Kick Off the New Year with Healthy Habits

Tips from the pros

Health seems to be at the top of everyone’s mind with the arrival of the new year. We asked several local health professionals for their favorite health tips from their field of expertise. Follow these easy head-to-toe tips for a healthier 2013.


Dr. Monica Richter, pediatrician, Valley Children’s Clinic, Renton

I am a strong believer in vaccinations. Our immune system is our defense against bacterial and viral infections. Medications provide only temporary protection while our immune system is constantly at work protecting us. Bacteria and viruses often become resistant to medication yet our immune system only gets stronger each time we challenge it. Vaccines stimulate our immune system, so we become better able to fight infections. We get the benefit of immunity without the risk of infection.

Flu Shots Don’t Give You the Flu

Dr. Callie Byrd, family practice physician, Covington Primary Care, Covington

Contrary to what some people think, flu vaccines do not give you the flu. There are two types of flu vaccine available — the flu shot and a nasal spray vaccine. The flu shot is inactivated, meaning it contains the killed virus. The nasal spray is made from a live but weakened flu virus. The weakened virus in the nasal spray is designed to work in the cooler temperatures of the nasal passages, not in the warmer climate of the lungs. There are possible side effects including fever, muscle aches, runny nose, headache and cough, but neither vaccine can give you the flu.

Breast Health: When in Doubt, Check it Out

Dr. Kara Carlson, radiologist and medical director of the EvergreenHealth Breast Health Center, Kirkland

Early detection is the best protection against breast cancer. When detected early, patients have a significantly greater chance of survival and successful treatment. It’s extremely important to begin scheduling an annual screening mammogram at the age of 40. The greater danger is late detection, not the cancer itself.

Visit early and often

Dr. James Kriseman, family practice physician, Overlake Medical Clinics, Redmond 

If you have a chronic disease such as diabetes, hypertension or high cholesterol, do your best to have regular visits with your physician to maintain good control. This will result in better quality of life as well as reduced medication burden. Establish a working relationship with your physician early on for preventative healthcare in an effort to work together to reduce the incidence or severity of chronic diseases.

Don’t be SAD

Dr. Milton Curtis, family practice physician, EvergreenHealth Primary Care, Kenmore

Taking Vitamin D helps you get a good night’s sleep. It also helps to relieve some of the symptoms of winter depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which can be brought on by our region’s notorious dreary weather. Taking a daily dose of 2,000 IU of Vitamin D is also beneficial in treating chronic pain for people suffering from certain conditions like fibromyalgia. Taking excessive doses of Vitamin D over long periods of time poses a long-term risk for the kidneys, however, so consult your physician any time you add supplements to your diet. (Also) Decrease stress with exercise and socialization. Just 30 minutes of exercise five days a week can improve your health and reduce stress levels. In addition to regular exercise, a positive outlook can help you manage personal stress, as does socializing with others. Invite a few friends to go for a walk with you to combat the winter blues and get moving together.

Skin Care Regimen As We Age

Dr. Angie Song, Swedish Health Services, Swedish Facial Plastic Surgery, Issaquah

Though aging is inevitable, healthy habits and a few cosmetic remedies can help slow the effects of aging we see in our faces. The following tips can show you how. About 50 percent of the way our skin ages is determined by genetics, and the other 50 percent we can do something about!
20s: Use sunscreen, exfoliate your skin and eat a well-balanced diet that includes antioxidant-rich foods like colorful vegetables and fruits.
30s: Use sunscreen, an alphahydroxy acid moisturizer, a night cream to hydrate skin during sleep and get a chemical peel once or twice a year to remove dead skin.
40s: Use better and stronger cosmeceuticals, meaning topical lotions purchased not from your local drugstore, but at a spa or a physician’s office.
50s: Consider laser skin repair to help get rid of old sun-damaged skin as well as allowing the formation of new collagen.

Get Heart Healthy

Dr. Joseph W. Doucette, cardiologist, Overlake Medical Clinics Cardiology, Bellevue & Issaquah

To keep your heart healthy, get some exercise every day. It doesn’t have to be especially intense or formal. Even a brisk 15-minute walk each day can make positive changes in how your body handles the fats and sugars you eat. This can be done before or after work by parking your car a little farther from your office or by walking the halls and stairs during a break or lunch time.

