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De Parte del Maestro
By Josh Flores

Cuidate (Part 2)

In my last column, I addressed some issues relating to wellness and overall health. There are three areas in which a person should strive to achieve sound health: mind, body, and soul

It is essential that none of these areas are neglected if one truly hopes to be holistically healthy.  The reason being—if one area is not addressed, it will often cause harm to other areas and lead to imbalance in your being. This column will focus on the importance of physical health. 

The dilemma
In U.S. society, Latinos and young people are facing a health crisis. The obesity rate among children and adolescents in the U.S. has hovered around 20 percent in recent years. Essentially, that means that 1 out of every five children in our country is considered obese. 

There are a number of factors that contribute to this problem including: eating habits, lack of exercise, family history, medical illness, stress, depression, and low self-esteem. Of all the factors, only family history and medical illness are things that cannot be changed by the person who is suffering from obesity. Furthermore, only one percent of obesity is caused by medical problems.

What this means is that if you are that person and/or you do not want to become that person, you have the ability to change and/or prevent it.

The solution
According to the Cleveland Clinic, the average youth in the U.S. spends 24 hours a week being physically inactive—mi gente that is an entire day!  Being physically inactive would include watching T.V., playing video games, and using the computer.

With the growing popularity of video games and the personal computer this statistic is sure to increase unless the change is made by young people. I know that video games can be fun. I too enjoy a game of Madden, Call of Duty, or NBA Live, but the reality is…too much of anything is a bad thing. 

I remember when I was growing up, that being in the house was a rare thing; in fact, some of the only times I was in the house was when I was in trouble and couldn’t go outside. Otherwise, my brother and I were always out playing or riding our bikes.

So how can you insure that you are healthy physically?  Two words…get active! 

Being active does not have to mean that you play sports for your school. Being active simply means that you are dedicating at least 30 minutes a day to doing something physical. You do not have to be a world class athlete to be active.  Some activities that you can do to become active include walking, lifting weights, yoga, playing sports, bike riding, and dancing.

Those are just a few things that you can do. But it is important that whatever you do, make sure that something is what you enjoy doing.  Motivation is a huge factor when it comes to making sure that you stay active.  If the activity is something that you enjoy, then the chance that you will continue to do it greatly increases. 

It is important that I emphasize that being physically active does not guarantee that you will develop the body of a Greek god or goddess.  While it is ok to want to be ‘in good shape’, the more important thing is that you feel good about yourself.  Another key element that should be understood about exercise is it is only one part of being physically healthy. 

Diet is important too
Equally important is diet.  For the record, diet does not mean starving yourself—it simply means what you eat.  You can be very active and if you are eating the wrong things then all of your efforts can be nullified.  I know that it can be difficult to eat right and I also know that as a young person you may not have a great deal of control over what is in your home to eat.  What you should know is that many healthy foods are the same price or cheaper than unhealthy ones.

One of the worst things that many young people consume is soda or pop.  It is packed with sugars and calories and does nothing for you health wise.  I never drank a lot of soda but about three years ago I stopped drinking it almost completely. 

The greatest solution is water.  I know it’s not exciting and maybe doesn’t taste as good as soda pop but it is great for you and more importantly your body needs it.  If that is not a good enough reason for you to ease up on your soda consumption then consider this, a recent Harvard study indicated that by drinking an average of one soda a day can increase your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes by 85 percent.

Diabetes is another great health risk facing our community.  Some 2.5 million Latinos in the U.S. have diabetes.  The scary thing about that number is the fact that diabetes rates among Mexican Americans are 110 percent and among Puerto Ricans 120 percent higher than among non-Latino whites. 

More than 10% of Mexican Americans 20 years or older have diabetes.  The bottom line is aunque la comida es muy sabrosa la realidad es que no es muy sana Just because it tastes good does not mean it’s good for you.

There are number of other health risks associated with diabetes including heart disease, high blood pressure, blindness, and kidney disease

Hold up, I almost forgot—you are young and those things only affect viejitos y viejitasThink again!  More young people are developing type 2 diabetes and the more you know about it the better equipped you will be to prevent it.  For more information about what you and your familia can do to become educated about the risks and how to prevent them you can call the National Diabetes Education Program at 1-800-438-5383 or visit their website at www.ndep.nih.gov.

Sleep too!
The final component I want to discuss about being healthy is perhaps the most simple—sleep

I recently polled some of my students (at Waite High School in East Toledo) about how much they slept. The result was that only about 20 percent of them indicated that they slept at least 8 hours a night. This is not good and I know it is generally reflective of young people everywhere. You are in one of the most important growth periods in your life right now…you need your sleep and sleeping in class does not count.

Getting adequate sleep has numerous benefits. Besides just feeling rested and energized, it also helps keep your mind stay alert. In fact, a recent study aired on 60 Minutes a few weeks back actually linked adequate sleep with the ability to remember something better the next day. In addition, lack of sleep may increase the physical signs of aging as well as accelerate mental aging. Some studies have even found that lack of sleep can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Well hopefully this is some positive information that will aid you in achieving a healthy lifestyle and reaping all of the benefits that come with having one. Next column I will address nurturing your soul.

¡Hasta la próxima vez!

I would love to hear from you about my column; please send feedback or let me know if there is something you would like me to write about.  You can e-mail me at [email protected]. ¡Gracias por tu apoyo!





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