Making Wellness the Goal Baystate Medical Center Physician Offers Tips for Healthy Living

Although the start of the year has come and gone, it’s not too late to adopt some healthy resolutions.

“Make 2011 the year to change certain habits and start eating healthier, exercising more, stressing less, and feeling better about your lifestyle,” said Dr. Orlando Torres, associate medical director of Baystate High Street Health Center Adult Medicine.

According to Torres, making healthy lifestyle choices a top priority this year can quickly put you back on track to a better health and well-being. It can also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and other acute and chronic diseases.

“The key to good health in any age group is education and addressing health literacy at an early age,” Torres said. “We need to adopt an approach where all aspects of the patient are taken into consideration and seen as a whole in order to effectively care for many common and preventable diseases.

“For example,” he continued, “the physical, emotional, occupational, financial, social, and spiritual needs should be taken into consideration when evaluating a patient. Medications are not always the remedy to cure or treat an ailment. The answer is really to prevent the disease in the first place.”

Keeping in mind that education, behavior, and lifestyle modifications can play a key role in feeling better and achieving peace of mind, Torres offers the following tips.

Lose Weight

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine in October 2010 reported that shedding those extra pounds can add years to your life and result in a better quality of life. For example, if you are overweight, losing just 5{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} to 10{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of your weight and keeping it off can immediately lower your risk for developing a variety of diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and some forms of cancer.

But don’t think you can lose all your weight overnight. Remember how long it took you to put it on? The safest way is to lose weight slowly. Make your goals achievable, such as losing five pounds over the course of a month.

“There is no secret to weight loss Cut your calories, eat a balanced diet, and move more. If you have been trying unsuccessfully to lose those pounds, and it has reached the point where your weight is affecting your health, then your doctor may recommend bariatric surgery,” said Torres.

Eat Right

Eliminate high-calorie, low-nutrition side dishes and snacks, such as french fries, chips, and mashed potatoes, and increase your servings of fresh fruits and vegetables (the bright leafy kind are loaded with vitamins and antioxidants) to five a day. Also, eating small meals every three to four hours can help keep your energy level up and prevent hunger. If you’re hungry, then you are more likely to overeat.

In addition, stop drinking sugar-filled sodas and other sugary drinks in favor of diet beverages, unsweetened tea, or green tea. Cut back on saturated fats in favor of the unsaturated variety found in nuts, olive oil, and fish. Limit your visits to fast-food restaurants to once a week, or at least make an effort to select healthy options from the menu.

Finally, don’t skip breakfast. Research shows that those most successful in losing weight do not skip breakfast or eat only once a day. Eating a healthy breakfast will jump-start your metabolism, and if you deprive yourself of food in the morning as a way to lose more weight, you will only eat more at lunchtime and throughout the day.


Exercise is beneficiary in many ways and can add years to your life and prevent disease. Start small by walking or using a stationary bike at a brisk pace for a few minutes a day, and gradually build up to 30 minutes a day (even better one hour). Bring a friend with you to help keep motivated. You’ll feel better after walking, and it will help in losing weight and keeping weight off, as well as warding off problems such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Strength training, both upper and lower body, is also important, especially for women in preventing muscle and bone loss with age. Lift weights or perform other resistance training 20 minutes a day, two to three times per week. Other quick tips include using the stairs instead of taking the elevator or escalator, and parking farther away from your destination to get more steps in.

Drink Right

Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water — at least eight glasses a day — which nourishes cells and detoxifies the body. Watch what you drink and opt for beverages rich in antioxidants, which are anti-aging, anti-inflammatory agents. Examples include pomegranate or cranberry juice and green tea. Dark hot chocolate is also full of antioxidants called flavinoids.

Meanwhile, cut down on alcohol and caffeine because they are dehydrating. Also, drinking too much alcohol can release free radicals — atoms that can attack cells and cause damage — into the body.

Stress Less

Life can be stressful, so make sure to take time out to do the things you enjoy. Try not to over-schedule yourself, and try to spend more time in the community with family and friends. Bringing balance to your mind, body, and soul is very important. Consider trying something new — you’re never too young or too old for a new hobby.

Learning how to manage and filter stress is essential. Try deep-breathing techniques, or go for a walk when you find yourself stressed. Also, keeping an upbeat attitude can influence the way you see things and how you feel, and can help you make the best of stressful circumstances.

The recession has become a huge source of stress for many people. Do your best and think long-term. Budget yourself and spend only what you can afford. This will help you keep out of debt. See a financial counselor if you can’t seem to dig out from under your debt. The financial counselor may cost you money, but the results can repay themselves many times over.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Sleep is essential to maintain good health and mental and emotional functioning, but more than half of all Americans suffer from some form of sleep disorder. Sleep needs depend on many factors, including age. Most healthy adults, however, should be getting anywhere from seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

Chronic sleep loss can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, and a decrease in the immune system’s effectiveness. “Lack of sleep is also a safety concern and can result in drowsy driving or job-related injuries,” said Torres.

Get a Checkup

Prevent health problems by seeing your doctor regularly and catching them at an early stage when they can be treated most easily. Your doctor can help you recognize unhealthy aspects of your lifestyle, recommend proper screenings, and be a great source of advice on how to make the right choices for lifelong health.

“If you haven’t seen your doctor lately for a checkup,” Torres said, “pick up the phone and book an appointment right now.”