Make Good Health Choices in The New Year

Resolve to Eat Healthier, Increase Exercise in 2018

In the new year, tradition dictates we take a moment to make resolutions. Interestingly, it seems that many times these resolutions focus on ways to improve our health. Despite all the technological advances in health care, health is still greatly impacted by our lifestyle and the choices we make.

Healthcare experts often talk about how certain choices we make are linked to premature death or preventable deaths. Experts at the CDC report that as many as 40 percent of deaths are premature or preventable.

Heart disease, some cancers, stroke, lung disease, infections and unintentional injuries are the leading causes of premature and preventable death. It is felt that these problems are greatly influenced by lifestyle and health related choices. There are several lifestyle changes that can be implemented as New Year resolutions that can improve a person’s chances of living longer and healthier.

Smoking and tobacco use remains the No. 1 risk factor for heart disease, stroke, lung disease and certain cancers. If you smoke, quitting is the best resolution you can make. Healthy eating is another resolution that can greatly improve health. Diet is related to diabetes and obesity and these factors are related to heart disease and even some cancers. Some specific ways to improve the diet would be to eat 2 ½ cups of fruits and vegetables daily, cut back on processed meats (like bacon, sausage, hot dogs, etc.), decrease sweets, decrease foods with simple sugars and increase whole grains. Even concentrating on just one of these suggestions can be helpful.

Making a resolution to increase activity is another good strategy to improve health. The CDC advises at least 150 minutes of moderate activity (like brisk walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (jogging, swimming, tennis, etc.) a week. 

Alcohol and drug use are factors associated with premature or preventable deaths. Making the choice to avoid illegal drugs completely and, if alcohol is consumed, to limit to the equivalent of 2 ounces (one ounce equals one can of beer, one serving of wine, or one shot of liquor) would be a good goal.

Some accidental deaths can be prevented by taking certain safety precautions. Seat belts save lives. So if you don’t routinely wear one, resolving to buckle up could be life saving. Wearing helmets while riding motorcycles or pedal bikes can prevent serious head injuries. Falls can be fatal, especially in the elderly. Resolving to keep clutter picked up in the house, getting rid of throw rugs, turning on lights at night when getting out of bed and using a walker or cane can help prevent falls. Also, exercise programs can improve strength and balance to help prevent falls.

Getting an immunization is not necessarily a change in life style, but immunizations can prevent infections that can be fatal. So, resolving to get recommended immunizations for you and your children is a strategy to avoid preventable deaths.

People tend to be more successful with following through on resolutions if they are specific, a limited number and if done with someone else or communicated to others who can help support those efforts to make changes. Make good lifestyle choices to stay healthy my friends. Happy New Year!

Michael Shattuck, MD, is an emergency physician at ThedaCare Medical Center-Berlin.