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Healthy Living

Develop healthier habits for the new year

25 January, 2024
Produced by:

Clinically reviewed by Tashin Kabir, DO, Family Medicine

The new year is here and it’s a great time to  begin planning how to be a healthier you. You can take charge of your health and head into the year focused, relaxed with a plan of action. Change can be difficult when you don’t have the tools you need, here’s a few tips to start you off on the right foot.

Pay attention to what your body is telling you.

If you have any medical conditions or are high-risk, make sure to include things like doctors’ appointments and screenings into your new year planning. For those who do not have underlying conditions, your body will often tell you what it needs. Developing habits around those needs will allow you to continue doing the things you love the most. The way we care for our bodies, such as overeating certain foods and not getting a lot of sleep take a toll on your wellbeing.

What you can do:

Write down a list of all your prescription/over-the-counter medication, supplements and vitamins. Make sure you list any important information such as name, dosage, and directions. You can talk with your doctor to make sure you are safely taking the proper medication and dose. Your doctor can also help you figure out how to develop a supply for emergency situations.[1],[2]

Get more sleep. Generally, adults need at least seven hours of sleep per night.[3] Try waking up and going to bed the same time every day and limit electronics while you are winding down.[4] It’s best to stay away heavy meals or caffeinated drinks before bedtime as well. Taking a hot bath for 30 minutes within two hours of your bedtime (but not right before) can promote more restful sleep. Your body’s temperature changes —increasing when you get in the tub and decreasing when you get out— which mimics the changes your body goes through when preparing for sleep.[5]

Make changes to your diet. Start by adding more plant-based foods (olive oil, nuts, seeds) while cutting back on processed and red meat.[6] Many processed foods contain high levels of fat, sugar and salt.[7] Replace those sugary drinks for water. The World Health Organization recommends eating a healthy diet to help keep away any forms of malnutrition.7

Stop smoking and cut back on alcohol.* Excessive alcohol consumption and smoking can lead to chronic disease such as certain cancers, liver disease, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and more.[8],[9] Current guidance says that if you drink, it should be no more than one for women and two for men.[10]

 

View Table 1.1 below to learn what experts consider to be one drink.

Table 1.1. How much is one drink?**

Beer (5% alcohol) 12 oz
Liquor (7% alcohol) 10 oz
Wine (12% alcohol) 5 oz
Spirits (80 proof) 1.5 oz

Source: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, 9th Edition, Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. Published December 2020. Accessed December 28, 2023.

If you are current smoker, talk with your doctor on ways you can quit.

 

Create an exercise routine.***This depends on your long-term goals whether to lose weight or maintain, and only if approved by your health care provider. To maintain your weight, gradually begin walking or moving until you have reached 150 minutes of moderate activity such as brisk walking, light jogging or casual biking. Any form of exercise that substantially increases your heart rate such as running, swimming or jogging lessens the recommended weekly commitment of only 75 minutes.[11] To lose weight, you’ll either need to burn more calories, requiring a longer weekly commitment, or lessen the amount of calories you are consuming or both. It’s important to talk to your doctor on what the best exercise routine is best for you.

 

Make regular check-ups, screenings, vaccinations and exams. Screening and vaccination can help prevent and detect many health conditions early-on, allowing for easier treatment.[12],[13] Make sure to check with your doctor about any vaccinations or screenings you are eligible for. Also, don’t ignore your smile, make regular dental checkups for good oral health.[12]

Protect your mind and your peace

As the world begins understanding more about the effects of mental health on your personal well-being, make sure to take care your peace and limit stress in 2024. High levels of stress can lead to the worsening of long-lasting health issues, changes to appetite, increased use of alcohol and illegal drugs, misuse of prescription drugs, physical reactions like skin rashes, stomach problems and trouble concentrating.[14],[15]

What you can do:

Burn off the negative energy. Get active.

The more time that is spent in front of the television, phone or computer is less time that could be used for physical activity. It is important to make sure you are getting the right amount of exercise into your routine, not only for your physical health, but for your mental health, too. It has shown to improve memory and deal with stress more efficiently, both which can affect our moods.[16] Studies have also shown that people who are more physically active have lower rates of depression and anxiety.[15],[17]

View Table 1.2. to learn what the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recommends for each age group.

