Strength Training: The Secret Weapon to Improving Overall Health for Women

WeightsStrength training has many benefits for women. There is endless research on the positive effects on athletic performance, but more importantly strength training can impact not just athletes, but women of all ages, in many aspects of their life. In my athletic career, strength training has helped me reach my goals, feel confident in my skin, feel strong athletically and mentally, and feel good about my overall health. In my experience as a performance specialist, I’ve found that many female clients and athletes want to avoid strength training because they think they’ll get big bulky muscles. They desire a “toned” body and think the path to that is on cardio machines or in spin class. But, this just isn’t the case. Not only can resistance training help women achieve their physical goals, without the mass they assume comes with strength training, incorporating it into their routine can have countless important benefits to overall health and well-being.

Here are the top 5 reasons why women should strength train:

1. Overall Health Benefits

When women think about strength training, they think about the physical effect it could have on their appearance. What is more important is the long-term impact it can have on their health. Here are some of the health benefits of strength training:

  • Decreased chances of Alzheimer’s and increased cognitive function for those already diagnosed
  • Decreased risk of osteoporosis, or reduces its severity
  • Lowers cholesterol levels (specifically increases HDL and decreases LDL)
  • Decreased risk in cardiovascular disease
  • Reduce PMS symptoms
  • Decreased risk of breast cancer
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Decreased risk for diabetes
  • Decreased chance of colds and illnesses
  • Reduces stress and anxiety

2. Proactive Approach for Injury Prevention

We all have performance goals we have to meet on a daily basis, whether they are achieved in the gym, at work or at home chasing kids. Being stronger helps us perform tasks with more ease and efficiency, which decreases the chances of getting hurt. A nurse who has to help move a patient, a mom picking up her three year old, carrying groceries to your car, slipping on the ice, walking up a flight of stairs – these are all likely scenarios that could cause an injury, but could be avoided simply by being stronger.

3. Enhances Performance of Everyday Tasks

If the tasks mentioned in #2 also tend to tire you out easily, strength training can help with that too. When an individual becomes stronger they are able to perform everyday tasks with more ease and efficiency. Walking up the stairs, playing with kids, moving boxes at work, walking to your car, twisting a lid off a jar, the list goes on and on. If we are stronger we can attack daily tasks with a new found confidence without fear of struggle and failure.

4. Tone Muscles, Decrease Body Fat (clothes fit better!)

Getting stronger does not always equate to muscle mass/bulk. But strength training does increase metabolism. Your body continues to burn calories hours after a strength training session. Strength training will increase muscle mass and decrease body fat, which will give muscles a more defined look. Although weight might not necessarily decrease right away, your clothes should start fitting better and waist measurements should decrease.

5. Positive Psychological Benefits

Strength training has shown to improve psychological well-being and increase positivity with one’s body image. Some of these psychological benefits include:

  • Better sleep quality, which decreases cortisol levels that can impact weight-loss and metabolism
  • Better sleep will also help handle stress more effectively
  • Increases confidence in one’s own ability to perform tasks
  • Improves body image

To learn more about strength training, visit with our performance specialists at Sports Advantage powered by EXOS

JocelyneJocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson is a performance specialist with Altru Advanced Orthopedics. Outside of work and hockey, she enjoys downtime with her husband, dog and family. 

6 Non-Negotiable Rules We Follow To Help Our Clients Achieve Greatness

EXOSWhen leading athletes to greatness, establishing and maintaining an individualized dialogue is of utmost importance. When it comes to achieving goals relative to performance levels, coaches and trainers must maximize the proactive capacity of our clientele by dialing into our coaching mindset. Eminence, or greatness, was never achieved with little effort, or lack of detail. Eminence was achieved with forward thinking, goal setting, creativity, sweat and collaboration to execute a game plan.

