‘This I Resolve’: Step by Step to a Healthier 2019

Premier Health Now

Despite good intentions, many New Year’s resolutions – like losing weight, eating better, getting fit and quitting cigarettes – don’t survive the year. Often that’s because resolutions are unrealistic. And so general you can’t get your arms or mind around them.

Dale Block, MD, of Premier Family Care of Mason, told Premier Health Now that he recommends getting down to specifics. Like setting small, incremental health goals and adopting simple habits – rather than making big resolutions.“

Many of my patients will come in to get a physical before the end of year,” he says. “They may be unhappy where their weight or cholesterol are and want to make a resolution to do something about it.”

Dr. Block, who blends lifestyle management into his family medical practice, advises patients to focus on making incremental changes in six primary areas of healthful living: nutrition, exercise, sleep, smoking cessation, mental health and moderate alcohol use.

Focusing on these six areas, he says, forms the foundation for a healthier 2019.

Nutrition

Stress and boredom often lead to consuming excess calories and food that lacks minerals essential to healthy living. To avoid veering onto this track, Dr. Block recommends “mindful eating.” He explains, “Mindful eating is just being focused on how you eat, when you eat and what you eat.”

Other small, attainable steps to healthier eating, he offers:

  • “I counsel patients, ‘Don’t drink your calories.’ That is, avoid sugary drinks.”
  • Use a smaller plate to control portions
  • Take time to chew and savor each bite. “Sometimes we eat so fast, we’re not cognizant of what we’re eating.” And this can lead to overeating.
  • Drink eight ounces of water before each meal. “This displaces space in your stomach, so you feel full sooner.”

Talk with your health care provider for more healthful eating advice.

Exercise

Dr. Block also recommends “getting in the habit of mindful exercise,” making exercise a part of daily living no matter your age. Walking 15 minutes, five days a week, he says, “reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke significantly.”

And, he assures, “You don’t have to belong to a gym to get exercise.”

You can fit physical activity into the routine of your day. For instance, take the stairs instead of an elevator, or park further from the entrance at work or when shopping.

The support of others can increase your chances of success in making exercise a normal part of your life, Dr. Block says. “Use the buddy system to get everybody in the family exercising together. It’s a good way to jumpstart your exercise habit.”

Sleep

Regular exercise is one way toward a restful, restorative night’s sleep, which also is a key contributor to better health.

“The sweet spot for restorative sleep is seven to eight hours a night,” Dr. Block recommends. Pre-bedtime rituals can help you fall and stay asleep.

Also, Dr. Block has found that infusing the essential oil lavender helps some of his patients drift off to sleep. “It could be a placebo effect, but it keeps people off medications for sleep.”

Smoking Cessation

“I’ve found that no matter what method you use to quit smoking, there’s generally a 50 percent success rate,” Dr. Block says.

He adds, “Cutting back slowly on the number of cigarettes you smoke is as good as any other method to quit. I’m more than happy to prescribe nicotine patches or medications to help patients quit, but cutting back seems to be just as successful.”

Mental Health

The holidays can be stressful, which can turn your mood south. “But there are a lot of things you can do to decompress and relax during the holidays,” Dr. Block says. These include: “eating healthy, exercise, getting enough sleep and spending time with people who make you feel good about you.”

Isolation can be a major contributor to depression. The antidote, says Dr. Block, is “being with friends and family and finding activities you can enjoy together.”

Being in a good mood during the holidays can be a positive springboard to

Moderate Alcohol Use

Moderate drinking is up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men, according to the "Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020,” published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Dr. Block recommends consulting your primary care provider to help you choose and maintain the best good health habits for you. “It’s important for family doctors to help their patients meet these goals. That’s where we need to focus. They can help you add years to your life.”