It's the beginning of a brand new year and there's no better time to make a few resolutions about getting and staying healthier.
But it's not so easy. Having too many resolutions means you're almost certain to fail to keep them, and some resolutions demand complex changes in attitude and lifestyle. After a few days, weeks or months, we're back where we started.
Actually, there are four resolutions that are likely to be very do-able. And, and added benefit: if people ask you about your New Year's Resolutions for 2013, sharing these four commitments will help educate them:
- Always ask your health provider questions. Lots of questions. Whatever the issue, be sure you learn your statistical chances of a problem getting better -- or worse -- if you take the recommended approach to treatment, be it medicine, a test, a procedure, or surgery. Ask about all the pros and cons. Find out what the side effects of a new medication include, and how the new drug might interact with ones you're already taking. Ask what the downside of doing nothing might be, and how it compares to the downside of taking aggressive treatment.
- Get your hands on every written report, any procedure or surgery summary, all lab tests, all test results such as mammograms, MRIs, CAT scans and x-rays, as they are done (not months afterwards). Read them and then put them in your own personal medical file. That way, you're likely to be the only person on earth who will have a complete compilation of all the key data from your various healthcare providers and labs. You can compare results from one year to the next, and if an issue arises, you'll be able to provide your physician with a quick copy of the relevant document.
- Exercise daily, doing something you really love. Of all the things you can do for yourself, exercise -- as recommended by your healthcare provider -- is the most likely to reap real, measurable benefits. Maybe you tried running but really don't like it. Perhaps you've figured out you hate indoor gyms. Or, you like to swim on your lunch hour but hate having to do your hair and make-up before you go back to work. Find at least one thing you get a kick out of and do it. Maybe you'll play ping-pong in the basement with your kids. Perhaps you'll shoot some baskets in your driveway after work, or walk the dog, or join a T.V. aerobics class. If you enjoy it, you'll do it. Over time, as you get more fit, you may add other activities to the mix.
- Identify and manage your stress. Most people hate this resolution. "Everyone has stress," they say. But if you're looking to live a longer, healthier life, exposure to stress and the way you react to stress -- both -- will work against you. Stress actually changes your body's cells to make them less resistant to infection and less capable of functioning normally. If you can avoid the source of your stress, try that. If you can't, work with a counselor, pastor, rabbi, spouse or a friend to develop approaches to life that significantly reduce your reaction to life's normal and abnormal frustrations and challenges.