At Sports Advantage powered by EXOS, my fellow performance experts and I build a game plan based on these intangibles for each and every athlete and adult client we work with. By building a crafted plan and consistently working off of it, we are able to raise the bar and help our clients reach their greatness. Our team is dedicated to building an environment for our clients in which something bigger can be achieved. This is not just a gym. You are not “getting in a workout” here. We focus on a systematic approach with a coaching mindset that is dedicated to improving health and enriching life. To do so, these five non-negotiable rules must be followed:

  1. Evaluate

The first thing athletes and adults do when they step into our gym is an evaluation. We perform a Sub VO2 Max test to gauge the individual’s fitness level from a more psychological point of view. We perform a functional movement screen, which looks at structural abilities and weaknesses. Weaknesses are further evaluated, tweaking movement, duration and range to make a plan for overcoming that weakness. Sometimes, we find an underlying injury that needs to be addressed, and we refer our clients to the medical experts at Altru Advanced Orthopedics.

  1. Build a Game Plan

We take the information from the client’s evaluation, along with other key indicators that can show progression (i.e. BMI, muscle mass, etc.) and put it into a plan along with the individual’s goals and key points of success.

  1. Execute the Plan

As coaches, we manage the game plan and work to reduce or eliminate deficits. As we train our clients, we refer consistently to this plan and mark progress and milestones along the way. We also coach our clients up. It’s imperative that they understand that we have just as much skin in the game as they do as we work toward their greatness. The success of a coach or trainer is measured by the success of our athletes and clients. At EXOS, we live by this notion.

  1. Emphasize Nutrition

Without proper fuel, full potential for performance cannot be achieved. At Altru’s Sports Advantage, we have a dedicated performance dietitian who works with our clients. Her sole focus is on fueling the body for performance. The nutrition education and information provided is based off of EXOS’ proven nutrition methodologies that professional athletes diligently follow. These are adapted for each client and group that we work with.

  1. Focus on Preparation and Recovery

Proper warm-ups and cool-downs are vital to success. As coaches, we focus on administering care before and after a workout. This might mean extra stretching if the workout requires it, soft tissue work and use of proper tools, such as foam rollers. These steps should not be cookie cutter. We put thought into the preparation for, and recovery after each workout.

  1. Re-evaluate & Re-create

When milestones from an athlete’s game plan are reached, the job is not done. It’s time to re-evaluate, create new thresholds, and hold that individual to new standards. A game plan is meant to evolve, and so are athletes and clients who are aiming for greatness.

These six steps are followed in our gym every day. They are our non-negotiables, and, they can help you, our clients, achieve your performance greatness.

IMG_8749ret_Morando-min (1)Anthony Morando is the performance manager with Altru’s Sports Advantage powered by EXOS. He is a certified strength and conditioning coach with a passion for helping others reach their performance potential.





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5 Things to Know About Your Risk for Prediabetes

700x700_Diabetes-01Are you at risk for prediabetes? People with prediabetes have blood glucose (blood sugar) levels that are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. These individuals are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

  1. Often people with prediabetes have no symptoms. According to CDC, 86 million Americans have prediabetes and 9 out of 10 Americans do not know they have it. Take this quiz to determine your risk for prediabetes.
  1. Type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes can often be prevented by making positive lifestyle choices like eating nutritious foods, developing an exercise routine and working toward a healthy weight. Losing 7% of your body weight (14 pounds for a 200-lb person) can reduce your risk by 58%.
  1. With all the nutrition information (and misinformation) available in the world today, it’s difficult to figure out how to create a healthy lifestyle. Even with proper information, taking action and prioritizing change while maintaining happiness (and stress level) is no easy task.
  1. Altru’s Registered Dietitians are here to help you prevent or manage diabetes. Together, you can learn what changes might help you improve your energy level, feel better and prevent complications down the road. The perfect plan for wellness and prevention is not one you’ll find in a book. It’s the one you’re able to stick to and enjoy for the long run. Creating a plan that works for you—that’s what Altru’s dietitians are all about.
  1. Altru’s Diabetes Center serves patients, families and providers in our region through education, leadership, advocacy and research in diabetes, health promotion and preventive services. Our physicians, nurse practitioners, licensed registered dietitians and certified diabetes educators work as a team to bring lifestyle, medications and current technology together to customize diabetes plans for children, adolescents and adults.

If you could benefit from meeting with a dietitian or with any of the education center staff to prevent diabetes, expand your knowledge or get a fresh start with managing your diabetes, please don’t hesitate to call us at 701.780.1838 or ask your physician for a referral.

