Experts say that 90 percent of people fall short of completing their New Year’s resolutions by February 1. If that is the case for you, here is a second chance with 20 (actually) great ideas for better health and a longer life for you and your family.
- Get an annual physical examination.
Make sure it is from a doctor you are familiar with and try to maintain continuity of care by scheduling an examination with the same doctor every year. The examination should include the standard blood tests for your age including, but not limited to, the evaluation of blood sugar, thyroid, and cholesterol.
Your physical examination should also evaluate blood pressure and weight, include an auditory examination of your heart and lungs, and include a full skin exam. Women should schedule a Pap smear and mammogram. If age-appropriate, men should have a prostate evaluation.
If you have not had a general medical examination in the past one year, it is time. Ask your doctor how often you should schedule future examinations. Don’t forget to also ask your doctor about planning to evaluate your hearing, vision, and dental health.
Develop a planned calendar, with your doctor, of when you should have regular medical visits and when specific age-based procedures should be done. Don’t leave your doctor’s office until you have this plan.
- Keep total cholesterol below 200.
A healthy cholesterol level can be achieved through diet, exercise, and/or, if necessary, prescription medications. Have your doctor review your ratio of HDL/LDL cholesterol with you, too.
- Keep blood pressure below 125/75.
While 125/75 is commonly recognized as appropriate, your doctor may recommend a slightly different number. This can be achieved with diet, exercise, and, if necessary, prescription medications.
- Keep blood sugar below 100.
Blood sugar can be maintained through diet, exercise, and, if necessary, prescription medications.
- Keep weight at less than 20 percent of the average weight of people your height.
For most men, making this average means keeping weight under 200 pounds, and for most women, it’s under 170 pounds. Your doctor can give you the exact weight figure most appropriate for you, or you can visit the websites listed below.
- Manage your medicines.
Review your medications at every doctor’s visit to make sure the medication is still the best and most appropriate for you and is not interacting with other medicines. Review any side effects that could occur from any combination of medicines you are currently or may begin taking.
- Stay active: Exercise at least 20 minutes per day, four to five times per week.
The benefits of regular exercise are plentiful. It reduces cholesterol, improves arthritis, reduces gouts, prevents heart disease, helps diabetes, promotes circulation, improves energy, and improves mental ability.
Choose an activity that fits into your lifestyle like gardening, walking, biking, swimming, raking leaves, cutting the grass, washing windows, running, and so on. If you haven’t exercised in a while, start for just five minutes a session and slowly build up. Don’t be afraid to locate a personal trainer to get things going if you need a bit of structure for motivation.
- Keep an eye on depression.
Make an agreement with yourself that you will monitor your mental well-being. If you feel sad or blue for more than two or three days, call your doctor and talk about it. Depression is treatable, and suicide is almost 100 percent preventable, with help.
- Eat healthily.
Meet with a dietician and find out how you can enjoy meals rich in vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, fish, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products.
- Do not smoke.
Probably the worst health habit, smoking leads to more preventable health problems than any other single item. If you need help quitting smoking, talk to your doctor.
Here are a few bonus tips to help you engage in good preventive health measures:
- Make sure you get plenty of sleep.
Research now indicates that getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night can have the same health impact as exercising and eating well. Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do for a healthy life. If you are having problems sleeping, check with your doctor about tips for a better night’s sleep.
- Do not keep guns accessible to those who may misuse them.
Gun safety is critical, especially in relation to loaded guns that could lead to the death of one’s children, grandchildren, spouse, or household residents or visitors. If guns are in the house, keep them unloaded with ammunition in a separate place. Better yet, keep them in a secure safe.
- Practice safe driving habits.
Wear seatbelts at all times in the car no matter what speed you are going, and do not take them off until the car is at a dead stop. Never text and drive!
- Do not drink or use drugs while driving, fishing, swimming or boating.
- If you think you have a problem with drinking or drugs, talk to your doctor for help.
- Use smoke and radon detectors in your home. Remember to check the batteries twice per year.
- Always wear a safety helmet while riding a motorcycle or bicycle.
- Practice safe sex. Employ a barrier method to prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. Talk to your doctors for details.
- To help prevent falls, make sure hallways and stairwells are well lit and free of clutter, with no loose rugs. Make bathtubs safe with handrails and no-slip grips on steps and in bathtubs.
- Don’t forget to have a “health” checkup with your attorney, too. If you are on a budget, there are also online sites that can help with the following items:
Appoint a healthcare and durable power of attorney, so if you are incapacitated this person can make healthcare and other decisions for you. Develop a healthcare directive and share it with your family members. This document will clearly tell people what decisions for your medical care you would want to be made if you were not able to communicate them.
Make sure your will is up-to-date. Your will should be reviewed every two years or with any major life event change.
Height and weight charts are available at www.healthchecksystems.com/heightweightchart.htm and www.rush.edu/health-wellness/quick-guides/what-is-a-healthy-weight. Or consult your physician.
This previously published column has been updated to give you a second chance in 2017.
Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD is a board certified dermatologist and Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School. He also has a private practice in Eagan, MN. He received his M.D. and Master’s Degree in Molecular Biology and Genomics from the Mayo Clinic. He has been selected as one of the top 10 dermatologists in the United States by Black Enterprise magazine. Dr. Crutchfield was recognized by Minnesota Medicine as one of the 100 Most Influential Healthcare Leaders in Minnesota. He is the team dermatologist for the Minnesota Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves, Wild and Lynx. Dr. Crutchfield is an active member of both the American and National Medical Associations.