Your Healthiest You

Navigating the modern healthcare system

By Jenna Bergen, Emily C. Brown, and Jill Waldbieser

Your debt is growing and your 401(k) is in the dumps. Good health is just about the one thing many of us have going right these days.

But with rising healthcare costs (in 2008, national health expenditures were expected to rise 6.9 percent, two times the rate of inflation) coupled with the current economy (about 1.5 million families lose their homes to foreclosure every year due to unaffordable medical costs) there's never been a better reason to get as healthy as possible. We spoke to physicians throughout Charlotte to find the very best ways to keep you healthy, plus tips on how to navigate your insurance, talk to your doc, and avoid the ER -- all in the name of saving cash and staying healthy. Here's to a better you.

  1. Get screened. Make an appointment for these screenings: hypertension, cholesterol abnormalities, and diabetes. "These are conditions that don't cause symptoms but cause problems that a person would not be aware of unless it's measured," says Thomas Parker, a physician at Parker Internal Medicine.
  2. Assess your weight. If you can't gauge for yourself, visit Need to lose weight? Keep a food journal. A study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that after six months, the average weight loss among nearly 1,700 participants who kept daily food diaries was about 13 pounds. Visit and sign up for The Daily Plate, an easy way to keep track of what you eat.
  3. Switch to whole grains. Beware of buzzwords: just because it says multigrain doesn't mean it's healthful. Look for the first few ingredients to be whole wheat flour, brown rice, rye flour, barley, or oats. Stay away from "enriched," which is often a refined grain in disguise and has been stripped of its nutrients.
  4. Eat breakfast. "Eating breakfast helps regulate our blood sugars and keeps us from feeling ‘starved' later in the day," says Barbara Bapst, a registered dietitian and owner of Carolina Nutrition and Wellness. Consider eggs for breakfast -- in a study in the International Journal of Obesity, adults who consumed two eggs for breakfast lost 65 percent more weight than participants who ate a bagel with the same number of calories.
  5. Eat as a family. A study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that adolescents who participated in regular family meals reported more healthful diets and meal patterns compared to adolescents without regular family meals. "Habits are better caught then taught," says Stephen O'Brien, a pediatrician at Cabarrus Pediatrics.
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