Answers to Common Being Healthier in the New Year Questions

Premier Physician Network doctors answer frequently asked questions about being healthier in the new year.

How should patients work with their doctors on setting health resolutions?

Setting a New Year’s resolution to take steps to live a healthier lifestyle can be a step in the right direction for many people.

Whether you decide you want to eat better, lose weight, stop smoking or exercise more, talking with your physician is a good starting point to get on track.

By working with your doctor, you can make sure you are taking the right steps to achieve your goal in the healthiest way. You and your doctor can create a plan outlining how to progress and make the road to success more manageable.

If you plan on making a New Year’s resolution to better your health, talk with your doctor to find out the best way to move forward.

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How can I differentiate between a realistic New Year’s resolution and an impractical one?

Oftentimes, the biggest obstacle standing in the way of succeeding in a New Year’s resolution is the resolution itself. When making a resolution, especially one regarding your health, it is important to set realistic, reachable goals to succeed in the long-run.

According to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), there are a few ways to help create a realistic resolution instead of an impractical one, such as:

  • Be specific in setting an end goal
  • Take small steps toward that goal by setting mile markers along to achieve along the way
  • If you are looking to make a lifestyle change, make sure it is manageable long-term

Talk with your physician for more information about how to set a realistic New Year’s resolution, especially one that affects your future health.

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What are some tactics that can help me stick to my New Year’s resolution?

Though people have the best intentions when making New Year’s resolutions, more than half of these resolutions are broken within six months, according to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH).

It’s important to make a resolution that is realistic so it can be incorporated into your everyday life instead of becoming overwhelming, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).

Some tactics that can help people stick with New Year’s resolutions, according to the APA, include:

  • Start small – Try not to make the changes overwhelming by easing into your goals. If you want to exercise more, start with a few days a week instead of every day. If you want to eat healthier, try switching out dessert for fruit instead of cutting out sweets altogether.
  • Focus on one behavior – Work toward changing one unhealthy behavior at a time instead of reassessing everything in your life at once.
  • Talk about it – Making changes can seem less intimidating if you have someone to share your highs and lows with. Talk to family and friends, join a support group or find another outlet to help your focus on your goal.
  • Don’t get discouraged – Remember that it is normal to have setbacks and missteps along the way to reaching every goal. The important thing is to decide to keep moving forward and get back on track.

Talk with your physician for more information about how to stick with your New Year’s resolution.

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How should my New Year’s resolutions change as I age – in terms of expectations and goals?

Dr. Silk talks about how to adjust your New Year’s resolutions with your age. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

As you age, you’ve probably learned that setting realistic expectations and smaller goals can help you to achieve success, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).

Try not to use the start of the new year as a marker for a complete life overhaul. Instead, try to make it a time to reflect on your past year’s behavior and a time to promise yourself positive lifestyle changes in the year to come, according to the APA.

If there is a larger goal you’d like to achieve, break it up, suggests the APA. Set small, attainable goals throughout the year by adding a new goal once you reach the first, second and so on.

For example, if your goal is to eat healthier, the APA recommends replacing dessert with a healthier option you enjoy – such as fruit or yogurt. That way, you are not completely depriving yourself of the sweets you want.

The APA also recommends focusing on changing only one behavior at a time. It takes us awhile to develop our unhealthy behaviors, so it’s reasonable to think it will take some time to break those behaviors as well.

For more tips on how to plan resolutions for the new year, talk with your physician.

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What steps should a smoker take to quit smoking?

Dr. Thompson discusses steps to take to quit smoking. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

When you are ready to quit smoking, taking a few simple steps can help you succeed in quitting completely, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC recommends smokers who want to quit smoking should:

  • Make the decision to quit – Think about the reasons you want to quit and the benefits that will come from quitting.
  • Set a date – Pick a quit date within the next month. Label it on your calendar as your Quit Day so you will have a reminder that this is the day to move forward with your personal commitment to quit.
  • Make a Plan – Tell friends and family about your Quit Day so they can be supportive. Get rid of cigarettes and ashtrays. Stock up on oral substitutes, such as gum, carrot sticks, candy, cinnamon sticks, coffee stirrers, straws and toothpicks. Decide if you are interested in medicines or classes and purchase or sign up as necessary. Set up a support system. Think about past attempts at quitting and what you will do differently to succeed this time.
  • Prepare to deal with withdrawal – Plan to avoid temptations, change your habits, choose other things that go in your mouth, do an activity with your hands and breathe deeply.
  • Reward yourself – Put aside money you would have spent on smoking and buy yourself a treat, like a book or a nice dinner out, as you make progress.

