New Year? Healthier You!

More than 40 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions each January, but only 8 percent of us actually keep them. Why is that?

Part of the reason is that resolutions are often too vague to be useful. For example, the five most popular resolutions include “losing weight” and “getting fit.” But without specific actions and achievable metrics, they’re hard to follow. So instead of vowing to eat better, set a specific dietary goal such as cutting out soda and potato chips for six weeks or eating the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Instead of promising to exercise more, resolve to attend a weekly spin class or lift weights twice a week.

If your aim is to achieve better health in the coming year, that’s a great starting point. To help you get there, below are some specific, achievable goals for both women and men that will increase your overall wellness. If you’re not sure where to start, consult your primary care doctor for help.

Health Resolutions for Women

Prevent bone loss. Osteoporosis saps the bone mass of more than 44 million Americans, 80 percent of whom are women. Half of women older than 50 will suffer an osteoporosis-related fracture at some point. Start protecting yourself against this debilitating disease now by monitoring your calcium intake this year. Keep in mind that you also need adequate vitamin D.  Talk to your primary care doctor to determine the right amounts for you.

Get up-to-date on health screenings. Start the New Year with a clean bill of health by visiting your primary care doctor and catching up on all of your health exams. These include:

  • Blood pressure check
  • Cholesterol check
  • Diabetes screening
  • STD test
  • Pap smear (at least every 3 years)
  • Mammogram (every 1-2 years after age 50)
  • Colorectal cancer screening (starting at age 50)

Take time for yourself. Women often take on the role of caretaker within their families, and it’s easy to let their own needs fall by the wayside. This can compound stress, which is heightened during the holidays. Constant stress makes you more vulnerable to weight gain, illness, depression, sleep loss and high blood pressure. Decompress from the stressful season by resolving to start prioritizing your own needs this year. Taking time for yourself could be as simple as taking a 10-minute walk or having a soak in the tub—whatever helps you unwind.

Health Resolutions for Men

Balance your workout. When men exercise, they tend to focus on resistance training in specific areas, such as the biceps, chest and abs while neglecting their cardiovascular health. But any muscle tone you gain will only be obscured if you have a thick layer of body fat, and to burn it off you need aerobic exercise. Balance your weight training with some type of cardiovascular exercise. If you haven’t gotten any in a while, start slow and work your way up.

Visit your primary care doctor. Men are far more reluctant to visit the doctor than women, making 130 million fewer visits each year to their primary care doctor. If you’re the type who will power through a twisted ankle or back pain rather than get it checked out, a great resolution this year is to visit the doctor to address all those issues you’ve been ignoring. While you’re there, get caught up on all your preventive screenings, such as:

  • Cholesterol check (at least every 5 years starting at age 35)
  • Blood pressure check (every 2 years)
  • Diabetes screening (especially if you have high blood pressure or cholesterol)
  • STD tests
  • Colorectal cancer screening (beginning at age 50)
  • Prostate cancer screening

Relieve some stress. Men typically hide the stress created by work and home, but pent-up stress is bad news. It can result in anger, destructive behavior, hopelessness, and in many cases, illness. It’s harmful for your heart, nervous system and digestive tract so make it a priority to find a healthy outlet for your stress this year. This can involve working out or talking to someone close to you and remember to do it consistently

Your primary care doctor can be a valuable resource as you formulate and carry out your New Year’s resolutions for better wellness. Get started today and make this year your healthiest one yet.

 Photo by Maryland GovPics via CC License