John Crist is a Registered Dietitian at Altru Health System. He is especially interested in discussing strategies to create a healthy and positive relationship with food. In his free time, John enjoys experimenting in the kitchen and finding new ways to be active.

Stuff the Bird, Not Yourself | Tips for Feasting Well on Turkey Day

Do you love the feeling of being too full to stand up and too tired to keep your eyes open after Thanksgiving dinner? If so, this article is not for you. If you prefer feeling comfortable, don’t be a turkey; use the following suggestions to help you do less of the gobble gobble and make sure the bird is the only thing getting stuffed.

Thanksgiving Infographic-01

Salad is a great first course. The focus of a healthy salad is vegetables—accents such as cheese, croutons, bacon bits, nuts, seeds, olives and dressing should be sprinkled rather than poured on top. To use less dressing while maximizing flavor, keep dressing on the side and dip your fork in it before each bite. Taking large servings of salad and other vegetables as well as a tall glass of water will help to fill your stomach so you can be satisfied with less of the meats, starches, casseroles and desserts. Remember, fresh and frozen veggies aren’t loaded with sodium like canned vegetables, and often taste fresher too.

Then it’s on to the main event. Trimming calories from your family’s favorites is a smart way to eat what you love without sacrificing taste.

Interested in cutting some fat? Opt for light turkey meat instead of the dark meat to forgo six grams of fat from a four-ounce serving. Skim the top layer of fat off of your drippings before making them into gravy; all that solid stuff is saturated fat. Use 1% or 0% plain yogurt for dishes that call for butter, sour cream, cream soup or cream cheese. In baked goods, replace half of the oil or butter cup for cup with applesauce, mashed bananas or pumpkin puree (my favorite).

How about cutting carbs? You can reduce the amount of sugar in dessert recipes by ½ to ⅓ without anyone noticing, or use a granulated sugar substitute in place of half the sugar. To boost fiber in baked goods, replace half of the flour with 100% whole wheat flour. Try mashing steamed cauliflower instead of potatoes to get one quarter of the calories and quadruple the antioxidants vitamin C and folate. Instead of topping your sweet potatoes with marshmallows, you can roast sweet potato wedges to enhance their sweetness. If you prefer them mashed, mix in a little orange or lemon juice and cayenne pepper to add a tangy kick without the refined sugar. For a healthier stuffing, use 100% whole wheat bread and emphasize veggies like mushrooms, carrots, onions, celery and spinach.

The above suggestions are tasty ways to improve the health of your holiday meal, but you can still have too much of a good thing! To keep yourself from overeating, leave the table when you’ve finished and move to a food-free room. Tell everyone to bring storage containers and box the food up after everyone has finished eating. And remember, the more food you save, the less you have to cook next week.

What can you do to leave the table feeling good this Turkey Day? Get together with a supportive friend or family member and make a plan that everyone can be thankful for.

Crist, JohnJohn Crist is a Registered Dietitian at Altru Health System. He is especially interested in discussing strategies to create a healthy and positive relationship with food. In his free time, John enjoys experimenting in the kitchen and finding new ways to be active.

No Pain No Gain: Why You Should Add Strength Training to Your Exercise Routine

Attention cardio queens (and kings) everywhere: cardio works well at helping people shed excess weight, but it isn’t the only answer. In fact, doing too much cardiovascular exercise can hinder weight loss efforts. I, too, once thought cardio was the only way to trim down, get healthy and feel good. Well, I was so wrong!

450x450_Strength Training InfoCardiovascular exercise is an important component of weight loss, and it does have its benefits. It gets your blood pumping through your arteries at a higher pace than normal, preventing the plaque that leads to heart problems from settling in your arteries. Since cardio requires energy from your body, it burns calories.

However, it’s strength training that will help you lose weight and see results that last. Here’s the deal: once your body loses a certain amount of body fat, it will come to a halt in order to preserve homeostasis (AKA: a comfortable place for your body to stay). Once you have burned off a certain amount of body fat with cardio, your body will start to burn muscle in addition to fat.

