Igenerally don’t advise my patients to make New Year’s resolutions. Rather, I think it much more appropriate to make a reasonable resolution each morning before our feet hit the floor. But for those of us determined to make an effort in shedding harmful habits or starting healthy ones, here are some things to keep in mind, some of which we should already know and some of which are “hot off the press.”
Let’s start with the most frequent New Year’s resolution: losing weight. Sound familiar? It should, since more than half of us will be on some kind of diet during the next 12 months. Maintaining a reasonable weight is important, and can result in a reduction in the incidence of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and having a closet full of clothes you can no longer wear. Losing some weight is a laudable goal, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind.
First, when I ask my patients to think about a specific target, the majority will give me a number that represents in excess of 30 percent of their current weight. That’s not going to happen. If you’re a middle-aged man and weigh 220 pounds, that would make your weight-loss goal somewhere between 60 and 70 pounds. Doomed from the start. Frustration is the No. 1 killer of a weight-reduction plan, so we need to be reasonable when we set a target. Most experts would say 6-8 percent over six months. Doesn’t sound like much, but for that 220-pounder, that would be 15+ pounds. Better blood pressure, better blood sugar, better cholesterol.
Second, the best diet for most of us will be one that limits carbohydrate intake. The Mediterranean Diet is one we should all be familiar with. And as far as snacks are concerned, consider half a handful of nuts. All of them are healthy, but the most recent and consistent information favors walnuts. They have been shown to lower triglyceride levels as well as LDL (the bad cholesterol). Quick, easy and good for us.
And what’s all this about diet drinks? Are they really bad for us? The jury is still out on this one, but current information seems to indicate an association between increased consumption of these beverages and an increased incidence of cardiovascular disease. The risk is not overwhelming — clearly over-shadowed by the health hazards of obesity — but it seems the prudent approach will be to limit our intake of these drinks to less than a couple a week. Better yet, eliminate them completely and stick with water.
Third, in case all of these efforts prove too difficult, don’t forget Jackie Gleason’s encouraging words regarding a diet:
“The second day of a diet is always easier than the first. By the second day, you’re off it.”
Now let’s consider another worthy goal for 2017: better sleep. Sounds easy, but for many of us it’s not. So this is worthy of our attention, and maybe a resolution. Poor sleep and its associated disorder, obstructive sleep apnea, have clearly been proven to lead to an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and possibly Alzheimer’s disease. The magic number is going to be seven hours each night, but this needs to be quality sleep. How do we know if we’re getting quality sleep? Here’s a quick quiz:
-- Do you snore?
-- Are you excessively tired during the day?
-- Have you been told you stop breathing during sleep?
-- Do you have a history of high blood pressure?
-- Is your neck size more than 17 inches (for a male) or more than 16 inches (for a female)?
If you answered “yes” to two or more of these questions, you’ve had a positive screen and need to talk with your physician about further testing. Treatment is available and can be life changing. Maybe even life saving.
So there you have it — a couple of things to work on this New Year. And when all else fails, keep in mind the words of Arnold Glasgow:
“May all your troubles last as long as your New Year’s resolutions.”
Dr. Robert Lesslie is a graduate of Dixie High School and Erskine College. He is current an emergency room doctor in Rock Hill. Lesslie can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.