Healthy Living

Q: My New Year’s resolution was to stop smoking, but a couple of months later, I’m back to my old habits. What can I do?

A. Stopping smoking is tough, and it often takes a few times to quit for good. Don’t be discouraged. Make sure you have social support—in a smoking-cessation program from your health plan or from the American Cancer Society. Talk to your doctor about medications (including nicotine gum and Chantix) that support but do not replace your lifestyle effort.
While going “cold turkey” works for some, most people need a combination of personal lifestyle change, social support and medical help. And make it easier on yourself: Avoid social situations where you’re most likely to struggle.

Click Off the Tube;
Increase Your Calorie Burn

Baby steps count when it comes to increasing activity. While we all have our favorite shows, overweight adults who cut their TV viewing in half for just three weeks burned about 120 more calories a day, compared with those who maintained their current viewing habits of 3 to 5 hours a day. That’s about 10 pounds in a year—a big boost to at least maintaining a stable weight.
The activity swap was not to increase activity, but to decrease couch time. Everyday activities burn more calories than watching TV. The healthy message: Just don’t sit there!

Supermarket Savings on Fresh Foods

Healthy eating can be expensive, but you don’t have to be a coupon-clipper to save on nutrient-rich foods in our area markets. Here’s how:

1. Don’t pay for convenience when you can cut up foods in five minutes or less. Forget those pre-cut fruits, veggies, bagged salads and poultry parts; instead, cut up your own vegetables, fruits and even whole chickens.
2. Choose bagged fruits of apples, oranges or pears, which are smaller in size, compared with fruits priced singly per pound. The per- fruit price is reduced, and the serving size is ideal—perfect for one person!
3. Look for in-store specials—not always at the end of the aisles!— especially for chicken and turkey breasts. Separate and freeze some for later use.
4. For summer fruits, like berries and peaches, choose bagged, frozen brands that provide substantial savings and great flavor (picked at the height of ripeness and flash frozen), compared with imported fruits from far away, often picked before they’re ripe, and costly, due to long-distance shipping.

In the News – Menopause and Heart Disease

A recent study from the University of Pittsburgh reported that LDL (think “lousy”) cholesterol measured at the time of the final menstrual period was a strong predictor of heart disease in women.
The results were obtained from a study of 1,000 women, roughly half from the Pittsburgh area. While it is well-documented that an elevated LDL level is a cardiovascular-risk factor, a key study finding was that the onset of menopause (cessation of periods) was an important predictor and not related to a woman’s age at menopause, which can vary by nearly a decade.
Mid-life women should make sure to get regular lab work to help evaluate cardiovascular risk. While hormone-replacement therapy can contribute to a healthy heart, it is controversial, and a discussion with your doctor is a must-do to evaluate your personal risks and benefits.

Dr. Madelyn H. Fernstrom, Ph.D., C.N.S., is the founder and director of UPMC’s Weight Management Center. She is the diet and nutrition editor for NBC’s “Today Show” and is the author of The Runner’s Diet. Also, visit “Health Journal with Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom,” a health and wellness blog at

Categories: Top Doctors