Aiming for a healthier lifestyle is important for all Americans, but for the African-American community, it is critical to make positive health changes in 2015.

But keeping an eye on your health should be a year-round focus, especially as the community faces struggles with obesity, diabetes and heart disease. At the junction of Black History Month and Heart Health Month, Dr. Rani Whitfield says you should prioritize your health. Making healthy and long-term lifestyle changes is key to preventing or beating chronic conditions. Here are his answers to your questions.

I see my cardiologist on the 4th of March. My doctors say my heart was showing QT intervals! What is that?

The QT interval is a part of what doctors use to assess how regularly the heart is beating. It relates directly to how the ventricles (the lower part of the heart) beats.

Is drinking alcohol healthy? 

There is nothing healthy about alcohol. If you drink, do so in moderation- for men that is 2 drinks a day and for women, 1 drink a day. I do not recommend to any of my patients to begin drinking as a way to improve their cholesterol. Exercising and proper diet are the key.

What’s the best way to help stay consistent on a diet? I’ll lose 10 pounds quickly and then go right back to my old ways.

The key is not to diet. Diets are negative paradigms and tell you what you can’t eat. Focus on portion control. Again, eat what you love, but be smart about it. I drink Coca-Cola mini-cans when I want a treat. 70 calories and my taste buds love it!

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I’m 6’2, 420 pounds. I have to change my diet. I exercise at least 4 times a week, but it seems like the weight won’t drop. What else can I do?

I would definitely see your doctor to rule out any medical reasons why you can’t lose weight, and possibly consider bariatric surgery (weight loss surgery). This is the last resort if you have exhausted all your resources and possibilities including the new weight loss medications.

Here are some tips for health and fitness in 2015.

  • Make healthy eating choices, while eating what you enjoy.
  • Eat your favorites in moderation and make substitutions for healthier ingredients.
  • Take small steps to a better you
  • Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t expect to run a marathon in one either!
  • Take it slow and choose an activity you love, like dancing to your favorite songs or doing yard work.
  • Visit the doc for your check-ups: Get your “numbers” checked regularly to make sure you’re not at risk or suffering from any chronic conditions.

Rani G. Whitfield, M.D., is a board certified family physician with a Certificate of Added Qualification in sports medicine. Known as “Tha Hip Hop Doc,” Dr. Whitfield combines the hip-hop culture and health messages to empower individuals to change unhealthy lifestyles. He is the founder of the “Hip-Hop Medical Moment,” a one-minute audio series on pertinent medical topics. Dr. Whitfield was the medical consultant for and consults for The Coca-Cola Company.

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