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November 30, 2023

Guest Column | Practicing Healthy Habits Every Day Will Pay Dividends in the Long Term

Many of us lead such busy lives that we often don’t take the time to invest in the small daily habits that, when practiced over the long term, keep us strong and healthy and contribute to the prevention of disease.

A recent community survey conducted by all four Monterey County hospitals, Natividad, SVMH, CHOMP and Mee Memorial, in partnership with the Monterey County Health Department, indicates that diabetes is one of our community’s most pressing health issues. Armed with this information, we have made it our mission to do all we can to help our patients and educate our community about how diabetes can be prevented and managed.

Diabetes is managed chiefly by the patient, with support from their healthcare team, so committing to your health by practicing daily wellness habits now can significantly reduce your risk and positively impact your long-term health in general. Healthy habits such as regular exercise, managing stress levels, and eating a balanced diet are your keys to success.

Movement and rest

A brisk daily walk is a great way to get a little extra movement in and get your heart pumping. Walking with family or friends provides social time and connection, which can help to regulate stress. It is also essential to get adequate rest. Too little sleep can make your body use insulin less well. 

Studies show that exposure to sunlight in the morning can improve your sleep at night, so taking your walk early in the morning brings a nice additional benefit. If a morning walk doesn’t work with your schedule, take a stroll during your break or after dinner. The important thing is that you get moving. Any time that works for you is a win for your health.

Eat and drink with wellness in mind

Improving your eating and drinking habits will always positively impact your well-being. Preparing healthier meals with a variety of fresh veggies is the way to go. Add flavor with plenty of seasonings, and you have a healthy plate that tastes good — and is good for you. It is also important to drink enough water to stay hydrated. Less water in your body means that blood sugar is more concentrated.

Address stress

November can be stressful for many of us, and stress can make it challenging to stay on track with our health goals and the healthy habits we are trying to build. Hormones from stress can increase blood pressure, raise your heart rate, and cause blood sugar to rise. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing can help manage stress levels, which in turn can help to reverse diabetes and pre-diabetes. Many relaxation techniques are available to us, such as meditation, deep breathing, yoga, visualization, etc.

Taking the time to practice daily relaxation techniques can help to slow our heart rate, lower blood pressure, improve digestion, and control blood sugar levels. This helps stress hormones decline and blood flow to major muscles increase, reducing muscle tension and chronic pain. A daily mindfulness practice also helps us regulate anger and frustration. It allows us to handle life’s problems with more confidence and resilience.

In May this year, our Mee Memorial team organized a diabetes education event at the Salinas Valley Fair. We dedicated a day to educating our community about the health benefits of balancing what we eat, drink, and do. Our volunteers handed out local walking maps and jump ropes — and we provided fun and educational activities, games, healthy snacks, and beverages. Staff attended to provide basic blood sugar tests and BMI information so that fairgoers could make informed decisions about their health status.

If you or a loved one are experiencing indicators that you may be developing diabetes, such as increased thirst, slow healing of cuts or wounds, fatigue, or blurred vision, please don’t delay making an appointment with your doctor.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of the Thanksgiving season, take some time for yourself. Relax and breathe, plan healthy meals, and add daily physical activity. Make your health a high priority — because you are a valued member of our South County community, you make a difference, and you are worth it.

Rena Salamacha
Rena Salamacha
CEO, Mee Memorial Healthcare System

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