Improving health is one of the most popular New Year resolutions, but less than 10 percent of us actually follow through for more than a few weeks after the new year begins. Research has proven that setting goals and planning are both important for achieving health and fitness goals in the long-term. A rule of thumb, make goals SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-specific.
Here are 6 suggestions for a healthier new year:
1. Make an appointment for a check-up, vaccination or screening: Regular dental and medical exams can find problems before symptoms emerge, when your chances for treatment and cure are better. Vaccinations enlist our body’s own army of antibodies to fight off infection, and they are even more important for those with weakened immune systems. By staying on top of your health screenings and treatments, you are taking the steps to living a longer and healthier life.
2. Wash hands often with soap and water to prevent spreading germs: Germs from unwashed hands can get into foods and drinks while people prepare or consume them. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, washing hands often with soap and water reduces respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 16 to 21 percent.
3. Make healthier food choices: Junk foods harm the mind and body, making it difficult for people to perform physically or mentally as they should. Start the year off by getting rid of junk food in the home and stock the fridge and pantry with plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. However, when recommending “diet” plans, I stress that any plan where a certain food is forbidden is doomed to failure. There is no such thing as a magical diet that will get you to your goal weight, then allow you to resume prior poor eating habits. These are not simply changes in how you eat, but how you LIVE. If you like ice cream, you can have it – but only in moderate amounts (the recommended serving size on the container is a good guide) - and only on rare occasions. You won’t feel deprived, and with healthier choices the rest of the time, you CAN reach your goals.
4. Aim for at least 2.5 hours of moderate intensity exercise each week: Exercise improves both the quality and quantity of sleep. It also strengthens your heart, lungs and bones. Adding just 2.5 hours of moderate intensity exercise each week will make a noticeable difference in your health. The weight loss that can result will also benefit in improvements in your blood pressure, cholesterol, and lowered risk of developing diabetes. If you are already diabetic, it will help lower your hemoglobin A1c – a major factor in preventing the dangerous conditions that result from diabetes.
5. Quit smoking: There are so many health benefits to quitting smoking! In the first 20 minutes, your blood pressure and heart rate recover from the nicotine-induced spikes. After the first year, your risk of coronary heart disease decreases by 50 percent. After 5 years, your risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder are cut in half. Aside from the health benefits, your hair, home, and clothes will smell better, the stains on your teeth and fingernails will begin to fade, and you will save hundreds of dollars a year.
6. Get at least seven hours of sleep a night: Sleep helps to reduce stress and improves your mood. It helps you think more clearly and keep focus. It plays a critical role in immune function, metabolism, memory, learning, and other vital functions. A simple guideline: if you require an alarm clock to force you to open your eyes in the morning, then you are not getting enough sleep!
Dr. Yuratich is a native from the Greater New Orleans area. Originally from Port Sulphur, La., Dr. Yuratich has served the West Bank since 1991. Dr. Yuratich received his Bachelor of Science Degree from Louisiana State University and his Medicine Doctorate from Louisiana State University Medical Center. Dr. Yuratich then completed his Internal Medicine and Pediatrics residency program at the LSUMC Charity Hospital. He is board certified by both the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Pediatrics. Additionally, Dr. Yuratich is an active member of the American College of Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association.
He began his professional career with Family Health Network in 1991, transitioning to Tenet Physician Group in 1995. In 2000, he formed MacArthur Primary Care Center and practiced until 2018, when he joined the West Jefferson Family Doctors of Algiers. His special interests include preventative healthcare for all ages, adolescent growth and development, senior healthcare management, and men’s and women’s health.