by Dr. Hojat Askari, Founder and Medical Director, Thumb Butte Medical Center
Having been a physician for many years, I’m used to having patients leave my office with the best of intentions to eat more carefully, exercise more often, prioritize their sleep, watch their weight and quit smoking.
Then I see them six months to a year later and their weight has gone up, they’re still smoking, their blood pressure and lab results have deteriorated and they know they’re in a deeper hole they need to climb out of. “It’s just too hard,” they say.
I know what they mean. Between all the demands on our time, the endless sources of temptation and our struggles with the addictive nature of tobacco, alcohol, junk food and screen time, it is difficult to pull back and reorient ourselves toward a healthy lifestyle that seems too complex to build.
But we must keep in mind how much harder it’ll be to reverse unhealthy habits if they become more entrenched, especially if they lead to chronic disease or cancer that must be treated.
So let’s all make these same resolutions without overthinking them and remembering how much good they will do for us and those who love us:
- Schedule yourself to get the equivalent of at least 150 minutes of moderate ex ercise per week. It will vastly improve your heart health and will also improve your cognitive function, mood and ability to handle stress.
- Keep your weight at a healthy level. Exercise will help, but you will need to control your portion sizes and choose fresher, nutrient-dense food over processed food. It can take longer to prepare these meals, but you can learn shortcuts and the time you do spend will be worthwhile.
- Quit smoking. If you do smoke it’s the single biggest thing you can do to improve your health and longevity — on average smokers die 10 years earlier than nonsmokers, according to the CDC.
- Do whatever works for you to maintain a regular sleep regimen in which you get seven to nine hours every night (or day, if you’re working a night shift).