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A New Year's Resolution That Could Save Your Life

I try to practice what I preach: This is me yesterday on a morning bike ride in east Austin. Staying fit is one of the most important ways to prevent chronic disease.

RESOLVED: I will catch up on preventive care in 2019!

 

Ugh! Another doctor's visit? More stuff to worry about? More tests and blood work and exams? Groan…

 

Yes, indeed. But your health is worth it! Hear me out.

 

As we consider goals and resolutions for the new year, I want to urge everyone to prioritize health, and especially preventive care. For those of us with MS or other chronic disease, preventive care is often overshadowed by more pressing matters: MRIs, labs related to our medications or chronic condition, visits with specialists.   

 

But preventive care - from screenings for cancer, diabetes, and depression to immunizations, exercise, and even family planning - is important for all of us. While I don't believe a yearly head-to-toe physical exam is necessary for everyone, regular visits with a trusted primary care physician (usually every one to two years, depending on age, health status, and risk factors) is a good idea.  (See more of my thoughts here about the frequency of doctor's visits: https://www.rd.com/health/wellness/doctor-checkup-visits-guidelines/)

 

Over the next several weeks, I'll be writing additional blog posts with details about various aspects of preventive care. But to get started with a healthier new year, I recommend scheduling an appointment with your family doctor or internist to talk about your health-related goals, review recommended screening tests for cancer and chronic disease, and update your immunizations.

 

Here are some priorities for a healthier new year:

 

1)     Catch up on your health screenings: Staying up-to-date with screening tests for cancer and chronic diseases, like diabetes and hypertension, is very important and may even save your life. For all women, testing for cervical cancer (age 21 and up) and breast cancer (usually starting around age 45 or 50) is strongly recommended. All adults also should be screened for diabetes, HIV, high cholesterol, and other conditions, depending on your age and risk factors.

 

2)     Get immunized! Immunizations are not just for kids; they are important for adults of all ages. A flu shot is recommended for everyone, every year. Flu shots do not cause the flu, and there are few contraindications. Tetanus shots are given every 10 years. (One of those should be a TDaP). The new Shingrix vaccine is recommended at age 50 to prevent shingles. Two pneumonia vaccines, PPSV23 and PCV13, are recommended at age 65 (generally separated by a year) but may be given sooner depending on other health conditions and risk factors.

 

3)     Review your family planning/contraceptive choices: If you are of childbearing age, discuss family planning and contraception with your partner and physician. Ask yourself, do you want more children? Are you at risk of an unplanned pregnancy? Ask your doctor, "What are the different options for contraception, and what might make sense for me?" If you want to delay having more kids, ask, "At what point do I risk not being able to conceive? What are the other risks I might face by waiting?" (A huge issue today is that women are delaying having kids until it is often too late. Asking the right questions early may help avoid this problem).

 

4)     Exercise! Exercise has to make the list for anyone trying to lead a healthy life because it is SO important! Developing a daily (or almost daily) exercise routine can do more to improve health than any medication. Talk to your doctor, and set a goal: most authorities recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. I like to exercise first thing in the morning before my kids get up and before another activity gets in the way. It's a great way to start the day, leaving me with more energy and a sense of accomplishment. Make exercise fun with a good workout mix, fun group class, an audiobook, or exercising with a friend.

 

Preventive care should be a top priority for everyone, adding quality and longevity to life.  What do you think are the most important ways to stay healthy this year? Add your comments below.

 

 

 

 
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