The Importance of Health
By: Christina Thomas, Director, Health and Wellness
The COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything our members have faced before and as part of our mission, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi remains committed to helping Mississippians be healthy along their wellness journey. Part of that commitment is to ensure our members understand the important role health and wellness play in helping combat this pandemic.
For Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Fully Insured and Self-Insured Members, there is a prevalence of chronic conditions among COVID-19 diagnosed patients. 93 percent of the patients had a chronic health problem. Among the most prevalent conditions were hypertension (42.6%), cholesterol (26%) and diabetes (14.9%).
These conditions are preventable and can be avoided all together with lifestyle practices that can reduce the health risks commonly associated with these conditions.
While there is currently no vaccine available to guard against COVID-19, there is information indicating that individuals who practice healthy habits related to a healthy diet, regular exercise and good stress management practices, appear to have responded in a more positive manner than those with underlying medical conditions like the ones previously noted. This makes sense because healthy behaviors related to exercise, nutrition and adequate sleep all boost the immune system.
Why is a healthy immune system important? A healthy immune system is the human body's defense force. When the body detects a foreign intruder such as a virus, infections are likely and can affect various organs or parts of the body in different ways. An individual with a healthy immune system has a much better chance of fighting off infection and tends to recover more easily than one with a comprised immune system.
According to the National Institutes of Health, conditions like obesity and its related metabolic conditions (such as high blood pressure and diabetes) compromise the immune system because they are associated with disturbances that cause tissue stress and dysfunction and chronic inflammation in the body.
So what can you do to help boost your immune system? The answer continues to be the same: make daily choices that support a healthy diet, a regular exercise program, adequate sleep, avoid using tobacco and drinking excess alcohol and routinely check in with your primary care doctor.
Let's explore a few of these choices in more detail:
The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association recently released new findings that support the positive impacts of regular exercise. The study conducted by the Association indicated that members who engaged in consistent exercise saw an 8% reduction in the impact of conditions that could lower their overall health. Regular exercise over a sustained period of time has a measurable and positive impact not only on physical and mental health but also on cost savings related to overall healthcare costs.
Here is a general guide from the American College of Sports Medicine for you to follow when thinking about physical activity:
Aim for 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. Simply put, try to exercise for at least 30 minutes five days per week. Don't have 30 minutes? No worries, try 3 bouts of 10 minutes each per day! Examples of physical activity include walking, jogging, biking, swimming, a home or gym workout, etc.
A diet that consists of mostly whole and minimally processed foods is recommended for most adults. Here is a general guide for you to consider:
- Choose lean meats such as chicken and fish. Avoid processed meats like hot dogs, sausage and bacon.
- Focus on fruits and vegetables and try to get in five servings per day.
- Avoid fried and processed foods as much as possible as they tend to be high in sugar, fat, sodium and many additives and preservatives.
- Consider low fat dairy when consuming milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products.
- Choose whole grains like brown rice, oatmeal and whole wheat breads and pastas.
- Limit sugary drinks like sodas, iced tea, and iced coffees.
- Set a goal to drink more water! A reasonable goal is to start small and work up to about 8, 8 oz. glasses of water each day.
Most Americans report getting less than the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep. Getting adequate sleep is critical for our physical and mental health. Poor sleep is associated with elevated low-grade inflammation and reduced immune function. Here are a few tips for you to consider at bedtime:
- Get into a routine and try to establish a set bedtime.
- Avoid bright lights (blue lights) and screens 2 hours before bedtime. Most of us crawl in bed with our smart phones and computers or watch TV-- challenge yourself and make a plan to break this habit.
- Keep the space where you sleep cool.
- Avoid caffeine within 6 hours of bedtime. Avoid using alcohol as a sleep aid. Like caffeine, alcohol can act as a stimulant and reduce sleep quality.
Getting started does not have to be hard. Set a goal to just start doing something. One thing! See how you do and pay attention to how you feel. Add something else. Before long, you will be on your way to a healthier you! That is what living well is all about.
To learn more about your health risks, schedule a wellness visit with your Blue Primary Care provider and discuss the health goals that are right for you.
Know that we are here to help. For more wellness information visit our website at www.bcbsms.com or call our Customer Service line at 1- 800-932-7620 and ask to speak to one of our Blue Wellness Coaches.
Live Healthy! Live Well!