Everyday Choices Matter

Eric eating

I’ve completed my biometric screening with my doctor for the past three years and it is amazing the impact we can make on our overall health when we begin to understand our numbers.

Since I started working at the Fund, it has offered annual physicals covered at 100% to keep our health in check. This preventative wellness check typically includes a cholesterol, blood pressure and glucose screening. These numbers help us understand our bodies and risks for developing lifestyle conditions such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, heart disease, stroke and many others. It is remarkable that by keeping blood sugar levels (glucose) under 100 mg/dl, the risk of type II diabetes is significantly reduced.I started working as the Heartland Health & Wellness Fund wellness director in 2014, prior to that I worked in other wellness fields and my education is in health. So, it’s fair to say that I understand how to eat right and how much to exercise. However, I’ve found it’s so easy to lose motivation to go to the gym three to five days a week. I often get bored with my workouts and have to dig to find something new. Also, my family loves desserts and typically has one after each meal–talk about tempting. I’ve had my ups and downs in the health area. I’ve certainly eaten my fair share of some great, yet unhealthy foods. I like to blame it on my kids as I believe they helped me achieve what is called, “The Dad Body.” That being said, I do understand that we are what we eat–literally. Every 35 days our skin replaces itself. Every month our liver replaces itself. Our bodies make these new cells from the foods we eat. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to eat healthy, exercise and keep track of our numbers so we can keep our bodies in tune. I’ve learned the hard way.

Since I started working at the Fund, it has offered annual physicals covered at 100% to keep our health in check. This preventative wellness check typically includes a cholesterol, blood pressure and glucose screening. These numbers help us understand our bodies and risks for developing lifestyle conditions such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, heart disease, stroke and many others. It is remarkable that by keeping blood sugar levels (glucose) under 100 mg/dl, the risk of type II diabetes is significantly reduced.
Since I spend 40 hours a week promoting wellness, most would assume that my biometric screening numbers are great every time, but that wasn’t the case my first year. It turned out that my triglycerides (the fatty acids within the blood stream) weren’t optimal. When we eat, fatty acids are created from the unused calories. When our bodies have no use for the fatty acids produced at a specific time, we store those fatty acids or triglycerides in our fat cells. High triglyceride levels are often a sign for increased risk of stroke or heart disease. The best way to avoid increasing triglycerides is to choose healthier fats, cut back on calories and exercise regularly.

After the second year of biometric screening, I was able to lower my triglycerides to a near optimal level. I was surprised to see how staying focused on consistent, weekly exercise, and reading nutrient labels on packages could actually nudge my numbers to a healthier level. After this third year of screening, not only are my triglycerides at the optimal level, but I was able to cut them in half. I met my goal of decreasing triglycerides, and with added exercise, I was able to increase my HDL (good cholesterol).

HDL’s are very important to our bodies as they bind to the LDL’s (bad cholesterol) and carry them out of our system or to the liver to be reprocessed. HDL’s are significantly increased when 30-60 minutes of aerobic exercise is added to a daily routine. Also if a person uses tobacco, by quitting, HDL levels will increase.

So for three years now, I have slowly been able to bring my wellness check from moderate to no risk and maintain that level of health. Not only does it reduce my risk of developing lifestyle conditions but healthy diet and exercise decreases stress, boosts energy and gives our bodies the vital nutrients we need to live out each day to the fullest. If I’ve learned anything from these biometric screenings, it is that no matter where our numbers are today, we are all just a stepping stone to where our health could be in the future. Wellness isn’t a fad, or diet or three-month change. It is a lifelong journey dedicating ourselves to improving our health so we can live healthy, feel great, have energy and lower our risk of disease.