February > Wellness Wise
Make New Habits Permanent
Go For It: Know exactly what you want — reduce LDL cholesterol, quit smoking, get regular physical activity, etc. Work with your loved one and the doctors to identify these goals.
- Make sure they are specific and measurable. Goals should state what needs to happen and by what date. Write them down and review them often.
- Set long-term and short-term goals. Reaching certain goals takes a long time. To stay motivated, be sure to set realistic short-term goals that will lead to your final goal.
- Develop a plan for each goal. Brainstorm strategies or steps to move closer to the goal.
Reward Yourself: When you set goals together, plan a reward for reaching each one. Rewards can be as simple as going to a movie, reading a good book or playing a round of golf. Select small rewards for reaching short-term goals (for example, completing weekly physical activity targets). Plan bigger rewards, such as buying a new piece of furniture, going to visit out-of-town friends or taking a vacation for attaining a long-term goal. Be sure to list a reward when setting each goal.
Track Your Lifestyle Habits: Many people are unaware of how inactive they are, how many grams of saturated fat, trans fat, and milligrams of cholesterol they eat and how their negative thinking triggers negative feelings. Keeping a daily log will show the patterns that contribute to your health risks. Tracking personal habits will help you develop a plan of action specific to your loved one's particular needs. It also helps keep motivation high.
Manage Trigger Events: "The devil made me do it!" Not likely. But there are things in people's lives that may cause them to do certain things without thinking. For example, an open bag of potato chips on the counter may trigger snacking, even though your loved one isn't hungry. Or being tired after a long day at work may trigger you to think that you're too tired to go for a walk after dinner. What triggers one person may not trigger another. The key is to find out what your loved one's triggers are — and then plan ways to avoid or cope with them.
See All Progress as Perfect: Making changes takes time. One way to keep your loved one motivated is to keep records. It's fun to look back and see the progress you've both made. Keep a chart or make a graph for recording changes made in cholesterol and blood pressure levels, minutes of physical activity each day, number of grams of saturated fat, trans fat, and milligrams of cholesterol eaten each day, etc. Put a check mark on the calendar for each day your loved one meets a goal. You can also post a list of major milestones on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror to remind you both of your successes. These may include the first time your loved one walked a mile without stopping, reduced his or her blood pressure level 10 points, started driving again or got dressed without help.
Talk Yourself Into Success: Believe it or not, your loved one maintains an internal conversation all the time. So do you. It's perfectly natural to talk to yourself. It's what you say that's important. In fact, self-talk is critical to changing your lifestyle habits. Look at the examples below. Which person do you think will be more successful in the long run?
Self-Talk Situation: A person gets home too late from work to go for a nightly walk.
"I am so mad that I got home so late. Now I have to miss my walk. I'm never going to get my weight down if I keep missing my walks. This is so hard — I'm not sure I can do it."
"What a day! I'm bummed that I missed my walk tonight, but I got a lot done at the office. I'll just get up earlier tomorrow to fit in an extra walk."
Live Through Lapses: Many people expect change to happen overnight, but people rarely go smoothly from one readiness stage to the next. Your loved one will have good days and bad days. He or she will make some progress and then may slip back a little. This is all part of change. It's a "two steps forward, one step back" process. However, you can help reduce the likelihood of a lapse. For example, you can plan ahead for high-risk situations. Certain people, places, events or situations sometimes trigger a lapse. If you and your loved one can see them coming (such as the holiday season), you can plan ways to avoid them altogether or to minimize their impact. When a lapse happens, don't let your loved one get discouraged (remember the positive self-talk). Learn from the lapse and get back on track as soon as possible.
Preventive Colon Cancer Screening: 100 Percent Covered
Have you added a routine colon exam to your preventive screening checklist? If not, then maybe you should. The UT SELECT Preventive Care Program currently provides 100 percent coverage for preventive colon cancer screening by way of colonoscopy or CT colonography - also know as virtual colonoscopy. This valuable benefit is available to all employees and dependents covered under the UT SELECT medical plan. No copayment or other out of pocket costs are required for preventive screenings with in-network physicians at any in-network facility.
The American Cancer Society estimates more than 106,000 men and women in the United States were diagnosed with colon cancer in 2009, and almost 41,000 new cases of rectal cancer were reported.
Since colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the United States and the second most deadly, it is important to understand different factors that affect your risk of developing the disease and know what you can do to reduce your risk.
Individuals at increased risk for developing colorectal cancer include:
- Men and women age 50 and older
- Individuals who smoke and/or drink alcohol
- Individuals who consume a high-fat diet and processed foods
- Individuals who are physically inactive and/or overweight or obese
- Individuals with a personal or family history of inflammatory bowel disease, colorectal cancer or benign (non cancerous) adenomatous polyps
Reducing your risk is essential to your health. Activities that have been proven to reduce individual risk include the following recommendations:
- Eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day
- Limit daily fat intake to no more than 30 percent of the total calories consumed
- Exercise regularly, at least 30 minutes per day
- Maintain an ideal weight
- Quit smoking and limit alcohol consumption
It is important to know that both prevention and early detection are key factors in reducing your risk for this disease. Colorectal cancer is preventable and highly curable if found in the early stages. You have the ability to address both of these factors directly at little or no cost.
The UT System’s 100 percent coverage of preventive colonoscopy and preventive CT colonography screenings offers an opportunity for covered individuals to have this life-saving procedure at no cost to the UT covered employee, covered and dependent. UT System’s Living Well Health Manager can connect you directly with numerous resources that offer various types of support for incorporating risk reducing behaviors and activities into your regular routine.
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and an opportunity for you to make an important plan regarding your health:
- Know your risks
- Reduce your risks
- Get Screened
For more information about this benefit, contact Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas Customer Service at 866-882-2034.
About UT Systems Office of Employee Benefits- “Living Well: Make it a Priority” Worksite Health & Wellness program was established in 2007 to encourage all employees, retirees and dependents to reach their full potential and maintain the productivity necessary to meet the challenges of work and life. Our goal in providing a variety of programs, tools and resources is to enable you to take charge of your health and to develop your own personal wellness program utilizing all programs and services available through both UT System Institutions and our plan vendors.Visit us at www.LivingWell.utsystem.edu.