Table 1.2. Recommended activity levels for each age group

Children (3-5 years old) Physical activity throughout the day
Children (6-17 years old) 60 minutes (1 hour) of moderate to vigorous activity daily
Adults (18-64 years old): At least 150 minutes a week of moderate activity and at least two days of muscle strengthening exercises.
Adults (over 65) At least 150 minutes a week of moderate activity, at least two days of muscles strengthening exercises and added activities that help to improve balance.

Source: Physical Activity for Different Groups. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/age-chart.html. Last reviewed July 29, 2021. Accessed December 28, 2023.

Get out in nature. If you’ve ever just walked outside and felt a sense of calm, there’s a reason for that. Researchers have a few theories:

  • We have an internal connection to nature.[18]
  • Nature helps with our ability to think, remember and pay attention.[17]

But majority agree that it can help with lowering stress.[17],[19] So if you get the chance to get out into the wild, open nature here are some activities to help boost your mood and strengthen your mind:

  • Go fishing[18]
  • Work or study in the sun[18]
  • Take yourself on a picnic[18]
  • Sleep or lay underneath the stars[18]

How you can commit to change without the pressure

Change takes time, so make sure to take it slow and be patient with yourself. Like they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Start by creating small goals and work on things you can control. It’s not helpful to set a goal that you have no ability to change.Create a support team who can help you stay accountable while giving you the social connection you need. Lastly and more importantly, celebrate your wins. No matter how small, you’ve earned it! Remind yourself that your resolutions are not set in stone. Just as you will likely change as the year goes by, so will your goals!

[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prescriptions. March 1, 2021.

[2] Food and Drug Administration. Kick Off a Healthy New Year. August 17, 2018.

[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How much sleep do I need? September 14, 2022.

[4] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tips for better sleep. September 13, 2022.

[5] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. NIOSH Training for Nurses on Shift Work and Long Work Hours. March 31, 2020.

[6] American Medical Association. New decade, new you: Encourage patients to follow these 10 health tips. December 27, 2019.

[7] World Health Organization. Limit fat, sugar and salt intake. December 28, 2023.

[8] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Excessive Alcohol Use. July 11, 2022.

[9] American Lung Association. Health effects of smoking. May 31, 2022.

[10]Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, 9th Edition, Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025.  December 2020.

[11] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Physical activity for a healthy weight. April 26, 2023.

[12] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Are You Up to Date on Your Preventive Care?  April 19, 2023.

[13] Health.gov. Get Vaccines to Protect Your Health (Adults Ages 19 to 49). July 29, 2022.

[14] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coping with Stress. April 25, 2023.

[15] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Physical Activity for Different Groups. July 29, 2021.

[16]American Psychological Association. Working out boosts brain health. March 4, 2020.

[17] American Psychological Association. The exercise effect. December 2011.

[18] American Psychological Association. Nurtured by nature. April 1, 2020.

[19] 10 Ways to Relax in Nature and Stress Less. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/10-ways-to-relax-in-nature-and-stress-less. Last reviewed October 20, 2021. Accessed December 28, 2023.

Disclaimer(s):

The information featured in this site is general in nature. The site provides health information designed to complement your personal health management. It does not provide medical advice or health services and is not meant to replace professional advice or imply coverage of specific clinical services or products. The inclusion of links to other web sites does not imply any endorsement of the material on such websites.

Alcohol

*If you do not drink, it is not recommended that you start drinking alcohol.  If you choose to drink, do so only in moderation.  Drinking too much can harm your health.

**Some people should drink less and some people should not drink alcohol at all, including those who are pregnant or might be pregnant, younger than the legal age for drinking, take certain medications or have certain medical conditions, have difficulty drinking in moderation or recovering from alcohol use disorder. Do not drink if you are participating in activities that require skill, coordination, or alertness. Never drink and drive. If you have questions about alcohol use or drinking, talk to your doctor.

Exercise

***Talk with your doctor before significantly increasing your activity level. Ask about the amounts and types of activities that may be best for you. Remember, moderation is best when starting an exercise regimen. Start slowly and gradually increase how often, how vigorous and how long you exercise. Moving even a little improves your health.

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