Daniel Stahl, M.D.
The New Year is here, and resolutions are ever-present. Many of these commitments to betterment involve some form of health improvement. As we all know, lifestyle changes are easier planned than implemented. However, there is some low-hanging fruit when it comes to enhancing your well-being in 2015. While some of these suggestions are obvious, they can’t be reiterated enough.
1. Food. The importance of healthy eating is no secret, but putting it into practice can be problematic. Consider these tactics to make your nutritious endeavors more successful:
- Eat a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean sources of protein.
- Pick fresh foods while shopping, and skip processed items.
- Avoid mindless snacking. If you want a snack, try nuts, dried fruit or quick-and-easy veggies like carrots or celery.
- Watch your portions. Portion control can go a long way in losing excess fat and maintaining a healthy weight.
2. Activities. Do you spend the majority of your time sitting in front of a screen? If so, it’s time to make a positive change. Inactivity is a real killer, contributing to heart disease, stroke and a host of other life-threatening conditions. Regardless of how you choose to exercise, just get moving. Even 10 minutes of activity each day is better than none, and you may need to start slow. Try for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day. Examples of moderate activity include a brisk walk, riding bike or cleaning your house.
3. Weight. Obesity is a major problem for your health and a major problem in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 35 percent of adults and 17 percent of kids ages 2 to 19 are obese. The CDC also cites average medical costs for obese folks are more than $1,400 higher than people of normal weight. If you are overweight or obese, take action to get healthier. Improving food and activity choices are a great place to start. Talk to your health care team about putting together a wellness plan.
4. Habits. Making health a habit may be the biggest key to a better year. While I’ve discussed some habits to create, there are also some habits to eliminate or make sure you never begin.
- Don’t smoke or, if you do, quit now. There’s no sugar-coating the fact that smoking kills. There’s no safe amount of smoking — period. Smoking causes about 90 percent of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) deaths, per the American Lung Association. Consult your health care team about ways to quit smoking for good.
- Drink in moderation, if at all. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that men consume no more than two alcoholic beverages per day and women no more than one per day. A standard drink is defined as:
- Beer: 12-ounce bottle
- Wine: 5-ounce serving
- Distilled spirits (80 proof): 1.5-ounce serving
- Lessen stress. Stress can negatively contribute to your health. Take time away from work or stressful situations by exercising, spending time with loved ones or meditating.
We always have the opportunity to turn our health around, but the New Year is a natural point to get started. Take into account the above suggestions as you map out your plan for a healthier 2015.