#NTx Health Moment – Executive-Specific Health Goals for 2018

“The busy lifestyle of being an executive often leaves little time for improvement.” This is a statement we have heard time and time again, in one version or another. Maybe that’s why some executives pack on the pounds, lose countless hours of sleep, and neglect even their most basic needs. But, it’s the executives who refuse to fall prey to that kind of thinking who show improvement year after year.

In 2018, you have a choice. It’s the same choice you had in 2017, 2016, and every year before that. What are you going to do differently this time? Goals are only worth making if you set out a plan to achieve them. If you need help making goals, here are some executive-specific goals and a sure-fire plan to help you accomplish them.

#1 Exercise More and Sit Less

Increasing your activity level will not only help you trim your waistline, it will improve cognition and mood. The first step is to buy a step counter and wear it religiously for one to two weeks. This will give you a read on how much you actually move in a typical day. Be sure to hook the device to your waistline so that you’re not getting false steps from arm-only movements.

Once you see how many steps you are taking, work towards to doubling that number. The ultimate goal should be to reach 10,000 steps per day.  If you find yourself in long meetings, doing heavy computer work, or stuck at your desk, set a bi-hourly alarm on your phone. This will serve as a reminder to stand up and stretch, or take a small walk down the hall, every 30 minutes.

Walking in the evening can be very therapeutic. Take time to walk around the block a few times to clear your mind. Walking with family gives you twice the benefits, since it provides uninterrupted time for meaningful talks with your spouse or children.

Then, of course, there’s the obvious. Park as far away from your office door as possible and force yourself to walk. Opt for the stairs instead of the elevator, or do a combination of both if your office is more than five floors up.

#2 Take a Screen Break

Technology is great. It’s what makes our businesses more profitable, our friends and family more accessible, and what keeps us connected. Now that we have that out of the way – technology has it’s pitfalls. It keeps you connected 24/7, leaving little to no downtime.  There is even a new term, or unofficial diagnosis, for those who refuse to turn off their phones and be present. It’s called FOMO, which is an acronym for fear of missing out, referring to the constant need to stay connected. A condition that could lead to many more acronyms if not controlled. Think CAD, which stands for coronary artery disease or BMI, which stands for body mass index, something that increases with excessive use of technology.

Set reasonable rules for your phone, computer, and television and follow them. For example, turn all the phones off during meals. Same goes for the television. A meal should be a time for giving gratitude and sharing conversation with those around you.

Also, give your phone, computer, and television a curfew. This is the hardest rule but has the most reward. Never make technology the first thing you give your morning to or the last thing you do before going to sleep. In the evening, a two-hour pre-retirement rule is best. Using technology within the two-hour window before bed can reduce your body’s ability to produce melatonin, which in turn disrupts your natural circadian rhythm. As for the morning hours, give your eyes time to adjust and your brain time to wake up before introducing technology.

#3 Reduce Alcohol Intake by 50%

Alcoholic beverages often come with the territory and the job title, but nobody’s going to snub someone who’s making a conscious effort to be healthier. When wine and hard liquor drinks are part of the daily equation, it often means that healthy choices, like water, are not. The body needs adequate hydration to function.

Not only will drinking more water and less alcohol improve your overall feeling of wellbeing, it has specific health benefits as well, like better cognition and improved mood. The brain is nearly 80% water and needs to be constantly hydrated. Also, drinking less alcohol means reducing overall body inflammation.

Inflammation has been linked to everything from cancer to heart disease.

Perhaps the most overlooked reason to cut your alcohol intake is to reduce calories. A person who goes from five to seven drinks per week down to two or three will make a significant change to their caloric intake. Not only will the pounds fall off, the skin will start to look younger and healthier.

There are so many goals you can set, but remember that goals need to be specific, measurable and achievable. As you review your own goals for the New Year, be sure to create a plan on how you are going to achieve them. Remember, you have a choice. Make the right one this year.

 

 

#NTx Health Moment – Symptoms that Executives Shouldn’t Ignore

If you had to make a list of priorities, where would your health fall on that list? For most, it comes fourth or fifth, somewhere after job deadlines and family commitments. This neglect is why so many busy professionals find themselves in poor or failing health. Think of your body as a high performance car and schedule maintenance accordingly. Between the yearly physicals and 30,000 mile check–ups, take note of any unusual symptoms. Below are a just a few of the symptoms you should take seriously and seek medical attention for:

 

Trouble Concentrating

What to look for: Forgetting details of conversations. Reading the same information over and over before it sinks in. Thoughts that tend to bounce around and lack focus, much like adult ADD.

