When it comes to living healthy during Live Healthy Northwest Iowa, sometimes attainable goals are just what the doctor ordered.

Live Healthy Northwest Iowa, an extension of Live Healthy Iowa, started Jan. 11, and runs through March 19.

Dr. Jason Koelewyn, a family practice physician at Sioux Center Health, said that people can notice positive health benefits even with small changes.

“If you work on doing the healthy habits of eating better and exercising, you can have some consistency. You’ll see those benefits whether it’s your joints, blood pressure, overall well-being, or sleeping,” he said.

The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes, or 2.5 hours, of heart-pumping physical activity per week. While that can be a good goal to shoot for, Koelewyn said that even 15 minutes of activity twice a week is better than nothing. It’s ultimately about developing good habits.

“I kind of stress that to a lot of my patients,” he said. “What’s an attainable goal? What’s a realistic goal? So often we say, ‘Hey, I need to lose 20 or 30 pounds.’ Is that even realistic? As soon as you can start doing all those habits, you’ll see that. Obviously, focusing purely on the pounds is not a good idea either because it’s easy to get frustrated.”

Koelewyn said if people start exercising and eating right, the benefits can happen quickly.

“If you’re talking about just overall how you’re feeling, energy or even on your joints, if you start exercising pretty regularly you’re going to start noticing that,” he said.

A lot of people have arthritis or joint issues according to Koelewyn. Motion helps keep joints lubricated.

“Keeping weight down takes some stress off those joints and helps so that you have less chance of having diabetes or high blood pressure,” he said.

Koelewyn said one of the things he checks for is prediabetes. If someone eats anything sugary or simple starches like potatoes, pasta or bread, the body metabolizes it right away into sugar. If someone has prediabetes, their insulin does not work as efficiently to bring their blood sugar, or glucose, down.

“If you overload your system with sugar, then it’s going to be hard to bring that down,” Koelewyn said. “With time, as that progresses in your body, it gets less and less ability to normalize your blood sugar after eating it. Then diabetes is higher risk for heart disease.”

Speaking of sugar, Koelewyn said to watch out for the amount of sugar in sports drinks.

“You look at the amount of sugar in like a Gatorade, it’s deceiving,” he said. “Talking about electrolytes and things like that, which is good for a short time, but if your main staple is sugary sports drinks, you’re going to be consuming a lot more sugar than you realize.”

Vitamins waters or low-calorie drinks are fine, according to Koelewyn, but he said drinking regular water is best.

“You really can’t beat plain, old water,” he said. “It is surprising to me how may people don’t like water or use coffee as their main source. A little bit’s fine, but I practice more of a moderation and have a balance of things.”

Koelewyn said that during the coronavirus pandemic, health is as important as ever. He said there are two things he has noticed with COVID-19.

“Some people are eating more because they’re just not doing as much,” he said. “I saw a diabetic the other day where he’s doing better with diabetes because he’s not going out to eat as much and he’s eating more home-cooked meals.”

Koelewyn added that even though it can be difficult, making positive health changes is important.

“You don’t want to wait until the point when you have diabetes to do that,” he said.

Published by The N’West Iowa REVIEW