Six tips for staying healthy in the New Year

Good health enables you to do the things you want to do and feel good while you’re doing them.

The New Year is just around the corner. While I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions (I have a garbage can full of discarded pledges!), I do think it’s a good time to consider how to make 2022 a healthier year. Good health enables you to do the things that you want and to feel good while you’re doing them.

Choose a primary care provider (PCP). If you’re healthy, why do you need a primary care provider? Why not just go to the walk-in clinic if you’re sick? There is value in establishing care with a physician or nurse practitioner who, over time, gets to know you. Then, if you do develop a health problem, you have a provider on tap who can help you decide the best treatment option for you. It’s very helpful to have someone guide you through those choices.

Schedule an Annual Comprehensive Visit (ACV). This is especially important if you’re over 65. Why should you see your doctor yearly? Of course, there are many reasons. At every age, we have health maintenance items that we need to address. If you want to keep your automobile for a long time, and avoid breakdowns, it’s important to follow the maintenance schedule. It’s the same for your body. Lab tests, a physical exam and a discussion of potential health concerns for your age group help you stay ahead of problems.

And good news — annual physicals are covered by your insurance! In most cases, there is no cost to you.

Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol in check. Typically, if you’re sick, you feel miserable. If after a few days you don’t feel better, you might see a health care provider. But in most cases, high blood pressure is asymptomatic as is high cholesterol. So, it’s important to keep track of those numbers and to develop a plan with your health care provider if they start to creep upwards into an unhealthy zone.

Exercise, diet, sleep and balance. These are also basic. Your body needs high quality fuel. It’s also designed to move in space. Without these important components, your body isn’t going to work very well. And you’re not going feel very good.

You don’t have to become a gym rat, hire a personal trainer or run a marathon to improve your health. Thank goodness! Keep it simple. Start walking today. If you wish, buy a pedometer, or use a health app on your phone and keep track of your steps so you can see your improvement. Don’t compare yourself with others.

Exercise is the low hanging fruit of good health. If you walk a minimum of 150 minutes a week, you’re in good shape. (Of course, you will benefit if you want to do more.)

Diet is more complicated because you need fuel throughout each and every day. Let’s face of it, most of us know what we should do. Unfortunately, we don’t always follow those well-known guidelines for high quality fuel (eat three meals a day, eat lots of fruits and veggies, avoid fats, limit sugar, watch portion size, whole grains, etc.)

Make one dietary change at a time. I know many of you want to lose weight, especially those who gained the COVID 15 pounds. If I got a dollar for everyone I know who wants to lose 5 pounds, I could retire! But sometimes it’s more effective to work on making one healthy dietary change at a time and firmly establish that new habit. This month I am working on portion size. Maybe next month I will consider limiting my refrigerator grazing past 8 p.m.

Sleep. We need to get adequate rest to feel refreshed and have energy. How much varies from individual to individual — the norm is 7 to 9 hours. If you continually wake up tired, talk to your primary care provider.

Seek balance. Ask yourself, what am I doing “too much” of? What am I doing “too little” of? What do I want to add to or subtract from my life? Fill in the blanks. Start small.

Paul Schoenfeld is a clinical psychologist at The Everett Clinic. His Family Talk blog can be found at www. everettclinic.com/ healthwellness-library.html.

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