6 Things Your Doctor Wants on Your 2021 New Year’s Resolution

It’s a new year, thank goodness! And with every new year comes the infamous “New Year’s Resolutions.”

But this year’s resolutions might be even more important than past years. We've all spent the last year stuck inside thinking about how we want to improve, conquering our usual resolutions, or creating new challenges (anyone else feeling the corona-15?!).

In the spirit of an extra special new year, we’ve updated our post from 2019. Let’s jump into the top 6 goals you should have for 2021, according to your doctor. These "resolutions" are meant to help you improve your health and find medical problems early!

1. Update Your Immunizations

The immunization (aka vaccine(VAX-ZEEN) — A treatment used to teach your immune system how to recognize certain foreign invaders and prevent disease) that’s on everyone’s mind this year is the coronavirus(KR-OWE-NAH-VAI-RUS) — A class of virus that typically only causes mild symptoms or issues, although it has several strains that have caused severe outbreaks (COVID-19, MERS (2012), SARS(2003)) vaccine. But that’s not the only one you should be thinking about. For example, the influenza(IN-FLEW-EN-ZAH) — A viral infection that causes a fever and severe aching (the flu) vaccine remains extremely important.

So, if you haven’t received your flu vaccine this year, make it a priority.

And, when you are eligible, sign up for the coronavirus vaccine. Some of you may be questioning whether to get this vaccine, but—without boring you with the numbers—the vaccine could very likely save your life (or someone else’s).

Beyond the flu and coronavirus vaccines, don’t forget the other important ones, like those for pneumonia(NEW-MOAN-YAH) — Infection of the lungs, shingles(SHING-GULS) — A virus that causes a painful blistering rash, tetanus(TEH-TAH-NUHS) — A bacterial infection that is transmitted through cuts in the skin and can cause severe muscle spasms, mumps(MUMPS) — A viral infection spread through coughing and saliva that causes inflammation of the parotid gland and other organs in the body, rubella(RUE-BEH-LA) — A viral infection that causes a rash, fever, and sore throat, and cervical cancer(SIR-VEH-KIL CAN-SIR) — Abnormal growth that originates from cervical tissue!

To make things easy, here’s the CDC's (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) complete list of adult immunizations and recommendations for when to receive them. Remember, recommendations are based on age, gender, and risk for a condition.1

2. Get Recommended Screening Tests

Did you know that 40-70% of recommended screening tests(SKREE-NING TESTS) — A procedure used to discover a disease at an early stage weren’t performed last year? Where you one of those people?

Yes, many of those who delayed their screening tests probably had good reasons. Maybe you wanted to stay safe at home, or perhaps you didn’t want to get a COVID test before your colonoscopy(KOW-LAH-NAH-SKUH-PEE) — A procedure that examines the colon or large intestine.

Unfortunately, cancer doesn’t stop for a pandemic.

Delaying your screenings can have a significant, long-term impact. For example, a cancer could be growing larger as you wait, which would make it harder to treat down the road.

So—delay no further. Grab your mask and keys, and make sure you are up-to-date with all the recommended screening tests for someone of your age and gender.

This may mean having your cholesterol checked, getting a mammogram(MAM-O-GRAM) — A screening test that uses x-rays to look for breast cancer, doing a Cologuard test, obtaining a colonoscopy, or receiving a CT scan(C-T SCAN) — An imaging technique that uses x-rays to see the inside of the body of your chest (if you smoke or have smoked), just to name a few. Here's a more complete list of possible screening recommendations. And you can fill out this short form to get a list specific to your age and gender.2

Screening is complex and highly tailored to you and your personal risk for developing a condition. Your risk for a disease can be impacted by many things, such as personal choices and family history. So, talk to your doctor. He or she may recommend early or additional screening tests based on your individual risk factors.

Related Article: Am I at Risk for Breast Cancer? How Do I Know?

healthy food

3. Eat Right & Exercise

If working out wasn’t hard enough before, the pandemic might have made it feel almost impossible. But have you noticed that some people have been able to take advantage of the situation and commit to exercise like they’ve never done before?!

Well, that could be you too. Get outside and start moving! Research exercises you can do at home without equipment.

And if the delicious holiday temptations were harder to resist this year, commit to getting your diet back on track. Remember, this commitment isn’t just to eat healthily and exercise regularly for a month or two. This commitment needs to continue year-round.

