A new year brings the promise of a new beginning. For many, this means a renewed sense of commitment to health-related goals.
By far, the most popular of these goals involves weight loss.
It may be tempting to try something exotic and short-term for fast weight loss—an all-kumquat diet, perhaps, or a one-weekend exercise marathon.
It wouldn't be healthy, however, and any weight you lost would probably be back in a heartbeat.
It's not new (and it may not be the fad of the moment) but if you want to lose weight, a long-term program of sensible eating and exercise is still the best method around.
A healthy eating plan for weight loss combines fewer calories with better nutrition, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
You can achieve both with a diet that:
• Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
• Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts.
• Limits saturated fats, trans fat, salt and added sugars.
• Controls portion sizes.
You should aim to lose between 1 and 2 pounds per week, experts at the NIH recommend. It's both a healthy and realistic goal. For many people, that requires eating 500 to 1,000 fewer calories daily.
One trick that works for many people: Keep a record of everything you eat. It may help you spot problem areas in your diet.
Exercise goes hand in hand with effective long-term weight loss, and it’s essential for maintaining your overall quality of fitness and wellbeing. In addition to calorie burning, exercise can:
• Lower your risk for heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions.
• Strengthen your lungs and muscles.
• Improve your sleep.
Most adults should aim for 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity spread out over the week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, to lose weight or maintain weight loss, you may need to do more.
Make sure to talk with your doctor if you have questions about how much activity is right for you.
Another key to good health in the New Year lies in keeping up with your preventative screenings.
You'll need a doctor for most screening tests and exams, but you can do some checks yourself, often with a doctor's input or recommendation. Examples of both are below. Keep in mind, these are generalized guidelines. You may need screenings earlier, more often or not at all. Ask your doctor what's right for you.
Step on a scale. Type the result (plus your height) into a body mass index (BMI) calculator, like this one, to see if you're overweight or obese: www.morehealth.org/bmi.
Measure your waist. Place a tape measure just above your hipbones, exhale and measure. A waist greater than 40 inches for men or 35 for women boosts type 2 diabetes and heart disease risks.
Check your feet if you have diabetes. Your doctor may have you look for and report any sores or other problems before they become major infections.
Check your skin for cancer. Frequent (such as monthly) self-skin checks may help you find cancer early. Changing moles, blemishes or other worrisome-looking areas on your skin should be shown to your doctor.
Monitor your blood pressure. Your doctor may have you use a portable monitor at home if, for instance, you have borderline high blood pressure or your readings might be high only at the doctor's office.
AT THE DOCTOR’S OFFICE
Mammograms. Women should have yearly breast cancer screenings starting at age 40, or even earlier depending upon your doctor’s recommendations.
Colonoscopy. Starting at age 50, colonoscopies or other screening tests are recommended for both men and women to help prevent colorectal cancer or find it early.
Pap tests. Starting at 21, regular Pap smears help guard against cervical cancer in women.
Blood pressure checks. Have your doctor check your blood pressure, especially if you have certain conditions such as heart disease or diabetes.
Cholesterol blood tests. Starting at age 20, have your cholesterol checked every four to six years.
Watson Clinic’s team of Family Medicine and Internal Medicine specialists can get you on the road to a healthier lifestyle. For more information and to schedule an appointment, call 863-680-7190.