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Seasons Change and So Can You

St. Francis Outreach Director Talks About Better Habits

There’s a time for every season. Right now, as the weather becomes mild and enjoyable, kids head back to school, adults settle into a new focus at work, and our minds turn to beginning a new period. At these turns of season, it can be a great thought to create some new health goals.

Louise Spadaro, M.D., director of the Cardiac Outreach Program at Saint Francis Hospital, The Heart Center spoke to Healthy Living about some key pointers on improving your daily lifestyle.  

First and foremost, Spadaro says, take it slow. “Every change in season or new year, everyone has great ambitions,” she shared. “That is great. It is just important to realize that things won’t happen overnight. You have to ease into it, especially if you have medical issues. Use some sensibility and patience.”

Spadaro framed her suggestions around two groups of people – those who have gone through a medical problem or a surgical procedure, like heart surgery, and those who might know they have a genetic disposal toward such problems because they are helping their parent through such a transition. She said you should use the latter experience as a wake up call.

“We definitely try to educate family members as well as the patient in the bed. Things have been done a certain way in your house and you can see it is time to be proactive and do what you can to reduce your own risk. You cannot totally negate what your family has passed on to you, but you can live better if you work on prevention. We don’t want to be our parents in 10 or 15 years.”

In either case, the tips are the same – diet and exercise. But for the patients, the recovery and lifestyle changes should go along with some professional advice.

“As a patient, you really want to take things gradually,” Spadaro said. “Especially when a patient leaves the hospital, they are bombarded with a lot of information at once. It can be hard to know, ‘What should I eat’… ‘What should I do?’”

She said a great resource for Saint Francis patients is the rehabilitation center, where the patient and family work with a nutritionist. Other crucial guidance can be obtained from sources like the American Heart Association or the American Diabetes Association. Of course, your own doctor is the place to start too.

That said, whether you are recovering from a heart issue or fighting diabetes, or helping your parent through the struggle, the assignment is easy. Get out and do whatever level of exercise works for you and is approved by your doctor.

As the seasons change, it can be inspiring to embrace the time of year. Going apple picking, or pumpkin picking, for instance, is a fairly low-impact way to get in some walking and fresh air. Taking a stroll through a park or the woods is too. If you can run or jog, this mild time of year is ideal.

As important as that will be, eating habits are an even bigger concern, says Spadaro. “Nutrition is the biggest part of what we do. No matter how much exercise you do, what you put into your body makes a big difference,” she said.

Spadaro recommends getting away from comfort foods and taking advantage of the fruits and vegetables of the season.

This time of year, everything from apples and pumpkins and squash are fun foods that can be used in a variety of ways to have something healthy and new on the table.  

What you want to do, says Spadaro, is cut out fatty animal products. Look for leaner meats. “Americans eat too many fats and carbs,” she said.

Consider how much caffeine you take in as well. She says that a cup in the morning is ok if you don’t feel any negative effects, but drinking up coffee or lattes or colas all day will certainly lead down a bad road.   

Spadaro recognizes that stress is one major player in our life that drives us towards bad habits, whether it is comfort eating, drinking too much or smoking. You can’t really avoid stress, but you can look honestly at how you are dealing with it and try to pinpoint where things are going wrong.

Spadaro says to come up with reasonable gradual goals, with your real life in mind, and you can slowly correct your day-to-day health routine.