As we say goodbye to 2013 and begin a new year, we would like to give you some motivation and tips for achieving a healthy 2014. Below are some recommendations that we believe will impact your health in a positive way:
1. Get into the habit of exercising: I cannot emphasize enough the importance of exercise. It is a necessity that is just as important as eating and sleeping! There are many benefits to exercising for just 30-60 minutes, 5 days a week. Not only does it increase endorphins to help you feel energetic and happy, but it also greatly decreases your risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity (1). It goes a long way in keeping your brain healthy, too. If you don’t exercise already, this is a must for your healthy new year.
2. Get your free annual physical: Take charge of your health. Some think that you only need to go to the doctor when you’re sick, however, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Simply getting your blood pressure measured can go a long way in detecting high blood pressure at an early stage and prevent the numerous associated cardiovascular complications. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and many of its causes are potentially avoidable (2). During your physical exam, you will also be screened for age-appropriate diseases such as cancer, which can be detrimental to healthy living.
3. Maintain a healthy weight: If your waist size is over 40 inches for men or 35 inches for women, your cardiovascular disease risk is elevated. Your risk of certain malignancies, such as colorectal cancer, is also higher. Even obesity alone has been linked to cancer (3). Increase the amount of fresh foods in your diet, and decrease the amount of junk food. These types of changes are reflected in the popular “Mediterranean Diet,” and have been associated with a decrease in overall mortality, cardiovascular disease, and incidence of cancer (4).
4. Avoid tobacco and excess alcohol use: If you don’t smoke, this is not the time to start! If you already smoke, the sooner you quit, the more likely you are to avoid the complications of tobacco use (5). Avoid excessive alcohol consumption, as this is toxic to your liver and can contribute to heart disease. Interestingly, the cardio-protective effects of light to moderate alcohol consumption disappear when mixed with bouts of heavy drinking (6).
5. Learn how to deal with stress: Chronic levels of elevated stress can increase your risk of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and many other disorders. It can also decrease your immune system function and render you more susceptible to illness. Muscle relaxation, meditation, and cognitive behavioral therapy with a therapist are just some of the tools one can implement to counteract stress (7).
Cheers to making 2014 your healthiest year yet!
(1) Ryan, DH, et al; Cardiovascular Effects of Intensive Lifestyle Intervention in Type 2 Diabetes; NEJM, June 24, 2013; 369 (2); 145-154
(2) MMWR, Vital signs : avoidable deaths from heart disease, stroke, and hypertensive disease-United States, 2001-2010. CDC; Sept 2013; 62 (35) 721-727
(3)De Pergola, G, et al; Obesity as a major risk factor for cancer, J Obes; Aug 2013; Epub.
(4)Sofi, Francesco, et al; Accruing evidence on benefits of adherence to the Mediterranean diet on health: an updated systemic review and meta-analysis, Am J Clin Nutr; November 2010; 92 (5)1189-96
(5) Jha, Prabhat , et al; 21st-Century Hazards of Smoking and Benefits of Cessation in the United States, NEJM; January 24, 2013; 368 (4) 341-350
(6) Roerecke, Michael, et al; Irregular heavy drinking Occasions and Risk of Ischemic Heart Disease: A systematic Review and Meta-analysis, Am J Epidemiol; February 2010; 171 (6): 633-644
(7) Varvogli,L, et al; Stress management techniques: evidence-based procedures that reduce stress and promote health, Health Science Journal; October, 2010; 5 (2) 74-89