Give yourself the gift of health this year. Pick a few changes to make and stick with them, and you’ll see benefits to your health that can last a lifetime, says David R. Dorf, MD, an internist with Highland Medical, P.C.
“Seeing your physician at least once a year, getting into a walking routine, and eating at home more are all good ways to improve your health,” he says. “If you smoke, quitting is by far the best thing you can do.”
Here are some tips for making 2018 your healthiest year yet:
If you don’t exercise regularly, get your sneakers on and start walking. Walking briskly for two hours and 30 minutes a week—easily broken up into five 30-minute walks, can help you meet the government’s recommended physical activity guidelines for good health. To get more walking into your day, park the car at the shopping center and walk to all your nearby errands. Find a walking buddy. Meet at the same time most days to go for a brisk walk. And walk during your lunch break.
Cook at Home
“Restaurant food often is higher in salt and fat than meals you make at home,” Dr. Dorf says. “Cooking at home lets you control how much salt and fat you put into each meal.” If you do eat out, look for dishes marked “heart healthy”. Whether cooking at home or eating out, make a resolution to cut down on red meat, which is high in saturated fat. Drink more water and less sugary soda. A glass of wine at dinner may have some beneficial effects, by raising the level of HDL “good” cholesterol. As with everything, moderation is key when it comes to alcohol.
Get More Sleep
“It’s no secret that a high percentage of people don’t get enough uninterrupted sleep,” says Dr. Dorf. Getting less than the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep can make you less alert, impair your memory, put stress on relationships, and increase your risk of car accidents. Long-term health problems related to too little sleep include high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure, or stroke. Lack of sleep can also contribute to obesity, depression and lower sex drive.
There are many ways to improve your sleep, such as going going to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Establish a nighttime routine for yourself to help your body settle down for the night. Keep electronics out of the bedroom—including TVs, laptops, and smartphones. Exercise regularly, and avoid caffeine and alcohol late in the day—they can interfere with sleep.
Dr. Dorf notes that with the increase in obesity, more people have obstructive sleep apnea which prevents people from getting enough sleep. One of the most common signs of obstructive sleep apnea is loud snoring (although not everyone who snores has sleep apnea). Pauses may occur in the snoring. Choking or gasping may follow the pauses. Another common sign of sleep apnea is fighting sleepiness during the day, at work, or while driving. If you have any of these signs, talk to your doctor about getting tested for sleep apnea.
See Your Doctor
Dr. Dorf recommends an annual visit to the doctor for adults over 25 without chronic health conditions (those with chronic medical problems should see their doctor more frequently). Age recommendations for various screening tests vary by age. Women should ask their doctor about when to start screening for colon cancer, breast cancer, osteoporosis, and cervical cancer. Men should be tested for colon cancer and prostate cancer. Everyone should receive an annual flu shot. Older adults should get a pneumonia shot and discuss the shingles vaccine with their doctor. “See your doctor on a regular basis, to catch problems early, before they start affecting your health,” Dr. Dorf says. “If you can’t remember the last time you saw your doctor, make an appointment today.”