NWA Mama Doc: Doctor makes a confession

By Dr. Haley Vo, Mercy physician and mama of 3

I have a confession to make. After 8 years of school, 3 years of post-graduate training, and 3 years of private practice, there’s still something I struggle with each and every day. I have seen the effects of poor lifestyle on people for several years, yet it’s still something that is hard for me. I preach the benefits of good decisions, but I don’t always make them myself.

That’s right, making healthy lifestyle choices doesn’t come easy for me. To remind myself of all the healthy things I should be doing, and hopefully help out a few other moms, I’m jotting down a few recommendations for healthy living.

Let’s start here: exercise. It’s 8 letters. That means it’s a double four-lettered word. It’s hard. I know it is. But it is soooooo important to your health.

Current recommendations by the American Heart Association to stay healthy include 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise for at least 150 minutes each week (30 minutes, 5 days a week). If you’re trying to lose weight, then that number likely needs to be doubled.

As a busy mom of 3, I understand that finding time is difficult. However, I try to remind myself that investing the hours now will hopefully lead to extra years with them later.

Just in case you need a little help on getting motivated to exercise, here are some benefits:

  • Decrease your risk of heart attack and stroke
  • Decrease your risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Decrease your risk of dementia (including Alzheimer’s)
  • Strengthen your bones
  • Improve your mood
  • Helps to improve the symptoms of fibromyalgia

Moving on to diets…. I’m frequently asked about recommendations for how to improve someone’s diet. We live in a world where cheap, highly processed food is available 24 hours a day.

There was a 24-hour McDonald’s and a Taco Bell open till 4 a.m. across the street from one of the hospitals where I trained. I’m embarrassed to guess how many Quarter Pounders with Cheese and 7-Layer burritos I consumed at 3 a.m. Nobody needs that! (disclaimer: This is not a slam against those fast food restaurants. There are healthier choices at both of those establishments. I just never chose them, and I bet I’m not the only one.) Apples just didn’t seem to taste as good in the middle of the night.

Here are some general diet recommendations:

  • Everyone needs 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables, everyday. Do not count juice for more than 1 of those servings.
  • 25-30 grams of fiber daily is a good goal. If you begin reading labels, you’ll learn that is a lofty goal for most.
  • Only 2-3 servings of red meat and/or pork WEEKLY. Yep, that’s right. Most of your protein should be from lean sources.
  • Increase your “good fats”, including omega 3 fatty acids and mono-unsaturated fats. Some good sources of these are fatty fish such as tuna or salmon (fried catfish doesn’t count!), tree nuts, olives, avocados, olive and canola oil, just to name a few.
  • Milk should be skim or 1% for everyone over the age of 2, unless otherwise instructed by your physician.
  • Cut out soft drinks. Just don’t drink them. One here and there won’t hurt you, but really, you don’t need them.

Finally, I hear this all the time: “I have to keep chips and cookies and Little Debbie’s Snacks around because I have kids.” Unless you have willpower greater than 95% of the general population, you will eat them if they are in your pantry. Trust me. Little Debbie’s Holiday Cakes are my kryptonite. I’m salivating just thinking about Christmas Tree Cakes.

Listen closely: Your kids don’t need them either. Really. Even if your children are very small for their age (which is defined as less than the 3rd percentile on the growth chart), they do not need to get extra calories from junk food! I have a whole list of high calorie recipes from Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Christmas Tree Cakes are not on there one time. I checked twice just to be sure.

So that’s my speech, mamas. I hope you find it useful and take at least part of it to heart. After all, your heart is depending on it.

Photo credit: Flickr

To visit with Dr. Vo in person, you can schedule an appointment with her by calling the Mercy Clinic Primary Care Sugar Creek in Bella Vista.  It’s located at 24 Sugar Creek Center and the phone number is 479-876-1414. Same day appointments will be available at the clinic.

If you have a general health question for Dr. Vo, you can email it to mamas@nwaMotherlode.com and she may answer it in a future post.