How to help improve your health in 2019

Published 10:00 am Tuesday, January 15, 2019

LONDON — With the new year under way, many people are making resolutions to better themselves. While weight loss is a common New Year’s resolution, there are many other factors to consider when setting a goal to improve your health. By setting the right resolutions up front, you can avoid harmful fad diets and other short-term health trends, and improve your overall health for 2019 and beyond.

Establish a primary care physician and schedule an annual physical. Many people wait to seek medical care until they are sick. However, it’s important to establish a relationship with a primary care physician before illness occurs. Primary care physicians will become an essential part of your health care routine, and will become familiar with your needs, medical history and medication list. A primary care physician provides immediate and routine health care services, as well as preventive and health maintenance services. Through this relationship, patients learn about preventive care, get treated for acute illness quickly and are referred to specialists in a timely manner. The new year is the perfect time to find a primary care provider and schedule your annual physical.

Be mindful of your mental health. Mental health is just as important as physical health. Each year, more than 6.8 million adults in the United States suffer from generalized anxiety disorder and more than 16 million suffer from major depressive disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. These conditions can lead to harmful symptoms that affect a person’s everyday life. Those with anxiety may experience constant worrying, fatigue and trouble sleeping, headaches and rapid heartbeat, and more. Symptoms of depression include feelings of sadness, irritability or frustration, loss of interest, changes in appetite and sleeping patterns, and thoughts of suicide. If left untreated, mental health issues can lead to negative behaviors and even substance abuse.

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If you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health problem, it’s important to seek medical care right away. Once diagnosed, a combination of therapy and medications can be used to help manage symptoms. If you are having thoughts of suicide, don’t wait to see a doctor. Dial 911 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255.

Schedule your recommended cancer screenings. Start the new year with preventive care by scheduling your recommended health screenings, including those for breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer, among other diseases.

Breast cancer affects about 1 in 8 women in the U.S, therefore it is recommended that all women begin annual mammogram screenings starting at age 40. Those with a family history of breast cancer should be screened earlier. Prostate cancer affects approximately 1 in 7 men nationwide. Most men should be screened by age 50, although this could vary depending on ethnicity, family history and other factors. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in both men and women in the U.S, with about 50,630 deaths expected in 2018, according to the American Cancer Society. Those 50 and older should receive regular screening tests for colon cancer.

Set a date and quit smoking. Quitting smoking is a great way to improve your overall health. Tobacco use is responsible for more than 400,000 preventable deaths in the U.S. every year, and Kentuckians are particularly vulnerable due to the state’s smoking rates, which are among the highest in the nation. Smoking increases your risk of heart attack, stroke and emphysema, as well as other cancers.

For 2019, it’s important to set a date and make a resolution to quit smoking. To avoid temptation, try to stay away from situations in which you are likely to smoke, including being around other smokers, drinking alcohol or stressful situations. Moderate to heavy smokers may have a higher success rate when using a nicotine patch or gum to help them quit. While these products are safe, you should ask your doctor before using a smoking cessation product. If you find that you are having a great deal of difficulty quitting smoking, look into joining a local smoking cessation program.

Practice safe weight loss methods. According to Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Kentucky has the eighth highest adult obesity rate in the nation and the third highest obesity rate for youth ages 10 to 17. If you’re struggling with your weight and related conditions, practice safe weight loss methods with support from your physician. Avoid fad diets, which can cause rapid weight loss that is unsafe and unsustainable. Instead, use a combination of healthy eating and exercise to safely lose unwanted pounds. Eating a healthy diet consisting of vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains is conducive to weight loss. Adults working toward a weight loss goal should do at least two and a half hours of moderate to vigorous exercise per week.

For those who have been unsuccessful at losing weight by making lifestyle changes, weight loss surgery can be a suitable option. Surgery can also lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, reduce joint pain, help control blood sugar, improve your overall health and quality of life.

If you are considering making changes to improve your overall health for the new year, visiting a primary care provider is the best place to start.