It’s week two of 2013. How are your New Years’ Resolutions going? When you were making your resolutions, did you consider hepatitis B specific New Year’s resolutions? Here are a few ideas…
- Organize your hepatitis B lab data and make a table with the date of the blood draw and the associated blood test results. You’ll want to start by requesting copies of all of your labs from your doctor. Then you can generate data tables using Excel, Word or a pencil and paper table for your charted data. It will help you visualize your HBV over time, and you may find your doctor likes to see both the lab results and your table of results.
- Generate a list of questions for your next appointment with your liver specialist. People get nervous anticipating what their doctor might say about their health. It is very easy to forget those important questions, so be sure to write them down. If the option is available, have a family member or friend attend the appointment with you. That will allow you to pay closer attention while your friend or family member takes notes for you.
- Avoid the use of alcohol. Hepatitis B and alcohol is a dangerous combination. An annual toast to the New Year? Sure. Drinking daily, weekly or even monthly? Not a good idea. Binge drinking? Dangerous. A recent study shows an increased risk for liver cancer among cirrhotic patients with HBV. Don’t let it get that far. If you have HBV and you are still drinking alcohol, seek the help you need to stop.
- Exercise. Many people think that having a chronic illness precludes them from exercise. This is rarely the case, but if you have concerns, talk to your doctor. If you consistently exercise, keep up the good work. If you don’t, please start slowly and work your way up to a more strenuous routine, and follow general physical activity guidelines for adults. Join a gym or find an exercise buddy. Don’t compare yourself to others and work at your own pace. Set realistic workout goals. You don’t need to run a marathon. Brisk, daily walking is great, too. You may find that you experience both physical and emotional benefits, and if you exercise with friends, you’ll also benefit socially. Clinical and experimental studies show that physical exercise helps prevent the progression of liver cancer and improves quality of life. Get moving. It’s good for your overall health and specifically your liver!
- Maintain a healthy weight by eating a well-balanced diet. This is a favorite on the New Year’s Resolution list for just about everyone with or without HBV. You can’t prevent or cure HBV with a healthy diet, but it does help, and it helps prevent additional problems like the onset of fatty liver or diabetes. If you’ve been following trending health problems, then you are well aware that fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes are huge problems in the U.S. and are growing issues globally. Both fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes can often be prevented with a healthy diet and regular exercise. If you are overweight, or make unhealthy choices, make a commitment to change this year. Start by avoiding fast foods, and processed foods. Cut down on fatty foods. Reduce the amount of saturated fats, trans fats and hydrogenated fats in your diet. Saturated fats are found in deep fried foods, red meats and dairy products. Trans and hydrogenated fats are found in processed foods. The liver stores excess dietary fat, and which can eventually lead to fatty liver disease. A fatty liver slows down the digestion of fats. If you have hepatitis B, you want to avoid any additional complications that may arise with fatty liver disease. Diabetes and HBV together can also be very complicated. Your doctor won’t mind if you try to avoid “white foods”, or foods that that are white in color and have been processed and refined. This includes foods like white flour, rice, pasta, bread, crackers, cereal, simple sugars and high fructose corn syrup. (Feel free to eat plenty of white cauliflower, turnips, white beans, etc) Avoid sugary treats and drinks. So what should you eat? Eat plenty of fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grains and lean meats. Go back to the basics! If you have specific questions about your diet, be sure to talk to your doctor.
- Don’t worry, be happy… Easy to say, but not so easy to accomplish. Anxiety and depression associated with a chronic illness are challenging problems that may be short term, or can worm their way into nearly every aspect of your life. They can even create physical symptoms that may be confusing and may result in even more worry. Please talk to your doctor if you believe your anxiety or depression is something you are unable to manage on your own. Consider joining a support group where you can talk to others facing the same challenges. Personally I found the Hepatitis B Information and Support List a wonderful source of information and support. Chronic illness can feel very lonely – especially with a disease like HBV that has a stigma associated with it. Find a trusted confident with whom you can share your story.
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