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Tips for Improving Your Health in 2012

Setting goals to develop healthy habits or to get rid of unhealthy ones is a great way to kick off 2012 - just keep them simple to achieve success.

By Susan Hill, MD, family medicine physician with Wheaton Franciscan Medical Group.

This is the time of year many people make a New Year's resolution. Honestly, I’ve never put much stock in that, but this is a good time to reflect on our style of life. Having a goal to develop new healthy habits or get rid of unhealthy old ones is a good thing – as long as we don’t go overboard, try to change too much, or get too hard on ourselves. Here are some simple suggestions:

Exercise more: You could join a gym, or buy a new expensive piece of exercise equipment. If that’s your kind of thing, and you’ll use them and not waste that money, go ahead! But another option is just getting up and moving more at any opportunity. Don’t expect dramatic weight loss doing these, but the more you move ... the better.

  • Walk around the kitchen while waiting for microwave popcorn (or similar things)
  • Gentle knee bends while brushing your teeth (don’t poke yourself!)
  • Walk in place while waiting at the fax/copy machine (or dance if you’re not embarrassed)
  • Park further away in the parking lot at work, school, the grocery store, etc.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Do leg lifts under your desk

Lose weight: Anyone who knows me knows this has been a life-long battle. You might say I’m an “unsuccessful expert.” I think this would be a resolution that’s too nebulous. Instead, pick something concrete, specific, obtainable. If weight loss is still your goal then have realistic goals (like lose 2-4 pounds/month) and have a plan of how you’re going to achieve it. You can ask your doctor or join a healthy weight loss program (like Weight Watcher’s). Other smaller suggestions would be:

  • Pack your own lunch (or do this 3 times/week)
  • Stop buying chips (or set a reasonable limit, like one bag every other month)
  • Drink water instead of soda (or pick a number to cut down more gradually)
  • Add one more fruit and/or vegetable to your diet each day

Quit Smoking: More and more of my patients are asking for help with this. Why? Cost, health, new options for quitting. We (your doctor) can help you with this. There are two parts to being addicted to cigarettes: the chemical addiction and the habit. Most of the commercial products help more with the chemical addiction, but sometimes the habit is the harder part to change. Most people smoke at certain times and with certain other behaviors (with coffee, alcohol, after meals). Identifying  those times and patterns – make the unconscious become conscious – will help prepare you for the times you’ll be most vulnerable. Did you know:

  • Within 8 hour of quitting Carbon Monoxide levels return to normal
  • Within 24 hours of quitting your change of heart attack starts to decrease
  • Within 2 weeks to 3 months  your circulation and walking improve
  • Within 6-9 months the cilia (cleaning cells of the respiratory tract) grow back

What are your resolutions? Anything helpful to the rest of us? Anything we can help you achieve?

Let’s make this year a healthy one!

Visit the Wheaton Franciscan Medical Group blog for additional helpful and timely health care information.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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