In order to prevent a weight loss plateau and maintain your lean muscle mass, you will need to incorporate strength training into your routine. Benefits of strength training include:

  • Builds muscle mass, which will in turn build strength and prevent future injuries (and adds tone to your body).
  • Adds metabolically active tissue to your body, meaning it uses energy to survive. With every pound of muscle you build, you are burning more calories when you are at rest.
  • Improves bone density and prevents osteoporosis, which is a common problem for many men and women as they age.

I often get asked by women if strength training will make them big, but women don’t have the testosterone to bulk up like men do. It’s not hormonally possible for a woman to get bulky muscles like a man.

A Note on Nutrition
What you’re eating affects this whole equation. When you are cutting calories, you will most likely lose muscle mass along with any fat you lose. This may cause your metabolism to slow down, resulting in not losing weight as fast as you would like or hitting a plateau. By building lean muscle, you are more likely to keep burning calories long term.

As you continue to build up your endurance and lift heavier weights, you will continue to add more lean muscle mass. This, in turn, will burn more calories during the day. Make sure you are eating enough to support new muscle growth.

Getting Started
Start any weight training program slowly. Lifting too much too fast can do more harm than good. Seek advice from experts at Sports Advantage powered by EXOS.

Strength training is awesome, but it should not replace your cardio program. Get on a program that consists of both cardiovascular and strength training for optimal health benefits. 

(This article was adapted from an article written for Dashing Dish.)

Emily SpicerEmily Spicer is a health and wellness specialist at Altru Health System. With a positive approach to overall wellness, she inspires people to take control of their lives through a focused commitment toward better health and to make that choice a habitual and natural one. In her free time, Emily enjoys a good workout, playing tennis and spending time with her family and friends.

Snoring: Annoyance or Warning Sign?

450x450_SnoringIs your nighttime nuisance merely a nagging sound, or is it harming your heart? Regular snoring may keep your spouse awake at night. However, your partner could be the one to alert you to a sleep condition called sleep apnea, where you stop breathing for up to ten seconds multiple times a night. Approximately 18 million people suffer from sleep apnea and could be at risk for serious heart conditions and not even know it.

“Sleep apnea goes undiagnosed in many cases,” says Mikhail Kirnus, MD, FACC, cardiologist with Altru Health System. “It causes people to stop breathing in their sleep due to airway obstruction, which makes the body feel like it’s lacking oxygen and carbon dioxide is building up.”

Someone who has sleep apnea could stop breathing briefly at least 40 times in an eight-hour sleep cycle. During these episodes, the flow of oxygen to the brain and bloodstream stops.

“Sleep apnea has been linked to hypertension, coronary artery disease, atrial fibrillation and even heart attacks,” says Arvind Bansal, MD, pulmonary critical care and sleep medicine physician with Altru. “Heart failure is another condition often associated with sleep apnea, because people with sleep apnea often have low oxygen levels at night, which impacts heart function and raises the risk of congestive heart failure.”

Other warning signs of sleep apnea include feeling tired during the daytime, difficulty focusing on work and problems staying awake while driving, particularly during long-distance commutes.

“Sleep apnea and snoring are common problems, but they are underdiagnosed,” Dr. Bansal says. “Talking with your physician if you have any warning signs, then getting tested, can help you be proactive and lower your risk.”

Sleep Soundly
When working to diagnose sleep apnea, doctors will often prescribe a sleep study. During a sleep study, the patient is monitored overnight for functions such as heart rate, leg movements and—most importantly for sleep apnea patients—breathing.

“We offer free sleep screenings the third Thursday of every month to help people determine their risk for sleep apnea,” says Sheila Thompson, CCSH, RPSGT, Altru’s Sleep Center. “We ask a series of questions about level of sleepiness and whether or not the patient snores, and we take measurements for body mass index and neck size.” Sheila suggests anyone concerned about sleep apnea or other sleep disorders attend one of the screenings.

“Raising awareness of the condition itself, as well as the associated major health risks, is one of our main goals,” Sheila says. “Sleep is necessary to be healthy, and we can help.”

Find details on free sleep screens at

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What’s for Lunch? Healthy, Packable Meals for School and Work

When you’re on the go, pack lunches and snacks filled with the fuel your body needs to feel good.