This may be one of the most ignored symptoms among executives. There are a number of reasons people may have trouble concentrating, but any changes in cognitive function should be investigated. The initial workup should include lab work, a cognitive assessment, and an overview of exposure to excessive stress. Stress is real and can greatly affect the brain. A cognitive assessment gives details as to the extent of the deficit. Lab work should also be ordered because some of the most common causes include: hormone imbalances and vitamin deficiencies.

 

Change in Digestion

What to look for: Diarrhea or constipation or both. Bloody or dark stools. Bloating or unusual feeling of fullness.

A change in bowel habits doesn’t necessarily mean cancer. It could be a disturbance in the gut microbiome, infection, or a sensitivity to gluten or dairy. Many issues that surround the gut are easy to correct through dietary changes or the use of probiotics.

Since colon cancer is preventable, almost always starting as a polyp that can easily be removed, the importance of having a colonoscopy cannot be understated. While, the official government recommendation is to start screening colonoscopies at age 50, that does not account for those having symptoms or those with a family history of colon cancer. The earlier colon cancer is identified, the greater the chance for a full recovery.

 

Chest Pain or Heartburn

What to look for: Pain in the chest, shoulders, or stomach area.

Chest pain should never be ignored. While chest wall pain is usually due to stress, central chest pain may be a sign of a serious heart issue and should be addressed immediately. Any discomfort that worsens with exercise is especially alarming. Any pain in the chest area that is accompanied by sweating, shortness of breath, or a change in skin tone is a reason to call 911.

Heart attack symptoms vary, especially by gender. It’s not always going to be the classic chest pain radiating to the left shoulder. It could be either shoulder, the back or the neck. Bottom line – don’t try to diagnose yourself.

If you’ve had heartburn that’s recurrent or constant, it could be your heart. Chest pain is often misdiagnosed as indigestion. When patients say they have a pain in their “stomach” – it may not be their stomach at all. And remember, some heart conditions are accompanied by nausea.

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) like omeprazole, which is now over the counter and often recommended for heartburn, were never intended for long-term use. Not only do they have a laundry list of side effects, new research shows that long-term PPI use can lead to kidney damage. Indigestion that is more than temporary or infrequent should thoroughly be evaluated by a healthcare provider.

 

 

NTx Health Moment: Avoiding the Health Pitfalls of Executive Life

As a special new feature to NTx Trends this month, we welcome NTx member and Director of Business Development for Executive Medicine of Texas, Judy Gaman, for our #NTxHealthMoment

 

To the average person, you seem to have it all: the car, the house, the six or 7-figure job.

The truth is, if you don’t have your health, none of this matters. Executives lead a lifestyle that looks glamorous from the outside, but is very complex and demanding. Being on the inside, you understand the mental stress, long hours, heavy travel, and often loneliness. Being proactive is the best way to avoid the pitfalls and optimize your chances for a long and healthy life.

Travel Smart

Traveling can lead to dehydration. Alcohol and caffeine only complicate matters, so on days you travel, be sure to forgo both and opt instead for water. While the usual equation for hydration is 0.5 x pounds=ounces, meaning your weight in pounds divided in half equals the number of ounces of water you need to drink per day, this is not adequate on travel days. Adding 8 ounces before take-off and 8 ounces upon landing will help keep you hydrated and your mind sharp. The human brain is 73 percent water, so dehydration leads to foggy brain and bad decisions. On the flip side, a well-hydrated brain is ready to tackle the tasks at hand.

Make Sleep a Priority

Sleep doesn’t just make you beautiful, it keeps you healthy. Sleep is when the body repairs itself. New research also shows that when we sleep our brain scrubs itself, ridding it of the debris that leads to Alzheimer’s disease. Getting at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep is adequate. Trouble sleeping? Avoid blue light that is emitted from cell phones, computers, and televisions at least 2 hours before calling it a night.  Also, snoring can be a sign of a deadly condition called sleep apnea. If you snore, talk to your healthcare provider about having a sleep study. It’s not just about the hours you sleep, but the quality of your sleep.

Know Your Numbers

You wouldn’t dare walk into a meeting unprepared. You know the vital statistics of your company as if your life depends on it. So, why is it that too many executives don’t know the numbers that relate to their health? Ironically, your life does depend on those numbers. Health is about being proactive. If you have been avoiding that physical examination, now is the time to put it on your priority list. Remember, most health issues are avoidable or fixable as long as they are found early. Be proactive.

Protect Your Gut Microbiome

You don’t have time to get sick. New research shows that 80 percent of your immune system is within your gut. Protecting your gut microbiome is easy, but takes some effort. Be sure to avoid artificial sweeteners, which kill off your good bacteria and excess sugar which feeds the bad bacteria. Instead, get your sweets from sources like fruit. If you’re not a fan of yogurt or its impractical to have it handy, be sure to take a good pharmaceutical grade probiotic. Protect and cultivate the good bacteria that protect you.