Five Top Health Resolutions

David Snodgrass, MD, is a family practice physician at Banner Health Clinic in Loveland, Colo.

Question: With the new year approaching, I want to make some resolutions that can help me be more healthy. Can you give me your top five?

Answer: You don't have to wait for New Year's Day. Just circle a day on a calendar and let that day be the start of a healthier you. Here are five resolution that I think are the most important for your health.

  1. If you smoke, commit to quitting. If you don't smoke, don't start. If you need help, see your primary care provider to discuss a Quit Plan and select a quit date. Learn about smoking cessation.
  2. Start exercising. Make it a regular part of your schedule. It should ideally include aerobic exercise, at least four days a week, 30 minutes each time, and light resistance/weight training. Find a friend to exercise with and make it fun. Challenge each other to remain faithful to your commitments. Start slow and gradually work up in duration of your activity. How many calories can you burn?
  3. Improve your diet. Start cooking meals using fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains (whole wheat or oat bread, whole wheat pasta, whole grain cereals such as oatmeal, whole grain rice such as brown rice or wild rice), lean meats (preferably skinless chicken and fish) and limited and trimmed pork and beef. Lessen or avoid soda and fast food consumption. Try a new recipe.
  4. Address stress in your life. Participate in stress-reducing techniques such as journaling, yoga, spending quality time with friends and family, reading and exercising. Volunteering or participating in clubs or committees also helps to improve self-esteem and mood. Make a list of activities you enjoy and find relaxing, place it on your refrigerator door and remind yourself to enjoy life. You can also consider counseling if needed.
  5. Make an appointment with your primary care provider to get a complete physical exam. For women, this may include a breast and pelvic exam with PAP smear and for men this will include a prostate exam (over age 40). Women should also get annual mammograms starting at age 40 or at a younger age if there is a first degree relative with history of breast cancer. Both men and women should get a colonoscopy screening at age 50. It is also important to know your numbers for blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose (blood sugar) so ask for fasting lab tests. Also remember to consider age appropriate vaccines for prevention of illness. Many recommendations also vary depending on your family history, so be sure to ask your doctor which tests are most appropriate for you. Find a physician.
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