Talk to your doctor for more ways you can prepare to quit smoking.

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How is smoking harmful to a person’s health?

With all the healthcare options today, people who want to quit smoking have a variety of choices available to take the steps toward a healthier lifestyle. Smoking is one of the worst things you can choose to do when it comes to your health because it harms almost every organ in the body, causes many diseases and reduces the smokers overall health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Smoking causes more than 440, 000 deaths – almost one in every five deaths – in the U.S. annually, according to the CDC.

According to the CDC, smoking:

  • Causes coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • Narrows the blood vessels, causing reduced circulation
  • Causes lung diseases, such as emphysema, bronchitis, chronic airway obstruction
  • Causes stroke
  • Causes a variety of types of cancers, which often lead to death

According to the CDC, cancers caused by smoking include:

  • Acute myeloid leukemia
  • Bladder cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Cancer of the larynx
  • Lund cancer
  • Mouth cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Throat cancer

Smoking also can put people at increased risk of infertility, preterm delivery, stillbirth, having a baby with low birth weight and causing Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) of children in a smoker’s home, according to the CDC.

For more information on the hazards associated with smoking, talk with your physician.

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How is nicotine addictive, and what effect does it have on a person’s body?

Nicotine is an addictive drug, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Nicotine is absorbed into the bloodstream when you use a tobacco product – whether you are chewing, inhaling or smoking.

In the bloodstream, nicotine immediately causes the release of adrenaline, which stimulates the central nervous system and increases your blood pressure, respiration and heart rate, according to the NIH.

Nicotine also increases levels of dopamine, which controls reward and pleasure pathways in the brain – just like illegal drugs cocaine, heroin and marijuana do, according to the NIH.

These feelings of pleasure add to what make nicotine and smoking so addictive. And, that addiction is why it is so hard for smokers to quit the bad habit, even when their health is on the line, according to the NIH.

Talk to your physician for more information about the addictive qualities of nicotine.

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What are some common side effects when a person stops smoking?

Most smokers are dependent on nicotine, so quitting is a challenge because the smoker is both changing a lifestyle habit and breaking an addiction, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Some side effects that someone quitting smoking commonly deals with are:

  • Weight gain – Many smokers gain some weight, usually less than 10 pounds, when they quit.
  • Bad mood or depression – Quitting smoking is a lifestyle change and can be stressful, especially because smokers often use smoking as a form of relaxation and release.
  • Triggers – A smoker’s body craves nicotine, so when a person chooses to quit smoking they need to make note of triggers that makes the urge to smoke even stronger. A trigger could be a person you often smoked with, a place you smoke frequently like in the car or an activity, such as drinking alcohol.

If you are planning to quit smoking or have quit smoking, talk to your doctor for information about how to manage the side effects that come along with quitting.

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How long after quitting smoking will someone experience its benefits?

When someone quits smoking, some benefits take place immediately, while other health risks are reduced in the long-term, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCH).

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that benefits of quitting smoking occur in the following timeframe:

  • In a few minutes - Heart rate and blood pressure begin to return to normal
  • In a few hours – The carbon monoxide level in the blood begins to decline
  • In a few weeks – Circulation improves, less phlegm is produced, less frequent coughing or wheezing
  • In a few months – Lung function substantially improves
  • After one year – The risk of coronary heart disease is cut in half
  • After five years – The risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder are cut in half
  • After 10 years – The risk of dying from lung cancer is cut in half; the risk of larynx or pancreatic cancer decreases
  • After 15 years – The risk of coronary heart disease is the same as a non-smoker’s

Other benefits of quitting smoking include not having the smoke smell on your hair and clothes, having a better sense of smell, having more money, having healthier-looking skin and having more energy, according to the NCH.

For more information about how quitting smoking can benefit your life, talk with your physician.

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How does smoking cessation also affect those living around the smoker?

Dr. Silk talks about how smoking cessation helps those around you. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

The choice to quit smoking and following through with the decision will benefit not only your health, but the health of your family and all those around you, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Secondhand and thirdhand smoke have harmful effects on the health of people around you, including your children and spouse.

