“It’s not easy being a human in today’s world,” said Amy Mydral Miller on a Professional Dairy Producers (PDP) Dairy Signal webinar. “As a country, we’re experiencing higher levels of collective stress.”

Elevated stress is one of the main contributors to heart disease. The others are poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle. None of this is news — we’ve known the perils of the American lifestyle for some time — but Miller offered concrete ways to implement changes and mitigate health risks.

Miller shared that rest, exercise, and eating well are three key ways to start adopting a healthier lifestyle.

“Science shows that 7.5 to 8.5 hours of sleep is ideal. Not less, and not more, either,” she said. Finding a way to relax at night before bed can help with this. Deep breathing, reading, or offloading end-of-day worries to a loved one or to a page in a journal can do wonders for preparing the body for quality REM sleep.

You don’t have to go to the gym every day to be healthy, Miller added. Exercise can mean staying active throughout the day: taking periodic walks, if you have a desk job, or, if you’re a farmer, continuing to stay on your feet as much as you can.

The real kicker is diet — “eating patterns,” Miller called it. Intentionally adjusting what we eat feels more infuriating than it should — and for good reason. We’re creatures of habit. We like our routines. There’s nothing wrong with that, Miller said. But if a change needs to happen, it needs to happen.

Start small. Substitute a commonly used food in your household for a version that has less sodium, or, if you want to keep having your Little Debbie snack at noon, add a serving of vegetables at breakfast or supper. It’s about balance — but it’s also about health. If we want results, we’re going to have to be willing to make sacrifices.

Looking for a formula to follow? Miller says consuming five cups of fruits and vegetables a day, two servings of dairy foods a day, a handful of nuts daily, and one to two servings of seafood a week is a worldwide, scientifically assured way of getting the nutrients we need. Also, try limiting your consumption of added sugars, most often found in processed foods. Indeed, dairy farmers, there is good news: full-fat dairy products such as whole foods (yogurt, milk, and cheese) help decrease the risk of heart disease.

At the end of the day, what matters is paying attention to your body and its needs. If you’re already at risk of heart disease, Miller suggested talking to a registered dietician about personalized health plan options.

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2024
February 22, 2024
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