10 New Year’s Resolutions Your Doctor Wishes You Had

Dr. Sharon Orrange
Dr. Orrange is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of Geriatric, Hospitalist and General Internal Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
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Whether you’re still sticking with your New Year’s resolutions or not, it isn’t too late to start fresh. These are the resolutions your doctor wants you to make—and keep. Feel better, reduce your risk of stroke and heart disease, eat healthier, and stay safe . . . it sounds like a lot to take on, but these 10 things will help you stay healthy in 2016, and for years to come.

  1. Go Mediterranean. Not just for heart disease prevention, but for your memory too. The evidence for a mediterranean diet keeps coming. Limit red meat and butter and add more lentils, olive oil, beans, nuts and legumes. Studies this year showed that adding even a handful of mixed nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts) or extra olive oil to your diet helps prevent cognitive decline. Don’t worry, alcohol is allowed.
  2. Move. You are sick of hearing it but it looks like you have to move more than we thought: 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week (brisk walk, doubles tennis, riding a bike, ballroom dancing) will help prevent cancer, heart attack, stroke, dementia—and that’s just the short list. Make it a part of your life.
  3. Stand up. This year we learned that even when you’re physically active outside of work, sitting leads to premature death. Folks, if you are sitting 20 – 40 hours a week at your job, ask for a standing desk (or a sit-to-stand desk). Standing instead of sitting—and reducing your sitting by 6 – 8 hours per week—has been shown to improve mood, health, contribute to weight loss, and decrease back and neck pain, among other virtues.
  4. Take your meds. You not taking your prescriptions (aka medication non-compliance), accounts for 33 – 70% of drug related adverse events that result in hospital admissions, 40% of nursing home admissions, and costs the U.S. healthcare system 290 billion dollars a year. Ask for a 90-day supply at a time, ask for a cheaper generic, use a discount if one is available. If you are having side effects come to us for an alternative—but please don’t stop taking your meds.
  5. Know your numbers. If you are healthy, you don’t have to visit us very often but do know your numbers: blood pressure, fasting blood sugar, cholesterol, and weight. These are things we can change to prevent the leading causes of death in adults: stroke and heart disease.
  6. Get screened. There are some things we can see coming, and some we can’t. For those we can see coming please ensure you are up to date with age-appropriate screening: breast cancer, cervical cancer, colon cancer, glaucoma and cataracts, and in some high-risk individuals, prostate cancer. With a family history of melanoma an annual skin check is a must. Former or current smokers also now have access to lung cancer screening. Come to your doc to make sure you are up to date with your screening. It is heartbreaking to see anyone die from a screenable illness.
  7. Meditate. You may be picturing someone in lotus position on the floor, but if that just isn’t for you, you can still pursue your own form of meditation. A hot bath, prayer, a hike alone, or sitting in a room for 30 minutes alone in your head will improve mood, sleep pattern, and chronic pain among other things. Carve the time out and don’t underestimate how this can transform your life.
  8. Play an active role in your health care. Your doctor likely now has an electronic medical record and can invite you into the patient portal. Do this—many don’t take advantage. This will give you direct communication with your physician and let you review your labs, radiology studies, and medication list. We work for you, and a collaborative relationship where we are accessible to each other leads to better outcomes.
  9. Use the unsung heroes. Call on the resources of the amazing unsung heroes in medicine: physical therapists, occupational therapists, dieticians, and diabetes educators are just a few examples. For foot pain, knee pain or neck pain, ask for a referral from us for physical therapy sessions. Help with weight loss and diabetes management is readily available with referral from your doctor. Often covered by your insurance, these professionals can change your life.
  10. Just like mom said. Don’t smoke cigarettes, wear your seatbelt, and put on a helmet when riding a motorcycle, snowboard or bike.

What did I miss?

Dr O.

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