The key to nutrition is balance. When packing food to take to school or work, choose a variety of foods filled with fiber, healthy fats and protein to keep you satisfied.

Peanut butter is a healthy and filling spread for sandwiches, fruits or vegetables and will stay delicious throughout the day. Enjoy this lunchbox favorite with a fresh banana for an extra punch of potassium or on apple slices to add fiber to your snack or lunch. Remember to choose natural versions of peanut butter that are low in sodium, sugar and saturated fat.

Salad is an excellent choice for lunch. But not all salads are created equal!

  • First, make sure your salad is topped with vegetables much more so than calorie-dense add-ons like cheese, olives, croutons, nuts and dressing. The latter are healthy in moderation but in combination or in large quantities they can turn a light salad into a heavy meal. Pick your two favorites and sprinkle rather than pour them on.
  • Protein is crucial to stave off the afternoon munchies. Choose a lean piece of meat, hard-boiled eggs or low-fat cottage cheese to keep you satisfied.
  • And don’t forget carbs: choosing a healthy source at mealtimes may prevent cravings for sweets later on. Add peas, beans, corn or whole grains to your salad or grab some fruit for a sweet ending.

Good news: your lunch doesn’t have to impress anyone. For days when time is tight, keep nutritious ready-to-go foods stocked in your fridge. Low-fat dairy, a serving of fresh or frozen fruit or whole grain crackers, and raw veggies don’t make a gourmet meal, but they sure are tasty and filling. And did you know plain yogurt makes a great veggie dip? Add curry powder or freeze dried dill and dip cucumbers, celery or carrots.

Planning ahead makes the mornings much less stressful. Buy and cook an extra serving of protein the night before, or cook a large batch of meat, eggs or tofu on the weekends in preparation for weekday lunches. Potatoes and whole grain breads are shelf-stable, and frozen veggies last for months, so make it easy on yourself and stock up! Keep an olive/vegetable oil spray at the office so you can liven up each bite of potato and steamed veggie while staying portion-smart.


Hungry for more tips? Visit

Crist, JohnJohn Crist is a Registered Dietitian at Altru Health System. He is especially interested in discussing strategies to create a healthy and positive relationship with food. In his free time, John enjoys experimenting in the kitchen and finding new ways to be active.

Squash Your Hunger this Fall – Fill Up, Buttercup

Winter squash is one of my favorite vegetables. It’s full of fiber, low in calories and fills you up. Squash can be used in a variety of ways—as a savory side, a base for soups, a low-calorie substitute for butter in baking, a topping for salads and burritos, and even a sweet ending to your meal.

Best of all, squash keeps us healthy. In addition to its high fiber content, squash provides all the vitamin A you need in a day in just a half-cup serving. It’s also an excellent source of iron and a good source of potassium.

Here are three easy meal ideas using three different forms of squash: fresh, frozen and canned.

For fresh winter squash, my go-to is buttercup. It has a wonderfully creamy texture, and the skin is so thin that I don’t even peel it before cooking (or eating).

To roast this beautiful squash, rinse, chop in half and scoop out the seeds. If you’re roasting it alone, you can simply brush the two halves with oil and sprinkle with seasonings (my favorite combo is cinnamon and salt). If you’d like to roast more vegetables with it (I’d recommend beets, turnips, rutabagas and/or parsnips), chop all your veggies into equal sizes and spray with oil to cover evenly. Then roast in a 400-degree oven for 30-40 minutes (diced squash will need less time than halved). Serve with a lean piece of meat for a balanced and satisfying meal.


Frozen butternut squash is now relatively common in the freezer section, and takes all the prep work out of enjoying squash! You’ll be surprised at how decadent this Butternut Squash Soup recipe is; the squash base provides a rich golden color and tastes like sugar and cream. This soup pairs perfectly with a grilled chicken salad.

Butternut squash

Pumpkin soupChili is on the top of my list for fall cooking, and my absolute favorite is this pumpkin chili.  Canned pumpkin is the exception to canned foods: there is no added sugar or salt. The orange-tinted chili and black beans provide the holiday colors naturally, while traditional chili spices mixed with pumpkin pie spices blend spicy and sweet on your tongue.