Secondhand smoke has been linked to increased risk of heart disease. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are a higher risk of developing asthma, middle ear infections and lung infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

Smoking cessation is especially important when there is an infant in your home, because exposure to secondhand smoke puts babies at a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), according to the ACOG.

By quitting smoking, you are choosing to put not only your health, but your family’s health first, and you are setting a good example for your children and others around you, according to the ACS.

Talk to your physician for more information about how choosing to quit smoking is affects others in your home.

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What are some ways to lose weight in a timely and safe manner?

Dr. Thompson discusses ways to lose weight efficiently. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

To lose weight, you have to take in fewer calories than you use. A good way to do this is to plan for and keep track of how many calories you take in through food and drinks and how many you lose during regular physical activity, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The more disciplined you are about following healthy eating habits and sticking to a planned exercise routine, the more likely you are to have steady, healthy weight loss, according to the NIH.

Some important eating habits to incorporate, according to the NIH, include:

  • Focusing on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy products
  • Include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts
  • Limit amounts of trans fats, cholesterol, salt, added sugars and carbohydrates

Some physical activities that can be good to add into an exercise routine, according to the NIH, can include:

  • Walking
  • Biking
  • Tennis
  • Aerobic classes, such as step aerobics, dancing or kick boxing
  • Energetic house or yard work, such as gardening, mopping or vacuuming

An important thing to remember is that weight loss does not happen overnight. Losing weight takes time and should be done in a way that can be maintained long-term rather than by using the latest diet trend.

Talk to your physician for more information about healthy ways to lose weight.

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How can I get motivated to get back on track if I get discouraged or stop making progress toward my weight loss goal?

Dr. Thompson discusses overcoming progress hurdles along the way to help you or a loved one reach your weight loss goal. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

When working toward your weight loss goal, try to remember that no one is perfect. Small mistakes along the way happen, but it is how you overcome them that matters, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).

It is important not to be too hard on yourself, according to the APA. You have to decide to move past your misstep and keep moving forward toward your goal.

Some ideas to help get yourself motivated again include:

  • Remind yourself of your goals visually by posting it on the fridge, in your car or on your desk
  • Believe in yourself
  • Take time to look back at all that you have accomplished
  • Change up your routine. If you usually work out alone, ask a friend to join you. If you work out at home, try taking a class.
  • Be patient. You gained weight over time, and it will take time to lose the weight also.

If you feel discouraged or struggle to progress along your weight loss journey, talk with your physician about next steps to keep moving forward.

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Once I have lost weight, what is the best way to keep the weight off?

Dr. Thompson discusses losing weight and keeping it off. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Once you have lost weight, the best way to keep it off is to continue with healthy eating habits and remain physically active, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Healthy eating habits to maintain weight loss include:

  • Follow a healthy eating plan – Have a pattern for when you eat. Have pre-planned meals and snacks. Try not to skip meals. Try not to overeat because of emotion or stress. Eat breakfast daily.
  • Be active – Stick to a routine of physical activity. It could be 20 to 30 minutes of activity – such as walking or aerobic activity – three times a week, or a different routine that works for you.

Every person is different, so talk to your physician about the best strategy for you to keep the weight you have lost off.

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What physical changes happen as I get older that cause my body to respond differently to exercise and diet?

Missing the days when you could eat everything and not worry about gaining a pound or feeling sluggish? So do most adults once they hit a wall where their metabolism starts to slow down from what it was when they were teens.

Metabolism is the process of how the body converts food into energy, and it determines the rate at which your body burns calories and how quickly you can gain or lose weight, according to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).

The first noticeable slowing of your metabolism usually happens around age 25, though it can happen sooner for some people. As we continue to age, our metabolism continues to slow down, and it is up to each individual to take steps to help it pick back up, according to the AARP.

You can help boost your metabolism by getting at least moderate exercise for 30 minutes or more at least four times a week, according to the AARP.

What you eat also affects your metabolism. Steer clear of processed food and things that are high in fat. Instead focus on eating whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Talk to your physician for diet and exercise habits that would be beneficial for you to help boost your metabolism.

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Is there new technology, such as smart phone apps, that can help me achieve a level of physical activity I need to stay healthy?

Dr. Silk talks about technology that can help you stay healthy. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Whether you’re using a smartphone, a tablet or a computer, this technology is no longer just a means to help stay in touch with friends and family.

