Lifestyle is Key to Health
Michael D. Sofronski, MD, FACS, of Beebe General Surgery practices what he preaches. As a general and bariatric surgeon, Dr. Sofronski helps people implement lasting healthful lifestyle changes. But he also takes a balanced lifestyle personally.
Dr. Sofronski has been performing weight-loss surgery at Beebe Healthcare since 2007. With a multi-specialty team, Dr. Sofronski is dedicated to assisting people in transitioning to a healthy lifestyle for weight loss with nutritional guidance, a support group, and counseling. He witnesses patients who have successfully made dramatic changes to lose weight and change their lives.
“A patient who can maintain weight loss gets huge benefits—it helps their mood and confidence levels,” Dr. Sofronski says. “Weight loss can also eliminate the need for medications and can lead to cures including diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol.”
Dr. Sofronski stresses that lifestyle changes come first, and surgery is merely a tool to help people find long-term success with changes through healthy eating and exercise. His biggest tip?
“I remind people, who are often parents or caring for relatives, that their health is important,” he says. “You can’t take care of someone else until you take care of yourself first.”
The Bariatric Support Group meets the second Saturday of each month. Learn more about weight-loss programs, bariatric surgery, or support meetings by calling (302) 313-2000.
Dr. Sofronski, who’s in his early 50s, says he was a self-described gym rat for years and lifted heavy weights. But too much heavy weight lifting led to foot and back pain. He had to adjust his lifestyle and workout regimen to prevent pain and injury.
“Fitness has remained important to me as I’ve aged, but my body has changed,” Dr. Sofronski says. “I do more cardio workouts. While I still enjoy lifting, I use much lighter weights and focus on tone, maintenance, and range of motion rather than heavy weights.”
Regular physical activity is crucial for maintaining health and keeping diseases at bay. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, like swimming, biking, or running, every week to maintain a healthy weight and lower risk of disease.
Dr. Sofronski emphasizes setting reasonable goals and performing exercises that are challenging—but that don’t hurt or lead to injury. Just as a fitness routine should be regular, it’s best to check in with your healthcare provider often for physicals and recommended screenings.
Healthy eating isn’t just about the foods you choose, but also about the regimen of eating. Dr. Sofronski often sees individuals who skip meals and eat too much before bed, “backloading” empty calories at the end of the day. He says this slows the metabolism and sparks the starvation reflex, and then the body replaces lost muscle with the wrong high-calorie foods at night.
“I tell patients to think of their bodies as a furnace,” Dr. Sofronski says. “We need food to keep it burning, and we can’t sabotage the furnace with bad sources that extinguish the fire. It makes sense to constantly feed the fireplace.”
He recommends good “fuel,” and eating high-quality, nutritious foods, including vegetables and lean protein sources, and moderating your intake of sugars, starch and fat. Go for four to five small meals daily to balance your metabolism and calorie intake.
Maintaining balance, from the push and pull of work and family life, can be a challenge. Stay focused on the present to benefit all areas of life, from encouraging healthy habits, being a better father, husband or brother, and managing stress.
“Personally, I just try not to get ahead of myself,” Dr. Sofronski says. “Worry creeps in when people project and think about tomorrow, next week, or next month. Focus on the present. Make sure that your lifestyle decisions, minute-by-minute, are good ones.”
Just as making major lifestyle changes takes patience and practice, setting appropriate goals, and focusing on the present, can set you up for success.
“Setting unrealistic goals, like three or four weeks to lose a lot of weight or signing up for a triathalon having never worked out, won’t help you achieve anything,” he says. “Ensure each decision supports a realistic goal, from health goals to managing stress and being a support for people in your life.”
Keep an Eye on Your Numbers
Blood pressure: Every two years, talk with your doctor if you have high blood pressure.
Cholesterol: Before 35, ask when you should have the test.
Diabetes: Tested every two years; frequency depends on your personal risks.
Diabetes: Every two years.
Cholesterol: After 35, get screened regularly; talk with your doctor about testing frequency.
Prostate: Between ages of 55 and 69, discuss risks of testing, and family history, with your physician.
Colorectal: Get screened starting at age 50.
Lung screening: Talk with your doctor about your smoking history to determine screening necessity.
Abdominal aortic aneurysm: Get this test if you’re 65-75 and have ever smoked.
Colorectal: Get screened through age 75.