Pro tip: if you haven’t heard, Greek yogurt is the new sour cream. With 12 grams of protein in a half-cup, it turns this tasty chili into a stick-to-your-ribs favorite.

Crist, JohnJohn Crist is a Registered Dietitian at Altru Health System. He is especially interested in discussing strategies to create a healthy and positive relationship with food. In his free time, John enjoys experimenting in the kitchen and finding new ways to be active.

The Best Shot is the Flu Shot


Most years, the flu vaccine works quite well. Other years, it is not as effective as we hope. Either way, influenza is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Your best shot at staying healthy during flu season is to get the flu shot. Every flu season varies, and influenza can affect people differently. Even healthy people can get sick from the flu and spread it to others. Protecting yourself with a flu shot helps to keep the flu from harming you, and from spreading in the community and at home.

Who should get the Flu Shot?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that starting at age 6 months; everyone should get the flu vaccine each year. Vaccination is especially important for people who are prone to serious or deadly complications from the flu. This group includes young children, pregnant women, older adults, and people with chronic health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and asthma.

If you have a baby less than 6 months old, your flu shot is their only protection because babies younger than 6 months cannot receive a flu shot. Encourage others who will be in contact with the baby, such as siblings, grandparents and day care providers, to be vaccinated for influenza.

What are my vaccination options?
At Altru, two types of vaccine are used: the flu shot and the nasal spray. The flu shot is given by needle, made of inactive or killed flu virus and approved for use in healthy people older than 6 months and people with chronic health conditions. The nasal spray is made with weakened live flu virus and given with a mist sprayed into your nose. The nasal spray is approved for healthy people between the ages of 2 and 49, with the exception of pregnant women. Both the flu shot and nasal spray protect against the same four virus strains. Altru also has a high-dose vaccine for persons over 65 years old, designed to better protect people as their immune system weakens with age.

Will it work this year?
If you are concerned that the vaccine doesn’t seem to work as well some years compared to others, keep in mind flu viruses are constantly changing. Skepticism about the flu vaccine’s effectiveness is understandable, but is not a good reason to skip it. Each year, a new vaccine is created to protect against the four strains predicted to circulate. Some years the “flu forecast” from experts is good and the vaccine is quite effective. Other years it is a race with no finish line for the experts. When working to determine the most prominent strains, their final choice may not encompass as many strains as desired, and in turn the vaccines are not as effective as they hoped. This work is made even more challenging because the virus strains change from year to year (which is one of the reasons you need to get the shot each year). In years like 2014-15 where there was a significant, unpredictable change (called antigenic drift) more serious disease and even hospitalizations can occur.

Vaccine Side Effects
Many question if the flu vaccine can give you the flu. The answer is no. While the flu vaccine cannot give you the flu, there are side effects that may be associated with getting a flu shot or the nasal spray flu vaccine. These side effects are usually mild and short-lasting, especially when compared with symptoms of a bad case of influenza. The minor side effects of the flu shot include soreness, redness or swelling where the shot is given, low grade fever, and body aches. Side effects associated with the nasal spray include runny nose, wheezing, headache, vomiting, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, and fever.

When should I get the vaccine?
You should try to get vaccinated for flu as soon as vaccine is available. It takes approximately two weeks for the antibodies to develop in the body after vaccination takes place; therefore getting vaccinated early will keep you protected before influenza begins spreading in your community.  Flu season usually peaks in January or February, but it can occur as early as November and as late as May. Altru offers flu shot clinics beginning in October.

As flu season approaches, in addition to getting the flu shot, follow these common precautions to avoid the flu.


Remember, the best shot at staying healthy during flu season is to get the flu shot. Flu shot locations can be found here >>

Shannon HansenShannon Hansen graduated from UND in 1980 with a BS in Medical Technology.  She has been an Infection Control Coordinator since 1995 and was Certified in Infection Control in 1997.  Shannon supported Altru’s decision to make influenza vaccination a condition of employment.