We know this is hard. So, to get you started, here are a few tips:
  • Schedule workouts on your calendar and only miss them if it's really necessary. “I just don’t feel like it” doesn’t count. And don’t let your misses pile up; get back at it for the next workout. Better yet, try a make-up session!
  • If you are eating more, exercise more (if physically able). Every extra calorie you eat is a calorie you need to burn during exercise.
  • Writing down or tracking what you eat is both necessary and extremely helpful in managing your weight.3 You might be surprised by the numbers; sometimes people really don’t know how many calories they are actually eating. Many apps are available to help you keep track. Find the one you like best!
  • If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. It’s recommended that you have less than 1-2 drinks per day.
  • Daily activity will help you feel better and improve both your physical and mental health.4
  • Before you start to work out, ask your doctor what you can do. It’s okay to start slowly and increase over time. Just try. We all know it’s hard and a commitment.
Make exercise and healthy eating a habit—habits are hard to break!

4. Stop Tobacco Use & Vaping

Has isolation, staying at home, or the fears associated with the pandemic increased your use of tobacco and alcohol? If so, it’s not surprising; but it’s time to make a change.

Need some motivation? Reflect on this…

All forms of tobacco use can cause many health problems like cancer of the lungs, mouth, throat, bladder, esophagus, and many more. Tobacco can also cause heart disease(HART DUH-ZEEZ) — A condition that affects the hearts function, which can lead to chest pain and heart attacks, which leads to heart attacks, emphysema (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)), poor circulation to your legs (Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD)), increased risk for strokes, and more. These conditions develop over time and increase or worsen as your tobacco intake continues.5,6

Vaping is a newer alternative to smoking, and its health risk is still being quantified. Vaping is NOT a “safe” substitute for tobacco use or smoking.7,8 Don’t be fooled into thinking that vaping is okay. We know that nicotine creates a very good feeling, but the withdrawal is awful.

Stay away. Don’t start.

Bottom line: If you use any form of tobacco (like smoking) or vape, quit. There are many new and improved options to help you quit successfully. If you are not currently using tobacco, don’t start and avoid second-hand smoke.

5. Wear Your Seat Belt

Even though you may be driving much less these days, when you do, you’re probably happy about the lack of traffic (or at least there’s less). You may be getting places faster, but others have been taking advantage of the open roads—driving faster and faster. Your seat belt is even more important than ever.

Accidents happen. They are called accidents because you don’t plan them, and you don't know they're coming. If one happens to you, a seat belt can save your life and reduce your injuries. Airbags are great, but they’re designed to work with seat belts. So, click it every time. Be the example for kids and others, and always appropriately secure your children. Don’t ignore your car’s warnings and always require everyone in your car to buckle before you go. You may be saving their life!

open road

6. Don’t Drink & Drive

Just don’t. Get a ride or buy a ride. Don’t ruin your or someone else’s life. Remember that your level of intoxication depends on multiple factors like your weight, your metabolism, number of drinks, and speed of consumption (how fast).

We know and understand some of these goals can be hard to accomplish. Lean on your support system to help you through the challenges.
From all of us at Dr. Joe Explains:
Good luck. Keep trying. You can do it!
References
  1. Browse Information for Consumers. Home - US Preventive Services Task Force. https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Tools/ConsumerInfo/Index/information-for-consumers. Accessed January 11, 2019.
  2. healthfinder.gov. https://healthfinder.gov/myhealthfinder/. Accessed January 11, 2019.
  3. Immunization Schedules. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/hcp/imz/adult.html. Published March 5, 2018. Accessed January 11, 2019.
  4. Alberg AJ, Samet JM. Epidemiology of Lung Cancer*. Chest. 2003;123(1). doi:10.1378/chest.123.1_suppl.21s.
  5. Dunga JA, Adamu Y, Kida IM, et al. Tobacco Abuse and Its Health Effect. Niger J Med. 2015;354-62.
  6. Cobb NK, Byron MJ, Abrams DB, Shields PG. Novel Nicotine Delivery Systems and Public Health: The Rise of the “E-Cigarette.” American Journal of Public Health. 2010;100(12):2340-2342. doi:10.2105/ajph.2010.199281.
  7. Soneji S, Barrington-Trimis JL, Wills TA, et al. Association Between Initial Use of e-Cigarettes and Subsequent Cigarette Smoking Among Adolescents and Young Adults. JAMA Pediatrics. 2017;171(8):788. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2017.1488.
  8. Mendes MDSD, Melo MED, Fernandes AE, et al. Effects of two diet techniques and delivery mode on weight loss, metabolic profile and food intake of obese adolescents: a fixed diet plan and a calorie-counting diet. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2016;71(4):549-551. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2016.176.
  9. Ament W, Verkerke GJ. Exercise and Fatigue. Sports Medicine. 2009;39(5):389-422. doi:10.2165/00007256-200939050-00005.

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