Changes for the Better

THE HOLIDAYS ARE now over and your schedule may be slowing down. As we ring in the New Year, the most common resolutions people make pertain to their health. Start by taking a deep breath and commending yourself on the big and little victories of the past year. Think of your strong support system, how organized you were and how you may have consistently exercised. Then consider your stressors. “Reevaluate your stressors and decide if it is worth the worry because sometimes we stress over little things that do not seem as important the next day,” said Dr. Susan Ovella, internal medicine at Lakeview Regional Medical Center. Like Mary Poppins said, with every job that must be done there is an element of fun. “Laughter is the best medicine,” said Ovella.
           Winter is filled with health woes. “Get your flu and pneumonia vaccines if appropriate; wash your hands frequently and try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth as most illnesses are spread by contact,” said Ovella. By having a relationship with your doctor you will get an annual physical and be able to address things that may not be addressed during a sick visit or at an urgent care. Another defense to sickness is getting enough sleep. “One of the big things is not doing electronics or watching television before going to bed and if you do, try to download a blue light filter in a free app so you get a reduced amount of blue light which is what makes it harder to go to sleep at night,” said Dr. Linda M. Keefer, physician at St. Tammany Parish Hospital.
           Even if you are rushed or do not have a big appetite in the morning, grab a bite. “Breakfast is an important meal and should include some protein, high fiber and a little bit of fat such as nuts, oatmeal with some fruit or walnuts,” said Keefer. You want to cover several food groups to get your system going for a few hours without crashing. “I recommend fruit because it helps with performing better during the day, helps with weight control and helps you get better sleep at night,” said Keefer.
           Get moving and remember that it can be in increments and does not have to be all at once in the day. You can sneak activity into things that are not technically sports like walking the dog or gardening. Exercise does not mean that you have to be at a gym. “Try to get up and move at least every half hour if you have been sitting a lot because even just a brief walk makes a big difference and can help with metabolism,” said Keefer. Weight control is about a combination of diet and exercise. If weight loss is your goal, take it slow. “Healthy weight loss requires a lifestyle change and should be gradual with a goal of one to two pounds a week with reasonable short-term goals,” said Ovella. Moderation is the key.
           Vegetarianism has become an increasingly popular option. “If you have a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables and are getting your protein from nuts, beans, lentils, peas and soy beans you can do fine,” said Keefer. Vegetarians still eat dairy, fat and oils as long as they come from plants. Be sure to talk to your physician before eliminating any food groups. “Blood pressure and weight improve, sleep is better, GI tract functioning is improved and it is good for the skin,” said Keefer. Grilling and baking are both fine but you want to spice things up without adding salt or sodium. You will find that when you plan ahead and make conscious choices about your health that it becomes easier to look good and feel good in the New Year.



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