New Year, A Healthier You
We often don’t recognize the importance of making our health a priority, until a problem arises. So in an effort to help you start 2012 on the right foot, our clinical team has gathered some important steps you can toward living a healthier life. Taking proactive care of your health now will benefit you, as well as your family and everyone who depends on you.
A Simple To-Do List for a Healthier You
Have an annual check-up.
We all have reasons for avoiding our annual check-up, but the simple fact is that a visit to your family physician will not only offer you peace of mind, it can also save your life. Annual check-ups will ensure that you receive any necessary vaccinations and health screenings, too.
Know the Basics:
- Body Mass Index: A recent study showed that 1 in 4 Canadians is obese. The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a mathematical ratio that compares a person’s height and weight to diagnose possible obesity. It is best to maintain a BMI within the normal range of 18.5 to 24.9.
- Waist circumference: Even if you are not significantly overweight, carrying extra fat around your middle can be bad for your health. Waist measurements greater than 102 cm (40 in) for Caucasian men (greater than 90 cm in South Asian and Asian men) and 88 cm (35 in) for Caucasian women (greater than 80 cm for South Asian and Asian women) are considered indicators of risk for diabetes, coronary artery disease and hypertension. Optimal waist measurements vary with ethnicity, so please speak with your family physician to learn about your specific risk indicators.
- Blood pressure: Your blood pressure should be tested annually by your family physician. High blood pressure can increase your exposure to risk of serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke. If you don’t have diabetes or difficulties with your kidneys, blood pressure of 140/90 or lower is considered normal.
Eat more, not less.
Your body requires energy on a regular basis to help moderate your blood sugars and prevent food cravings. When you go too long without eating, your blood sugars fall and may leave you hunting for holiday leftovers. Plan to eat a small meal of protein and carbohydrates every three to four hours to keep your energy levels up and your hands out of the cookie jar! If there is a long gap in your day between breakfast and lunch, a piece of fruit or cheese or a small handful of nuts can help bridge that gap between meals. Plan a more significant snack before your afternoon cravings really kick in (between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. for most people). To build a balanced snack start with a source of protein to help keep you feeling full, such as a handful of nuts or seeds (any kind is fine, but in a serving size that fits in the palm of your hand), ½ to ¾ cup of yogurt, Greek yogurt or cottage cheese (preferably plain, or mix fruit-flavoured with plain to reduce the amount of sugar), 1 ounce (30 g) of cheese (one or two Mini Babybels is an easy choice), ½ cup of bean salad, ¼ cup of hummus, a hard-boiled egg, a mini-can of seasoned tuna or even a latte made with milk or soy beverage. To balance your snack add a piece of fruit, some chopped veggies or a few whole-grain, and voilà: you’ll be much better prepared to avoid the chocolate and arrive home with the energy to put together a balanced dinner.
Swap out your “whites.”
Recent research has shown that in addition to being bad for waistlines, “white foods” (bread, pasta, rice, sugar, etc.) may be dangerous for your cholesterol levels. Try to choose high-fibre whole grains, such as brown rice, barley and wheat, more often. Fibre also helps improve digestion and the absorption of nutrients, and it keeps you feeling full for longer.
Don’t drink your calories.
Recent research indicates that people who drink sweetened beverages such as pop and fruit drinks (results for 100% fruit juice are less clear) tend to consume more calories overall, suggesting that drinks containing calories may interfere with our natural ability to regulate how many calories we consume in a day. Stick to plain water, sparkling mineral water or herbal teas to hydrate without adding to your waistline.
As life gets more efficient, it is becoming increasingly difficult to replace the physical activity we are engineering out of our lives – and inactivity can be dangerous to your health. Try to limit sitting and lying down to no more than 23 hours a day; you'll be much better off (translation: keep moving for one hour a day). Consider going down the hall to talk to your colleagues instead of emailing or texting them, walking around the block at lunch and taking the stairs instead of the escalator.
Think beyond the gym.
Many people think that they need to go to a gym to be active, but that isn’t the case at all. Being active is about getting your body moving and sweating. If you prefer the outdoors to the gym, try skiing, snowshoeing or going for a walk this winter. And there’s almost always snow to shovel! To meet the Canadian physical activity guidelines, set a goal of breaking a sweat for 30 minutes a day.
Take care of your muscles.
Working your muscles is also an important part of living an active life. Believe it or not, improvements in muscle strength have the greatest impact on your health as you age. This includes anything that will engage your muscles, so to get started you might try yoga, weight training or a morning routine of push-ups and sit-ups.
Make sleep a priority.
The recommended amount of sleep for adults is between 7½ and 8 ½ hours a night. Research shows that people who consistently get around eight hours of sleep each night live longer on average than those who get six to seven hours. Getting enough sleep also helps you manage stress, strengthens your immune system, improves your memory, elevates your mood and gives you the energy and alertness you need to get tasks done during the day, including exercise (which, in turn, helps you sleep better at night).
Make realistic resolutions.
To start 2012 on the right foot, why not identify a goal or two that you’d like to achieve this year? Making resolutions and setting goals is up to you—if you don’t make them, they won’t happen. As Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.” But, if you DO choose to make resolutions, it’s best to set goals that are specific (rather than abstract), measurable (so you can track your progress) and achievable. Research has found that men are 22% more likely to achieve a goal when it is specific and written down, whereas women are 10% more likely to achieve a goal when they have told others about it. In general.
Gratitude can help you focus on what’s positive in your life today — at work, at home, in nature, wherever. Being mindful of these often-overlooked treasures in your daily experience can help remind you not to take anyone—or anything—for granted, and adds to the satisfaction. It can also keep you grounded in the present, helping you avoid stress by not focusing on the past or the future. So this year, take a moment or two every day to look around and take note of all that you are grateful for (and even better, share these moments with significant others)!
Clear your path for success.
Each one of us has the potential to do something great, in our own way. But sometimes disorganization can obscure that potential by shifting your attention away from greatness toward clutter. Creating an organization system for yourself – identifying all the things around you and where they should go – can help to reduce clutter. In Getting Things Done, author David Allen recommends dividing all of your “incompletes” into categories which include projects, project support materials, things to act on soon, things that are waiting for input from other people, interesting items with no action required and things you might want to do in the future. Begin now to clear any clutter that is blocking your path to success in the new year ahead!
And keep in mind, you only have one body. It is important to make the effort to invest some time in your health. We promise you the returns will be worth the effort!
Do you need help to reach your goals in 2012?
We know that changing our lifestyle is often easier said than done and that different people need different kinds of support to be successful. At Cleveland Clinic Canada, our clinical team specializes in lifestyle change. We listen closely to our patients to understand their specific health objectives, and then work with them to equip them with them the tools that can help them achieve their goals and sustain their healthy habits.
Here are some of the ways our team can help you. Click for more information:
If you think you could benefit from these kinds of support from our clinical team, please feel free to call us at 416.507.6600. We’re here to help.
Wishing you a very happy and healthy 2012!