20 Tips for a Healthier 2020

Instead of adopting grandiose goals, incorporate small healthy enhancements to your lifestyle to be well and stay motivated.

Crowded bookstore displays with the latest books on trendy diets. Magazines filled with before-and-after photos of celebrities. TV interviews with fitness experts and nutritionists on the latest exercise craze or superfoods. January is upon us and so is the pressure to resolve to a happier, healthier you in 2020.

However, according to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, only about 9% of people who set New Year’s resolutions actually stick with them. Instead of overhauling your daily routine or eating habits, try small healthy enhancements to your lifestyle to be well and stay motivated. We’re serving up 20 suggestions to get you started.

Get tested for HIV.
An estimated 15% or one in seven HIV-positive people are completely unaware of their status. Being tested can be scary, but be reassured that the virus can be successfully managed with physician oversight, allowing HIV-positive patients to live long, healthy lives. Furthermore, not every person with HIV develops AIDS, but left untreated HIV will eventually evolve into AIDS, which is a late stage of the infection in which the immune system begins to shut down entirely.

Begin a mindfulness meditation practice.
“Gratitude is an excellent way to begin your day joyfully and mindfully,” says Dr. Diane Reibel, co-founder of the Stress Reduction Program at the Marcus Institute of Integrative Health. Research shows that practicing gratitude reduces stress and enhances well-being. Click here for a quick and easy two-minute meditation to tap into whenever you need to step out of habitual reactive/stressful thought patterns and into more healthful ways of responding.

Quit smoking/vaping.
You probably don’t need the reminders on why you need to quit smoking and vaping, and yes it can be scary to think of quitting whether you’ve been smoking for a year or a lifetime, but you don’t need to do it alone and having a personalized quit plan can really help.

Calling all men! Go to the doctor!
“Men are much more resistant to doctor’s visits,” says Dr. Perry R. Weiner, Director of the Men’s Health Program at Jefferson. “We’re taught that we’re tough and strong and that we need to work hard and provide. Then we’re more concerned with repair than prevention.” Avoiding the doctor’s office can lead to undetected chronic and complex health issues like cancer, hormonal imbalances and life-threatening heart conditions. Lucky for you we have a guide to the health screenings men should complete through the decades.

Talk to your doctor about your anxiety.
Everyone feels anxious once in awhile. It becomes a problem when it’s misplaced or ongoing. “Anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear,” says Nancy DeAngelis, director of Behavioral Health Services at Jefferson Health. “Don’t wait too long to seek treatment, which can cause you to suffer needlessly,” DeAngelis adds. “Anxiety is very treatable and manageable.” Read more about treatment paths here.

Know the warning signs for breast cancer and schedule a mammogram.
If you experience skin changes, bloody nipple discharge, or see/feel a hard, palpable lump that does not move or change, you should make an appointment to be examined by a physician, according to breast surgery specialist Dr. Kahyun Yoon-Flannery. If you’re age 40 or over, also be sure to get your annual mammogram. If you have a family history of premenopausal breast cancer, the recommendation is to start mammography screening 10 years before the age of earliest diagnosis.

Focus on whole foods, not superfoods.
Instead of following the latest superfoods, focus on eating a variety of foods from all the food groups. The American Heart Association healthy diet emphasizes a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry and fish, nuts and legumes, and non-tropical vegetable oils. Benefits abound for cutting out processed foods, including a stronger heart!

Begin a workout routine … for your brain.
Jefferson researchers have found that keeping brains, bodies and social lives active may significantly help reduce memory loss. What are some ways to keep your brain active and engaged? Reading, writing, jigsaw puzzles and memory matching games all make your brain focus, think and reflect.

Schedule an eye dilation with your next eye exam.
It’s important to have your eyes dilated so physicians can examine the parts of the eye that aren’t visible from the outside for things like eye freckles or melanoma. Ocular melanoma is a rare and serious cancer. To read more about ocular melanoma and what to do if you’re worried about a dark spot on your eye, click here.

Add more herbs into your cooking and less salt.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average American consumes an average of 3,400 mg of sodium per day. This is about 30 percent more than what both the American Heart Association and the Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines recommend (fewer than 2,300 mg per day). Clinical dietitian Emily Rubin suggests seasoning your meals with herbs before reaching for that salt shaker. “Substituting herbs for salt can not only increase the flavor but also provide health benefits,” Rubin says. “Turmeric (curcumin) and Rosemary (rosmarinic acid) may provide an anti-inflammatory benefit, and fresh ginger has been known to treat nausea.”

Be better to your back.
The discs in your spine start to change in your 30s and continue through your 40s and 50s. That means you should be more aware and careful before you go out and play flag football or golf weekend warrior-style as you get older. That awareness should also transition to when you’re lifting anything from a roast out of the oven, to heavy boxes and objects. Nurse June Weise of the Orthopedic and Spine Institute at Abington-Jefferson Health stresses not to try and do anything beyond your abilities and recommends building core strength through exercise like Pilates to support your spine.

Brush your teeth every day—and don’t forget to floss.
Inflammation plays a key role in plaque forming in your heart arteries. Good dental hygiene is one way you can support heart health. For other tips, click here.

Find a primary care physician.
The Washington Post reported that a national poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that nearly half of 18 to 29 year olds say they do not have a primary care physician. Primary care physicians are trained in a little bit of everything and can step back and look at the ‘big picture’ of their patient’s health. Over time, your doctor will get to know you as a person and will hopefully become someone you can trust to discuss any and all concerns about your health and wellbeing.

Stop “saving” your calories.
It’s easy to justify skipping breakfast when you’re meeting a friend for lunch or want to “treat yourself” to dessert after dinner, but according to clinical dietician Emily Rubin, you’re just setting yourself up for eating two or three times the amount of calories than if you ate balanced meals through the day. She suggests the best way to make sure you do not overeat is tune in to your body’s hunger cues.

Make an appointment with a genetic counselor.
Genetic counselors work in a variety of healthcare areas including oncology, prenatal, pediatrics, neurology, cardiology and more. “A common misconception we see is that many people think if you see a genetic counselor, you must have gene testing,” says licensed certified genetic counselor Carey McDougall. “What we do is help patients make the most informed choices for their healthcare through careful review of the patient’s medical history, family history and other risk factors.”

Get a flu shot.
Yes, you still can and you still should. The CDC recommends that anyone over six months of age receive the vaccine each year to protect them against this serious contagious disease throughout the flu season.

Wear sunscreen—all day, every day.
Dr. Nazanin Saedi, a dermatologist and the director of Jefferson’s Laser Surgery & Cosmetic Dermatology Center, recommends to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 on any parts of your skin exposed to the elements, even on cloudy and cold, winter days. “Broad spectrum” provides protection from both UVA and UVB rays, both of which can cause skin cancer.

Speak up about your food allergies.
Tell people about your food allergies. This includes restaurant servers and any friends or family members who may be preparing food for you. If you’re dining out and you think your server doesn’t understand your particular food allergy, explain it to them, or ask for a manager or the cook.

Download the JeffConnect app.
Planning a trip out of the country? Be sure to download the JeffConnect app on your phone as a way to quickly connect with a physician if you have an urgent healthcare issue arise during your trip, says Dr. Aditi Joshi. They will be able to fill a prescription for you if needed, or tell you to come home early if you need immediate care.

Donate blood.
Don’t just help yourself, help others. Every two seconds someone needs a blood transfusion. Whether it’s being used in cases of trauma, transplants, chronic anemia or cancer, there is no medical substitute for blood. Click here to read about five common blood donation misconceptions and how you can donate today.

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