These technological tools all can be very helpful with personal healthcare, according to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).

There are applications – apps – available for purchase, according to the AARP, that can help you manage health habits including:

  • Your diet – From counting calories and carbs to tracking how many glasses of water you’ve had each day, keeping track of what you’re eating is simple. You can also find healthy recipes to meet your dietary needs at the touch of a screen or the click of mouse.
  • Your exercise – Track your steps. Turn on music for your exercise routine. Or even display an exercise video that you’re going to follow along to, anytime and anywhere. There’s no excuse for being stationary when technology is on the go with you.
  • You medication – There are a variety of apps available not to help you keep track of your medications with alerts you can set to make sure you remember to take a certain medication at a specific day and time. You can also set reminders who when you need to refill a prescription and more.

Other forms of technology, including video games such as Kinect and Wii, give you the opportunity to mix up your exercise routine by letting you dance to the latest hits in a nightclub from the comfort of your living room or play a game of tennis in the middle of January. Many of these games have workout modes that will help you track your activity level through game play, according to the AARP.

For more information about how you can work technology into managing your health, talk with your doctor.

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What are advance directives?

Dr. Silk talks about advance directives. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Advance directives are legal paperwork that give you the opportunity to make decisions in writing about what you prefer your end-of-life care to be, before you are not capable of doing so, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

These documents give you a chance to let your family, friends and health care team know your wishes so there is no confusion or disagreement later, according to the NIH.

The NIH states that the types of advance directives available, regarding your medical care, include:

  • Living will – A living will tells what types of care you would want if you were dying or permanently unconscious. You have the choice to accept or refuse medical care. You should include instruction on
    • The use of breathing machines and dialysis
    • Whether or not you want to be resuscitated if your heart or breathing stop
    • The use of feeding tubes
    • Organ and tissue donation
  • Durable Power of attorney for health care – This document lets you name a health care proxy, which is someone you trust to make health decisions for you if you are not able to.

Though it might be difficult or seem uncomfortable to think about end-of-life decisions while you are alive and well, having your wishes outlined in advance can take stress off of loved ones and ensure your wishes are followed, according to the American Hospital Association.

For more information about advance directives, talk with your physician.

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At what age or during what life circumstances should adults make advance directives?

The best time during your life to make advance directives is while you are healthy and have had plenty of time to think through your options, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Oftentimes, people think of advance directives as decisions to make near the end of life or when they have a serious illness, but making these decisions earlier in life can make them much less of a burden, according to the NIH.

Having specifically outlined directions on the medical care you choose for the end of your life will ensure you receive the treatment that reflects the values by which you have lived, according to the NIH.

Also, preparing your advance directives early gives you plenty of time to talk with your family and other loved ones about your decisions, according to the NIH. This conversation is not always an easy one, but it is important for everyone to know the kind of care you would want in end-of-life circumstances.

Talk to your physician for more information on when to start preparing advance directives.

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What is a Do Not Resuscitate order, and why is it important?

A Do Not Resuscitate order – often known as a DNR order – is a medical order written by a doctor, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The order states that a health care provider should not do cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if you stop breathing or your heart stops.

Having a DNR order in your medical file (if deemed appropriate for you by your physician) allows you to choose the extent of treatment you want to receive at the end of life, according to the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA).

There are two types of DNR orders, according to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH):

  • DNR Comfort Care (DNRCC) – With this order signed, you would receive any care that would east pain and suffering, but no resuscitative measures to save or sustain your life.
  • DNR Comfort Care – Arrest (DNRCC-Arrest) – If you agree on this order, you would receive standard medical care until you stop breathing or your heart stops beating. The care could include cardiac monitoring, intubation and other medical care.

Speaking to your doctor about having a DNR order, like preparing all advanced directives, is important because it puts you in charge of your end-of-life choices, according to the NIH. Having these choices outlined clearly also takes any pressure off of family members to decide for end-of-life decisions for you.

For more information about DNR orders, talk with your physician.

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Thanks to Premier Physician Network doctors for answering these common questions about being healthier in the new year:

Additional Resources

This website provides general medical information that should be used for informative and educational purposes only. Information found here should not be used as a substitute for the personal, professional medical advice of your physician. Do not begin any course of treatment without consulting a physician.

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