5 Things Every 40-Year-Old Should Know About Their Health

As the saying goes, once you turn 40 you are considered “over the hill”. With this milestone, things tend to change. Your hair may get a little more gray, you may grab for reading glasses more often, and you might feel like your energy and ability to “bounce back” is reduced. Reaching your forties tends to bring up some of the health concerns you may have ignored in your younger years. As you cruise through your 20’s and 30’s, people often don’t take the time to check-in with their primary provider or keep tabs on their important health factors, such as blood pressure. Now that you’ve crossed the bridge into your forties, consider how you can act now to prevent disease and keep yourself healthy long into your golden years.

To help you get you started on your path to prevention, we asked Dr. Casey Ryan, internal medicine physician and prevention specialist with Altru, to share the five things you should know about your health at 40 and why.

  1. Your Blood Pressure
    Blood pressure is an important health factor to consistently monitor. Maintaining a normal blood pressure will help to prevent heart and kidney conditions, and improve longevity. It’s important to have regular visits with your primary care provider to stay on top of it. Generally, your provider will determine your blood pressure based on multiple tests over time rather than in a single visit. If your numbers read high, meaning you are either at risk for or have hypertension, your provider may recommend weight loss and reducing sodium intake to help lower your blood pressure. If you are in the normal range, it’s important to live a generally healthy life, with a diet high in fruits and vegetables and at least 30 minutes of activity five days a week to maintain normal blood pressure. To understand the specifics of blood pressure readings, refer to this chart from Mayo Clinic.
  1. Ideal Body Weight and BMI.
    Keeping tabs on your height, weight, ideal body weight and BMI will help you stay on a healthy path. Though regular dates with your scale may not always be appealing, it’s important to have a good feel for these numbers. Having a normal BMI and body weight are vital to your long-term health. Being within 10 percent of your ideal weight decreases your blood pressure, lowers your risk for developing diabetes and reduces risk for arthritis of the hips and knees. You can easily track your BMI weight on your own using this BMI calculator.
  1. Lifestyle Choices
    Do you wear a seat belt? Do you drink too much? Do you drink and drive? Do you text and drive?  These risky behaviors can affect your overall health and life span. Excessive drinking can lead to disease of the liver and contribute to other preventable conditions such as heart disease and obesity. On top of that, excessive drinking leads to behaviors, such as drinking and driving, that put you at risk for injuries and accidental death. Proper car safety including wearing a seat belt, avoiding distractions such as texting and being safe on the road can prevent car accidents and improve your likelihood of a long life. It is important to assess your lifestyle choices when thinking about how to live the longest, fullest life possible.
  1. Tobacco Use
    By now you’ve heard that tobacco is flat out not good for you.  Smoking can cause lung cancer and smokeless tobacco can cause cancer of the throat and mouth. The good news for those who use tobacco is that it’s not too late to quit and see health improvements. Quitting tobacco can reduce risk for heart disease after 1- 2 years, reduce the risk of associated cancers, and in recent studies, shortness of breath and COPD related conditions stopped progressing after tobacco use ended. So, if you used tobacco in your younger years, now is the time to kick the habit and get on the path to a healthy tomorrow.
  1. Family History
    Many diseases are tied to our genes. Understanding the diseases your parents and grandparents faced, along with their lifespan can help you to understand what your future may hold. If you learn that your grandfather and father both suffered from heart disease, you can use this knowledge to pay close attention to habits that affect heart health. If your grandmother had breast cancer, you may consider genetic testing to see if you are at risk for this disease. Take a little time to dig into your family’s health picture and share this information with your primary provider. It will help the two of you to determine the best prevention plan for you.

The secret to a long and healthy life is not really a secret after all. Eat well, stay active, avoid bad habits and stay in touch with your doctor.  Ensure that you have a good read on what your body is trying to tell you about your health and follow it. After all, no one knows you better than you do. Cheers to your next 40 years.

Learn more about how you can prevent disease through one of Dr. Ryan’s upcoming presentations – Prevention 101 and Prevention 202. Or, schedule an appointment for the Prevention Clinic and receive your individualized health recommendations and prevention plan.

Ryan, Casey 4CCasey Ryan, MD, is an endocrinology and internal medicine physician at Altru. He also focuses his time on preventive care through his work at the Sanny & Jerry Ryan Center for Prevention & Genetics. A Grand Forks native, Dr. Ryan is committed to the health of his community. He is an avid runner and roller blader, participating in several racing events each year.