. If your employer offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), that’s certainly another good resource; or visit http://www.nmha.org for some additional information.
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