With 2011 nearly here, plenty of us are dusting off last year’s failed resolution to get in shape. While dropping a pants size or two is a noble goal, I encourage patients wishing to make healthy changes in the new year to focus not on how their body looks on the outside but how it functions on the inside.
Chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes are epidemic in our country and our community. The best health resolutions combat these diseases or prevent them altogether with specific, manageable lifestyle alterations.
Try one of these ideas beginning in January. When you’ve integrated it into your daily life, add another in February, and so on. Small steps like these can lead to big changes over time:
Eat one or two servings of fruits and vegetables at breakfast. When you add an orange and a glass of tomato juice to your morning coffee and toast, you set the tone for a day’s worth of healthier eating to benefit both your heart and your blood sugar level.
Use a pedometer to track your daily steps. Wearing a pedometer keeps you mindful of the need to be active – and physical activity fends off chronic disease. Start by recording a week’s history of the steps you take during a normal day; then aim to add 2,000 steps, or about 1 mile, to your daily tally. Increase this each week to reach 10,000 steps a day.
Drink a glass of water with each meal and another between meals. While opinions vary on how much water your body needs in a day, drinking water instead of sugary, high-calorie beverages like soda will help you lose weight, fight heart disease, and manage your blood sugar to avoid Type 2 diabetes.
Set your alarm for seven or eight hours of sleep a night. Some studies have found connections between lack of sleep and both heart disease and diabetes. In addition, getting adequate sleep will help you avoid eating junk food for quick bursts of energy throughout the day.
Remember, little resolutions can make a big difference in your health. Small successes benefit your heart and your blood sugar – and, if you stick with them, your waistline, too.