New Year's Resolutions You Can Keep

...Or not

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

If you've sworn off New Year's resolutions because you fail to keep them, here are some that are easy to keep--and help you be healthier.

The key to becoming a successful New Year's resolutionist is to focus on small changes to improve your health. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Schedule a physical:

Now, none of us jump at the prospect of a physical, nor the thought of being poked, prodded, and tested by the cold hands and tools of our doctors, all the while with the stench of latex gloves and sterility floating in the air. However, if you can't remember the last time you had a physical, then schedule one. Don't cram it in somewhere on your schedule—make it a priority. Or look at it this way: the quicker you do it, the quicker it's over. Take time well in advance to write down any illnesses you've had, any symptoms you've been concerned about or any questions you might have about the current state of your health. Have you had a reoccurring stomach pain? Is it getting harder for you to hear? Maybe you can't figure out why you've been getting so tired lately. Make a list of these concerns. Take your notes with you and present your concerns and questions to your doctor.

Get your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked:

High blood pressure (hypertension) and elevated cholesterol levels (hypercholesterolemia) are leading contributors to heart disease, and they typically have no symptoms. Hypertension is the most common chronic medical problem in the United States. So, if you have anything wrong with you, chances are it might be high blood pressure. High cholesterol is also extremely common in the United States. About 102.2 million Americans are considered high risk or borderline-high risk. Your local pharmacy likely has a blood pressure testing machine. While you're there, ask if the store will be hosting any health screening events, which often include cholesterol checks. Your workplace or a community center might even be having a health fair, so ask around.

Get your butt off the couch:

You've spent the last month or so feasting with family or escaping the onset of winter with warm, hearty meals. So get off your butt, fatty! If you don't exercise, make a commitment with a family member, coworker or friend to go for a walk four or five times a week for at least 10 minutes. You don't have to join a gym or buy expensive, space-consuming home gym equipment. If the weather's too daunting, then head to a mall. By having a workout buddy, you're more likely to keep your commitment. Remember that a little activity a few days a week beats no activity every day of the week.

Wean yourself off the unhealthy foods:

Instead of going cold turkey on all the foods you think are bad for you, resolve to gradually change how you eat by making one small change each week (or even every two weeks or every month if one a week seems too big a change for you to handle). Just think baby steps. Big leaps are just too stressful, and often unachieveable. For example, if you typically drink three cans of soda a day, cut back to just two cans during the first week. For the second week, replace enriched white bread with whole grain, high-fiber bread for your sandwiches or morning toast. Rather than depriving yourself, focus on controlling your portions.

Keep track of all your drugs:

No... we don't mean you should keep track of all those illicit substances (although, a good new year's resolution would be to quit those). We mean make a list of all the prescription and over-the-counter medications and dietary supplements you take (the U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers an easy-to-use form on its Web site to help you out). If you already have a list, make sure it's up to date. Ask your pharmacist or health care provider to look over it to make sure you're not taking any drug combinations that could adversely affect your health. Carry this information with you at all times so that you and any health care providers can refer to it.

Many folks fail at keeping New Year's resolutions because they mistakenly believe their resolutions must involve radical overhauls of their lives. However, by taking small steps, you can keep your resolution and improve your health. Viva la resolution!

Review Date: 
December 1, 2010