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Guest column

Weathering the winter months by staying healthy

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With the colder Long Island months upon us, it’s important to remember that as the weather cools, so does body metabolism. For many people, the fall and winter seasons are times of decreased exercise, increased eating habits and the addition of unwanted body weight.

During the spring and summer months, exercise activity for many people is either voluntarily or involuntarily increased. If exercise decreases and unhealthy eating increases — which it does tend to during the fall and winter — any shed summer pounds are a virtual lock for regaining.

Besides the normal benefits of exercise, such as a decrease in overall body fat, lower blood pressure, decreased heart rate and a drop in cholesterol levels, there’s also a bodily change that helps keep weight manageable. Exercise will assist in increasing the body’s resting metabolic rate. The RMR is also known as a person’s ability to burn calories while sedentary, such as watching television or sleeping. Vice versa, a decrease in activity will contribute to the return of a lower, pre-exercise routine RMR.

During the cooler months, it’s imperative to keep a strong lock on a decent exercise routine and a diet low in overall fats, especially saturated fats, which have virtually no nutritional value. Learn to read labels and get the saturated fat content on each serving to zero, or as close to zero, as possible. Less than 30-percent of the daily diet should be in fats — aiming toward good polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats — with less than 10 percent coming from saturated fats. Also, keep in mind: Every gram of fat is equal to nine calories.

With a high degree of heart disease and stroke running rampant throughout society, it’s vital we make an effort to help keep our health in check. Risk factors such as high blood pressure (consistently greater than 140/90), high cholesterol (greater than 200), older age, cigarette smoking and a chronic sedentary lifestyle greatly increase our risk of suffering from heart disease or stroke. The more risk factors combined will lead to a greater chance of suffering from one of these severe medical ailments.

Good blood pressure is no longer seen as 120/80. While this may still be considered normal, a good level should be viewed as 110/70-118/78. High blood pressure may be a direct result of hereditary and regulated with medication, but there’s also a possibility it can be controlled with an alteration in diet and exercise. The same can be said for high cholesterol, which has seen decreases of 15 percent with adequate lifestyle changes.

Be cautious. There’s nothing wrong with a splurge every now and then, especially during the holidays, but overall healthy consistency is key.

 

Brian T. Dessart, a former Herald sports preview editor and director of marketing, now contributes to Sports Illustrated, covering performance, fitness and action sports. Twitter: @briandessart