~ Add Years to Your Life with Better Habits

Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News, 07-19-06

Jul. 19--Dr. Kimberly Lansing knows how you can add years and quality to your life.

Lansing, a Gundersen Lutheran family medicine physician, doesn't have a magic pill or potion. But she knows from research that lifestyle behaviors have much to do with one's longevity.

During her examinations, Lansing assesses smoking and obesity, which can take years off your life. She said smoking increases one's risk for cancer, heart disease and other medical conditions, and obesity can be responsible for 30 diseases.

"People don't understand that they can add quality of years to their life by simply not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight," Lansing said. "It seems simple, but it's easier to say, tougher to do."

Also, Lansing talks to her patients about exercise and a healthy diet.

"Those two things can make the biggest difference in people's lives," she said. "When I ask about them, it gives me a chance to talk about strategies, and that little changes will add up to a healthier lifestyle."

Lansing said alcohol abuse can take away years of life, and irresponsible drinking leads to thousands of accidental deaths each year.

"We always joke if it were not for cigarettes and alcohol, we'd be out of business," she said.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, how you live accounts for more than half of the reasons for illness and death.

Dr. David Rushlow, a Franciscan Skemp family medicine physician, said he stresses physical activity, which can improve health and make people feel better.

"The first step is to just get off the couch and walk," Rushlow said. "Even with minimal activity, there can be gains. Really try to get 30 to 40 minutes of activity throughout the day."

He said people often don't think about what they eat because they want to eat what gives them pleasure.

"They don't think about what they put in their mouths, and they've heard the message of healthy eating and exercise so many times that they are numb to it," Rushlow said.

"They want the quick fix, what makes them happy now," he said. "But there's very good evidence that doing some simple things can improve the quality of their lives and impact longevity."

Rushlow said regular screenings play a role in adding years to your life. People often are living longer because their cancers and other medical conditions were diagnosed early, he said.

Terry Rindfleisch can be reached at trindfleisch@lacrossetribune.com or (608) 791-8227.

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