 A Commitment to Cook

Kelly Morrow, MS, RD, associated professor, nutrition clinic coordinator, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science, Bastyr University, Kenmore 

It’s not difficult and doesn’t need to take a lot of time to cook. Eating at home saves money, and it’s easier to eat healthier and reduce calories.
Plan ahead: Start by planning one or two meals per week if you don’t already cook regularly.
Double up: Make double batches of meals so you can cook once and eat twice.
Get inspired: Use some of the amazing new recipe sites to get excited about cooking. My favorites are Healthy Aperture, Cookus Interruptus, Tastespotting, Foodgawker, All Recipes and Kitchen Artistry.

Healthy Lifestyle for a Healthy Back

Dr. Ray Baker, medical director of the Evergreen Health Spine and Musculoskeletal Program, Kirkland

Reduce your risk: Smoking history and obesity are risk factors for chronic back pain. Regular exercise, restful sleep and stress management have been shown to be helpful for minimizing back pain. Also, foods such as whole grains, fish and vegetables have been associated with lowering overall body inflammation which may reduce pain. Introduce frequent activity: Sitting for long periods reduces the nutrient supply to the disc, compromising it. If your profession requires you to sit at a desk for long periods of time, it’s important to get up and move around every 30 to 45 minutes to increase the flow of nutrients within your spine. You might also try a flexible workstation that allows you to stand for at least a portion of the day.

Herbal Alternatives for Prostate Care

Eric Yarnell, ND, Bastyr University, Department of Botanical Medicine,Kenmore

Many cases of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH or an enlarged prostate) are due to excessive growth of smooth muscle cells in the prostate. There are many effective herbal alternatives to the drug tamsulosin (Flomax) for this problem. Sometimes even a mild herb such as Viburnum prunifolium (black haw) bark can be sufficient, but other times a more potent one that should be prescribed by a naturopathic doctor or herbalist such as Ammi visnaga (khella) seed may be needed. If these herbs and tamsulosin don’t work, it is possible the prostate is very large and a completely different approach would be necessary.

Commit to Be Fit

June Kloubec, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science, Bastyr University, Kenmore 

Make a commitment to move a little bit each day: People feel overwhelmed with the idea that they should exercise 30 to 60 minutes every day. It’s easier if you break it down into “bite-sized pieces” of 10 to 15 minutes. Commit to doing some movement (walking, stretching, gardening, house cleaning, yard work) each day, and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to make daily movement a habit.
Exercise first: The best time to work out is first thing in the morning, before a day’s worth of interruptions has become an obstacle.
Schedule exercise: Add “exercise” or “appointment with self” to your calendar three times a week, allowing for at least an hour each time for warm-up, cool down, exercise, showering and travel time.
Rule of Ten: You might not always feel like working out, but you should at least try to start every workout. Tell yourself that you’ll go for at least 10 minutes, and if you still don’t feel motivated after 10 minutes, give yourself the freedom to quit for the day. Getting moving is often the hardest part, but once you get going, it is easy to keep moving.

It’s Playtime!

Kari J. Tanta, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, program lead, Children’s Therapy, Renton

Make time for you and your family to play together! Family playtime offers a multitude of benefits for all ages. It brings families closer together and creates lifetime memories. For children, daily playtime stimulates overall development, strengthens social skills, enhances physical fitness and fosters a sense of well-being. For adults, playtime also enhances physical fitness, along with the additional benefits of connecting with the children in our lives, while we disconnect from our hectic lives. Go out and play!

Dr. Monica Richter photo courtesy Valley Medical Center; Dr. James Kriseman photo courtesy Overlake Medical Center; Dr. Angie Song photo courtesy Swedish Medical Center; Dr. Joseph W. Doucette photo courtesy Overlake Medical Center; Kelly Morrow, MS, RD photo courtesy Bastyr University; Eric Yarnell, ND and June Kloubec, Ph.D. photos courtesy bastyr university

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