A New Year, a New You: Northwestern Memorial Offers Tips on Health Resolutions for 2009
Weight loss, health screenings and stress reduction among ways to achieve and maintain better health
It’s that time of year again – time when countless Americans make New Year’s Resolutions to improve their health. Unfortunately, many of those goals get brushed aside early in the year – some even before the month of January passes. To ensure 2009 is different, experts at Northwestern Memorial Hospital offer the following tips to help you embark on a healthy new you.
Weight loss is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions. Unfortunately, it’s also among the most commonly unmet resolutions due to the fact that those goals are often set too high.
“I see a lot of patients who eagerly identify how many pounds they want to lose, but lack a plan of action to get them there,” says Sharon Vocino, MD, an internal medicine physician at Northwestern Memorial’s Center for Integrative Medicine and Wellness, who recommends setting a series of small goals that you can tackle throughout the year. “If your goal is to lose weight, start by slowly increasing your physical activity. Even something as simple as a brisk walk daily will get your body moving and your heart rate up,” says Dr. Vocino. “Next, keep a daily food journal to monitor what you eat. Doing so will help you identify common pitfalls and areas for improvement. “By slowly building upon your exercise routine and keeping nutrition top of mind, you’ll soon be on your way to success.”
Focus on Prevention
To get organized and take control of your health throughout the year, Dr. Vocino recommends taking a proactive approach through a focus on prevention.
- Know your family history – from heart disease and diabetes to breast cancer and prostate cancer, many illnesses run through family lines. The good news is, by knowing your family history and taking a proactive approach to screening and prevention, you can take steps to protect yourself early and in many cases, break the cycle.
- Establish your healthcare team – “The best time to find a doctor, is when you don’t need a doctor,” says Dr. Vocino. “If you haven’t already, get established with a primary physician and make an appointment for an annual exam. It’s also a good idea to identify specialists you may need, such as a dermatologist, ob/gyn or cardiologist. “Patients should build their healthcare team and consider themselves the coach or manager. It’s important to take a proactive approach.”
- Get your health screenings – During your yearly physical, be sure to talk to your doctor about screening tests you should receive based on your age, gender, health and family history. While there are many, some of the most common screenings include:
Bone density tests – important for woman at high risk for developing osteoporosis and those within menopausal or post-menopausal stages, as lower estrogen levels can lead to lower calcium levels.
Prostate cancer screenings – men age 40 and older should be screened for prostate cancer, which is the most common and second deadliest cancer among men, but can be easily treated if detected early.
Colorectal cancer screenings – men and women age 50 and older, as well as those who have a history of colon conditions such as polyps and inflammatory bowel disease, should be screened for colorectal cancer, the most common form of non-skin cancers among men and women.
Mammograms – women age 40 and older should get a mammogram every 1 to 2 years. Women who have a history of breast cancer or other breast problems, or who have a family history of breast cancer may need to get them earlier or more often. Talk to your doctor to determine your individual needs. (For information on scheduling your mammogram, click here )
The hustle and bustle of life naturally creates a certain amount of pressure that actually helps us function. Constant stress however, can wreak havoc on your emotional as well as physical health. Aside from causing anxiety, depression and sleep deprivation, stress can lead to hypertension, unwanted weight loss or gain, and an increased vulnerability to colds and infections.
“If you constantly feel overwhelmed, frazzled or on-edge, it’s important to identify the sources of your stress and work to overcome them one at a time,” says Greg Petersen, PhD, health psychologist at Northwestern Memorial’s Center for Integrative Medicine and Wellness. “It’s also important to structure regular down time and learn how to relax both mentally and physically. This significantly reduces the negative effect that long term stress can have on emotional and physical health.”
Peterson suggests the following approaches for reducing and managing stress:
- Practice yoga, meditation and other relaxation techniques
- Engage in regular exercise
- Make sure you get an adequate amount of sleep
- Eat nutritious, well-balanced meals
- Take at least 15 minutes out of each day for “you” time
The Northwestern Memorial Center for Integrative Medicine and Wellness provides a unique healthcare experience by offering physicians trained in both conventional and integrative medicine. Services include integrative medicine and preventative cardiology consults, primary care, behavioral medicine, acupuncture, massage therapy, smoking cessation, sexual health and nutrition and fitness counseling. For more information, visit nmg.nm.org or call 312-926-DOCS.