5 Ways to Improve Your Family’s Health Right Now
1 Get your TDAP shot.
In San Diego this year, twice as many deaths in young children have occurred from pertussis (whooping cough) as compared to last year, and the leading reason is that we big kids are carrying it around and giving it to infants. Most of us received pertussis vaccinations when we were babies, but this immunity wears off by adulthood. As adults we won’t die from pertussis, but let’s protect our community by getting a TDAP shot. I know a family whose child died this year of pertussis because Grandpa hadn’t had his TDAP, and it broke my heart. For info, go to sdiz.org.
2 Eat better as a family.
Two-thirds of the U.S. population is overweight or obese. As a physician, I spend a great deal of time educating families on the overwhelming risk of cancer, diabetes, shortened lifespan, arthritis and heart disease from being overweight and inactive. These are no longer just adult diseases. I see children with clogged arteries, diabetes and disease caused by obesity that will significantly shorten their lifespans. In many cases, their behaviors and eating habits are directly learned from and controlled by their parents. When I see a new family in my clinic, one of the first things I do is have them describe in detail what is on their grocery list and what is currently in their kitchen. I then instruct them to go home and throw away items that are not helping them get in shape. I have actually gone to patients’ homes with a garbage bag to assist them with this exercise. All the processed foods, late-night snacks, soda, ice cream and Twinkies went into the Dumpster. If it’s in your house, you will eat it. Don’t give yourself or your children that option.
3 Drink more water and skim milk.
In the course of a day, we use 1.4 to 3 liters of water in breathing, sweating and releasing waste fluids. To make up the difference, we have to drink six to eight glasses of water. Other beverages such as coffee, alcohol, beer and soda are counterproductive because they increase urine production. Besides having no calories, water helps with digestion and maintaining blood pressure for better brain and muscle perfusion (leading to improved thinking, exercise ability and sex). Recent studies have demonstrated significant improvement in weight in children who replaced soda with water.
One other simple way to cut significant calories and fat and actually increase your nutrients is switching to skim milk. Skim milk actually has higher amounts of calcium and vitamin D and significantly fewer calories than whole or 2 percent milk. To make the transition with your kids, combine half 2 percent and half-skim for the first week, then switch over to full skim. They won’t know the difference.
Children also consume too many flavored sports drinks, energy drinks and fruit juices. They place extreme sugar loads on the insulin system. Make a family pact and keep the sugary out of the house.
4 Take a hike.
Getting outside and being active together breeds unity, appreciation of the outdoors and physical activity, and it sets an excellent example. Next time our family is plopped in front of the television, head for the trails. Treat the family afterward to some good frozen yogurt. For great hiking spots in San Diego County, check out sandiegohikers.com. My favorite is Iron Mountain Trail. Bring your camera!
5 Run a race together.
One good way to commit to getting more active (and losing weight) is to sign up for a race, preferably one you can do together as a family. There are so many excellent fun runs, biking events and swims of different distances in San Diego. Most are inexpensive. Search online for a race in your area. My favorite local event is the Rock & Roll Marathon and Half-Marathon. This year’s race is June 5, with a special 1-mile “fun run” called the ING Kids Rock race. This is an excellent opportunity to get the kids involved. I’ll be at the race rocking and rolling! Check out ingkidsrock.com. Sign up, and I’ll see you out there.
Wellness is a family affair. Stay healthy, San Diego.
Dr. Andy Baldwin is a U.S. Navy physician, humanitarian, media personality, former star of The Bachelor and endurance athlete. For more information, visit him at andybaldwin.com.