Article by Dr. Michael Packer -
In all of us there is an inherent desire to be happy and healthy. Yet, for most Americans whose diets primarily consist of refined grains, sugars, and frozen entrees, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, the ability to fulfill that inherent desire has been smothered (USDA, 2013). Additionally, over 70% of adults 18 years and older are failing to meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Physical Activity Guidelines (CDC, 2011). It isn’t to say we don’t care about healthy living. In fact, most people when asked would answer being happy and healthy is extremely important to them. So why is it so challenging to live differently? There are a lot of answers here, but one of them may simply be habit. Consider how much easier it is to swing past a drive-thru window vs. spending five to 10 minutes in the morning preparing lunch for the afternoon. Or how busy our schedules are in the day that finding time to exercise becomes more of a nuisance than a priority. The point is many of us have developed a tendency towards fast food and other easy to prepare meals and a disposition against exercise. And all of this is important because of the connection our diet and exercise have on cardiovascular, or heart, disease and the alarming rate in which it is climbing
Many readers may be surprised to learn that, according to the CDC, nearly 600,000 deaths occur every year due to heart disease; that roughly 715,000 people suffer from heart attacks annually; and an estimated $108.9 billion spent in “health care services, medications, and lost productivity” for Coronary heart disease cases each year (CDC, 2011).
The connection between living happy and healthy and reducing our personal risk of heart disease is obvious, but as humans we are creatures of habit. Breaking these habits can be stressful and unpleasant at times. That said, developing new habits can also be a lot of fun, especially if one takes time to share their results with a family member or friend. In fact, having a way to stay accountable to goals and objectives is ranked among the best methods for success.
With this in mind let’s discuss three things all of us can do in establishing healthy habits. 1) Eat more fruits and vegetables, 2) exercise for 30 minutes daily, and 3) get an annual wellness exam.
This list isn’t intended to be exhaustive in nature, rather a starting point. After all, if we are going to establish a habit of healthy living, we need to start somewhere.
Replacing snack foods with an apple or salad then, is a far better way to curb appetites than the sugary quick fixes so easily accessible on the shelves near the grocery store checkout stands. Exercise, while easy to ignore, will do more for helping to reduce and maintain a healthy weight than sitting on the couch. Consider a brisk walk with a family member or friend. The important thing here is individuals find a routine that is comfortable for them and one they feel can be maintained. As mentioned, Annual Wellness Exams are an essential ingredient in maintaining a healthy lifestyle as well. With a health care provider’s help, individuals can confirm good health practices and identify potential risks together. In addition, this partnership can provide another way to maintain motivation towards one’s health goals.
By making small and consistent changes in our lives, like eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting an annual wellness exam, we can find greater happiness and health. The largest payoff however, will be in reducing our personal risk of heart disease and providing an example to those we love to do likewise.
Dr. Michael M. Packer graduated from Ricks College in 1988 and the University of Utah with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1990. He then attended the University of Washington School of Medicine where he graduated in 1994. Dr. Packer then did his residency at John Peter Smith Hospital Family Medicine until 1997.
Dr. Packer was the Chief Resident at John Peter Smith Hospital from 1996 and 1997. After moving to Rexburg Dr. Packer was the Chief of Staff at Madison Memorial Hospital between 2005 and 2006. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians, board certified with American Board of Family Medicine, and certified in Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS), Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), and Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS).
Dr. Packer is married to his wife Shannon and together they have four children. As a family they enjoy swimming, sailing, gardening, and running.
Get to know more about Dr. Packer in this short video interview.