March Into Health

The month of March is definitely known for March Madness and centers around college basketball.  At my house in the month of March you will usually find the entire family creating their own brackets in hopes of having the most wins and eventually be the one who picks the winner of the NCAA Tournament.  We all have our favorite team and none of us usually has the same Final Four.  While all the basketball is fun during the month of March it is, also, the month known as “March Into Health” month.  There are many health days celebrated in March.  All you have to do is google “national health days in March” and you will see a different one for almost every day.

  In the last few weeks there have been many things happen making me want to take a serious look at health issues and share that information.  The fast pace of life and instant gratification life we lead, I believe, are costing us our health.  Society has gone away from the home cooked meal to fast food, take-out, and processed food.  Even when a meal is home cooked it usually is only semi-homemade.  The cost?  Our health.  I have to be honest I am as guilty as anyone of leaning on their convenience.

  One concern of late is visceral fat. It is different from subcutaneous fat which is the fat just under the skin that none of us likes to see on ourselves. Visceral fat, on the other hand, is found around the internal organs such as the liver, stomach, gall bladder, spleen, etc. and can’t be seen. Visceral fat releases inflammatory substance called cytokines which can damage your organs leaving you at risk for many health issues.  Some of these include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart  disease, stroke, insulin sensitivity, diabetes, cancer, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, and even Alzheimer’s Disease. 

  There is only one way to know for sure how much visceral fat you may have and that is to have a CT scan.  However, there are scales that can estimate your level and you can, also, use your waist circumference to estimate.  For women a waist circumference of 35 inches and for men 40 inches or more is a good indicator that you may have high amounts of visceral fat and are at a higher risk for the above health problems.

  The good news is that visceral fat disappears twice as fast as subcutaneous fat.  By changing you eating and exercise habits you can make big strides to improving your health.  Reducing stress and getting the proper amount of sleep can, also, help.

   Daily exercise is important to decrease body fat.  Exercise should be high intensity.  Interval training is a great way to increase the intensity in your exercise.  Strength training is important as well.  Strength training will increase resting metabolism.  A higher resting metabolism means you will burn more calories at rest and this will help with reducing fat. 

   As far as your diet goes you should be doing your best to eat as healthy as possible.  Know your numbers and by this I mean know your Basal Metabolism Rate (amount of calories your body burns in a day without activity) and know what macronutrient splits ( % of protein, fat, carbohydrate) you should be eating.  There are formulas out there to help with this or if you can’t figure it out you can always contact a nutrition specialist and they can help you.  Your diet should include plenty of protein and fiber rich foods and your fat and carbohydrate intake should be lower.  Be sure your diet is balanced and full of veggies and fruits.

  Finally, sleep and stress both can effect your levels of visceral fat.  You should be getting more than 5 hours of sleep and no more than 9 hours.  For stress try meditation and deep breathing exercises such as yoga.  Spend less time on your smart devices or in front of television. 

Making a few changes in your lifestyle can immediately start helping to reduce levels of visceral fat and get you headed towards a healthier you.  Make it a priority this month to March to Health!  Oh and don’t forget to do your bracket as the NCAA tournament is beginning.  It’s a fun way to enjoy the games.

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