Commander’s Corner : What can you do to improve your lifestyle?

  • Published
  • By Col. Robert E. Suminsby Jr.
  • 377th Air Base Wing Commander
As Airmen, whether we wear BDUs, a coat and tie, or blue jeans, we must be fit to fight.

For uniformed Airmen, it begins with unit PT. Performing PT with our units is a good start, and it is good for unit cohesiveness, but our overall fitness and health requires much more than just a few jumping jacks and a little running.

Last week, I attended a lecture where a cardiologist made a pretty shocking statement: "The United States does NOT have the world's best health care system."

I was surprised to hear that, but he quickly went on to make his point: "... we have the world's best disease care system." He has a point. We have incredibly sophisticated means of treating disease after it is discovered. But are we doing all we can to stay healthy, and avoid costly treatments altogether?

Serious illness and conditions like heart disease and strokes can be deadly, but they can also be prevented by paying close attention to risk factors. According to the American Heart Association, risk of heart disease and stroke can be reduced by avoiding tobacco, leading a more active lifestyle and choosing to eat a well-balanced diet.

Smoking triples the risk of dying from heart disease among middle-aged men and women as well as increasing blood pressure and the tendency for blood to clot. If you're a smoker, the single best thing you can do to improve your health is to quit. There is help available; the Health and Wellness Center offers tobacco cessation classes frequently to help you kick the habit for good. Call the HAWC at 846-1186 for more information.

Research shows that getting 30-60 minutes of physical activity every day helps to lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and keep weight at a healthy level, all of which decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Reducing stress and limiting alcohol intake can also help minimize your risks of developing cardiovascular diseases and conditions.

The civilian cardiovascular risk appraisal developed by Air Force Materiel Command is a wonderful way to determine your risk factors for heart diseases. Visit to create an account and see where you stand.

Active-duty members have a cardiovascular risk appraisal performed during their annual preventative health assessment, but can also visit the Web site to gain more insight into the various risk factors and how to reduce them.

The HAWC can also provide information about eating properly, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, and establishing a fitness routine. We have wonderful resources here to help us prevent deadly cardiovascular diseases for ourselves and our families; we need to be proactive and know where we stand.

Every day we should ask ourselves, "Am I fit to fight? What more could I be doing to improve my lifestyle?" It's not just about our Air Force careers ¬-- it's about our lives.

If you are devoting a career to the Air Force, you work hard. When it comes time to retire, you want to enjoy yourself. Start now and ensure yourself a long and healthy retirement!