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Published on August 23, 2015

Looking to get healthy? Hit the ‘5 Normals’

Looking to get healthy? Hit the ‘5 Normals’

What if you could reduce your risk of chronic disease by 75 percent and save money in the process?

No gimmicks, no monthly payment plan, no gym membership necessary; instead you rely on self-motivation and your will to be well.

All you have to do is achieve the “5 Normals.”

The 5 Normals are a profoundly simple guideline on how to achieve health and vitality: Reach a normal range in blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, weight, and your level of cotinine, the end product of cigarettes.

There’s just one catch: Only 4 percent of Americans achieve all five normals by age 65.

“This is the most astounding to me,” says Dr. Michael Roizen, chairman of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic and the clinic’s chief wellness officer, who devised the 5 Normals.

“It’s not rocket science,” he says. “It’s meditating, walking 10,000 steps a day, eating better, and avoiding tobacco. Doing this would allow us literally to thrive as a society. This is what we need more than any drug.”

Reaching the 5 Normals decreases chronic disease by 75 percent and medical costs by 50 percent, Dr. Roizen adds.

Eating better is an enormous key. But controlling what you eat means fighting a boatload of cultural cues. Last year, advertisers spent $13 billion on food-related TV commercials, Dr. Roizen says.

“We accept culturally that it’s OK to eat anytime, anyplace,” he says. “In the 1970s, we didn’t have McDonald’s and other fast food outlets on every corner. It’s become culturally accepted.”

Stress and habitual snacking increase the odds of overeating. As Dr. Roizen says, “Change the environment, change the person.”

Dr. Roizen says the most difficult normal for most people to achieve is a healthy weight. But, doing this, in turn, helps achieve the other four normals – proper levels of cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure.

In his newest book, “This is Your Do-Over” (Simon & Schuster), the New York Times bestselling author says having a friend who will help you get healthy makes all the difference.

As Roizen says, “The most important thing you can do is have a buddy who can make sustaining the change fun, who has enough information to coax you, and to smack you down, when it’s important.”

Rose Shorter, MD, an internal medicine physician at Sandwich Primary Care, offers these tips for achieving each of Dr. Roizen’s 5 Normals:

  • To achieve normal blood pressure: Relax. If you’re short on time, take just five to 10 minutes daily to look at nature. Studies show that people who simply look at nature feel calmer.
  • To achieve normal cholesterol: Make half of every plate you eat servings of vegetables and fruits. Avoid heavily processed foods.
  • To achieve a normal blood sugar: Move! Physical activity helps you to be sensitive to your own insulin and decreases blood sugar.
  • To achieve a normal weight: Move more! “I highly recommend wearing a device such as Fitbit® or pedometer to track your daily steps,” Dr. Shorter says. “Most people overestimate their daily activity.” Also, try to decrease portion sizes and avoid snacks.
  • To quit smoking: Be persistent! Most people quit smoking five times before they finally stop smoking.