James Marcum, M.D., recently challenged the members of the Kiwanis Club of Cleveland to make three simple changes in their daily lives in an effort to improve their health.
Number one: stay hydrated.
Number two: stay well rested.
Number three: stay active.
“[The first] is a problem that 70 percent of people have to some degree. That is the problem of dehydration,” said Dr. Marcum, a cardiologist affiliated with the Chattanooga Heart Institute. “Did you know that 70 percent of our body is made up of water? Every chemical reaction in our body depends on water.”
He said water makes up 80 to 90 percent of the brain. Water also thins out the blood, reduces inflammation throughout the body and affects every cell and chemical reaction. Sick people who visit the emergency room are first checked to make sure they have enough water and air.
Marcum believes drinking more water is the first step toward good health. Studies prove staying hydrated improves the entire chemistry of the body.
He suggested a simple formula to determine how much water each individual should drink: weight divided by two. The resulting number is how many ounces of water a person should drink each day. An individual who weighs 200 pounds would drink 100 ounces of water daily, he said.
Drinks like coffee, soda and juice do not substitute for water.
“Some of them help hydrate to some degree, but people who drink sweet tea for instance, that actually has sweet tea in it which can dehydrate you and worsen the effects of water,” Marcum said. “I don’t tell people what they can’t do. I do tell people what we can do today to improve our chemistry is concentrate on drinking water.”
He said one of the reasons 7 in 10 adults and children in America are sick is because they are not drinking enough water. Another reason could be sleep deprivation.
“If I broke my arm, I would put it in a cast and let it heal. I would not keep using that arm,” Marcum said. “Inherently, our minds and our bodies were designed to have a certain amount of rest,” though many people do not get the needed amount, he said.
He admitted technology, from the light bulb to cellphones, makes it difficult for people to wind down at night. But health problems can develop when the body does not receive adequate rest to handle emotional, mental and physical stress. The “solution” for health problems is often medicinal, though that can lead to further problems.
“If they are not sleeping, maybe we should give them a sleeping pill. If they don’t have energy in the morning, maybe we should give them a stimulant,” Marcum said. “It just doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
He encouraged his audience members to not only get more rest at night, but to take a break throughout the week. This could be a vacation to break the body and mind out of the daily grind. It could also be as simple as an hourlong break for relaxation.
He pointed out prisoners are often forced into sleep deprivation because it causes them to break down.
“We know that when people who do not get enough sleep, their immune system breaks down. They get more inflammation,” Marcum said. “How do we make this more applicable in the real world? Well, we don’t get to good health by going from A to Z. We get there one little step at a time.”
So if ‘A’ is drinking more water and ‘B’ is getting more rest, then ‘C’ according to Marcum, is incorporating movement on a daily basis.
“Notice I do not say exercise. I have learned ‘exercise’ scares some people ... but movement, most people can say, ‘Yeah, that is something I can do,’” he said. “When you are changing a culture or a person, you have to work with them. You do not change everything in one day.”
He suggested people attempt to stand up and take a couple of steps around every hour. This is the base for what Marcum described as ‘movement.’ He said this action will lower the risk of heart failure by 54 percent.
“What happens is the veins in our legs — guess what? The blood just sits there, and it stagnates. You put pressure on your lower back, which raises the risk of having back problems, and when you don’t move, your whole insulin and chemistry changes inside,” he said. “Just doing something as simple as that improves your prognosis more than a lot of pills do.”
He thanked the Kiwanis Club of Cleveland for the work it completes for both the community and at an international level.