Merry Christmas and happy new year! I hope you are all enjoying the holiday season with friends and family. As the new year quickly approaches, it’s time to start making resolutions for 2017. Before you get too far into your list, I would like to suggest some healthy resolutions for 2017, all of which can help you live a longer, fuller life.
• Quit smoking. Heart disease, cancer, respiratory infections and stroke are the leading causes of death in our country. All of these are more likely in smokers. Quitting by the age of 40 can reduce your risk of dying from smoking-related illnesses by 90 percent. Talk to your primary care practitioner about quitting today.
• Floss daily. The surprising fact is that bacteria in your mouth can affect your blood vessels and increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. Daily flossing can increase your life expectancy by about six years.
• Exercise. Thirty minutes of walking daily is all it takes to keep your body healthier and happier.
• Do your cancer screening and regular health checkups. Colon cancer is the third most common cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Breast cancer and prostate cancer are the second most common causes of cancer deaths in women and men. Lung cancer is still the most common cause of cancer deaths for both genders. Screening saves lives, so ask your primary care practitioner for more information.
• Eat more fiber. Increasing the fiber in your diet can help prevent diabetes and reduce high cholesterol. It is recommended that we all eat 25-35 grams of fiber a day. Fiber supplements are easy to take and are over the counter. Drinking 64 ounces of water a day is also important for everyone who does not have kidney problems.
• Go to church. The longest-living group of people in the United States is the Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California. They eat fiber, avoid alcohol and smoking, go to church, and live 10 years longer than the average American. Stress reduction and prayer go hand in hand, and community is an essential part of being human.
• Try to consistently schedule yourself at least six to eight hours of sleep a night.
• Reduce your stress level.
• Keep learning. One study showed that the way to increase pleasure in life is to increase knowledge, so maintain your natural curiosity and keep reading!
• Foster healthy relationships. Allow those who love you to speak into your life so you can grow kinder, humbler and gentler.
The older I get, the more I realize how difficult it is to permanently change behaviors. The first step is to identify behaviors that should be changed, and come up with positive alternatives. Making a list is a good first step. Next, enlist the help of others to remind you of why you made the list, and to keep up your motivation for change over the next year.
May God continue the work of real heart and life change in us as we seek to grow healthier in every way: physically, spiritually and emotionally. One of the most comforting verses in the Bible is Revelation 21:5, when Jesus says, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
Janet Abadir is a board certified general surgeon practicing at the Specialty Clinic at Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center.