How to Talk to Your Doctor About Lifestyle Issues

It’s okay to fall off the health-and-fitness bandwagon now and then. But frequently skimping on exercising, boozing it up and smoking can take a serious toll on your health and your looks.

According to the American Heart Association, women can have seven drinks weekly (one per day—not seven all at once!). You should also aim to break a sweat through cardio and strength training at least five days per week for 30 minutes. As far as smoking goes, there is no safe amount (but you knew that already).

When to Bring It Up: If you and the gym are barely on speaking terms, if you think you’re drinking more than you should or your friends and family have expressed concern about your drinking or if you smoke (even if it’s now and then), you should let your physician know, even if you’re not yet ready to make a change.

“You and your physician are a team working together to keep you healthy,” says Wellness Advisor Beth Ricanati, M.D. “Always bring up drinking, just like any other lifestyle habit, including cigarettes and exercise.”

Talking Points: If you smoke, tell your doctor how often and ask about the best quit methods including medication, therapy, hypnosis and acupuncture, suggests Dr. Ricanati. As far as drinking, keep a daily record of how many glasses of booze you consume in a week or two and let your physician know.

“Are you feeling at all guilty, ashamed or concerned about your drinking habits?” asks James Nicolai, M.D., YouBeauty Integrative Health Expert. “Are friends and family expressing worry about it? Do you have blackouts? Or are you lying to anyone about your drinking habits?”

Share this information with your doctor. If you’re not getting enough exercise, talk to your doctor about realistic ways you can fit in physical activity, such as breaking up a 30-minute walk into two quick 15-minute jaunts. If you have a health condition such as heart disease, asthma, diabetes or arthritis, it’s important to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.

More: Exercises for Beginners

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No matter what your skin tone is, unless you live in a cave with no sunlight, daily protection with either sunscreen, sunblock or protective clothing can not only protect you from developing sunburns (ouch!) but can significantly reduce your risk of developing skin cancer, particularly the deadliest type called melanoma. In addition, for those of you wanting to keep your youthful looks, daily sunscreen has been shown to reduce the development of wrinkles. A great teacher once told me that the best way to not have wrinkles is not to get them in the first place (think of how much money you can save on useless creams that claim to diminish wrinkles).

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