Jumpstart Your Health in 2021
How to build healthier habits in the new year
Ready to build some healthy habits in 2021? Following these tips will help you feel better and live longer. And if doing all of these at once feels overwhelming, just focus on changing one. Every little bit helps!
Start eating better to feel better
Food is the fuel your body runs on. Filling up your diet with healthy foods will have a positive impact on your entire body. This is especially true as we get older.
As we age, things just don't work as well as they used to. But making the right choices with what you eat can keep your body working better, longer. For example:
Fruits, nuts, and leafy vegetables keep your mind sharp. These foods are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which some studies show have been helpful in keeping seniors' minds sharp as they age.
Foods that are rich in antioxidants, like green tea, can also help keep your memory sharp and alert throughout the day.
Good cholesterol reduces your chance of stroke. High-density lipoproteins, or HDLs, help your body get rid of excess cholesterol. This is important because a buildup of cholesterol in the arteries is one of the main factors that lead to stroke and heart disease.
And, as you might know, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.
So, what kind of foods should you eat to lower your cholesterol level?
- Cook in olive oil instead of butter or other (more fatty) oils.
- Go for whole grains. That means brown rice over white rice, whole grain cereal, and oatmeal.
- High-fiber fruits like apples and pears are good choices
- Avocado, the world's trendiest food, is another great way to lower your cholesterol
Stop scrolling before bed.
Many Americans like to wind down before bed by looking through Facebook, checking those last few emails, or playing a quick game. On the surface, this seems fine. Decompressing after a long day with a mindless activity can help calm the nerves.
Unfortunately, more and more studies have shown that the blue light your phone emits may be impacting your sleep.
Some scientists believe that the blue light emitted from phones is too close to the natural light emitted by the sun. This messes with your body's natural sleep cycle, or your "circadian rhythm."
The blue light from phones actually suppresses your body's production of melatonin, the hormone that helps you fall asleep.
The result is that many people find they have more trouble falling asleep and aren't sleeping as well throughout the night. In the short-term, not being rested can leave you with headaches, make you irritable, and increase your likelihood of getting in a car accident.
The long-term effects of sleeplessness are much worse, though. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to serious conditions like depression, obesity, heart attack and diabetes.
There are companies selling blue light filters that you can buy online, but as of right now there is no proof they actually work. Your best bet is to plug the phone in out of arm's reach and pick up a book, magazine or crossword puzzle.
Smoking is worth quitting.
You knew you couldn't get through a whole article about healthy New Year's resolutions without an entry on cigarettes.
We aren't here to get on a soapbox and tell you how bad smoking is for you. In 2020, you are well aware of the health risks. Instead, we're going to help give you some resources on how to manage or outright quit if you really want to get healthier.
Quitting smoking is hard. Many people picked it up as a social habit or to deal with stress. And those two things most likely haven't changed since you've been smoking.
For a lot of smokers, the first step is to replace the physical act of smoking a cigarette with something else. If you usually go outside to smoke, still go outside. But instead of lighting one up, chew some gum, eat a snack or just watch a video on your phone.
If you do anything other than smoke a cigarette, that's a win.
You don't have to quit smoking alone. There are all kinds of resources out there to help people quit. If you're thinking of quitting, make it a point to schedule a visit with your doctor. They can recommend some medicines that can make it easier to help you quit smoking.
You can phone a friend. Did you know that every single state has a dedicated smoking quitline staffed with counselors specifically trained to help people quit smoking? And since virtually everyone has a cell phone, you are never more than 30 seconds away from someone who can help you through a craving.
Just call 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669) and you can talk directly with an expert.
Stay socially connected...responsibly.
Isolation can take a heavy toll on your mental health. Feelings of loneliness can lead to depression and more psychological issues. People are meant to be social creatures.
However, a massive global pandemic, quarantine, lockdown, and social distancing rules have all made staying socially connected much more complicated than it used to be.
Still, there are very few people who can hole up, see no one, and be perfectly fine. Most people still need human interaction to stay healthy and happy.
So what's the best way to do this without putting friends, family, and yourself at risk?
Plan outdoor activities. It's easier to socially distance when you're outside. When you can spread out, you dramatically reduce the risk of everyone involved. Plus, when the weather is nice, sunshine has been proven to energize and improve your mood.
Good outdoor activities include going for a picnic, taking a hike, or just grabbing some lawn chairs and hanging out with the neighbors. These days, any human interaction is good.
Take advantage of video chat. While it always feels better to see someone in person, video chat can make us feel more connected than a standard phone call. There is a small rush of joy when we get to see the face of someone we care about as opposed to just hearing their voice.
Video chat also gives our brains more information to work with. The visual cues of people's body language and facial expressions are key in how we communicate. It gives us the full picture, which we need to see and feel seen.
Preventative screenings are a healthy habit
One of the best ways to stay healthy is to be aware of the health concerns that sometimes don't show up until it's too late. Heart attacks and strokes can often happen with little-to-no warning.
Fortunately, there are quick, non-invasive ways to test your risk for these kinds of cardiovascular issues. At Life Line Screening, we use an ultrasound machine to scan your arteries and look for any cholesterol buildup.
If we find anything unusual with your test results, you can take them to your doctor to develop a treatment plan. The old saying is true: "knowledge is power".
Want to schedule a screening? We have thousands of screening locations all across the country. Just click the link below to find the one closest to you.