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10 Ways to Improve Your Health in the Coming Year

By Dr. Kenneth Cooper

In the new year, many people make resolutions with the best of intentions, but often those soon fall by the wayside. As you probably know from previous articles I have written for Decision, I firmly believe that “data drives decisions.” If you have a standard to work toward, you are more likely to achieve that goal. Here are the top 10 ways I believe you can improve the quality and quantity of your life in 2022.

  1. Daily Prayer and Bible Study

I have done this for many years and this is the way I start each day.

  1. Weight

If you are overweight, losing just 10% of your body weight can have tremendous health benefits, including a lower risk for high cholesterol, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea. Determine what you should weigh by calculating your BMI (body mass index). If your BMI exceeds 25, make a major effort to lose weight by restricting calories and exercising regularly. Remember, if you lose weight rapidly, you are not as likely to keep it off unless you implement an exercise program along with caloric restriction.

  1. Physical Activity

At a minimum, try to get at least 30 minutes collective or sustained aerobic activity such as cycling, walking, or running most days of the week. This can be one long period of activity or bouts of activity several times a day (walking 10 minutes three times a day, or two 15-minute walks.) It should amount to at least 150 minutes of activity each week. I work out each evening at our fitness center before heading home, where I walk my two dogs around the neighborhood.

  1. Eat Healthy

Try to consume at least five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Limit snacks and sugary drinks and avoid trans fats (read labels). I begin my day with a bowl of oatmeal with a tablespoon of Benecol for its cholesterol-reducing effects, plus two fruit servings, typically grapefruit and blueberries. Remember with fruits and vegetable servings: five is fine, but nine is divine.

  1. Do Not Use Tobacco in Any Form, and Limit Alcohol

Don’t start smoking, and if you do smoke, make a major effort to quit. The use of tobacco is probably the worst health habit in the world today! It’s never too late to stop smoking, and reducing the risk of heart problems starts within weeks; longer for lung problems. And remember, many more people die of heart disease than lung problems each year. If you consume alcohol (which I don’t), limit it to no more than one drink per day for men or women, as alcohol is known to increase your risk of liver problems and cancer.

  1. Protect Your Skin

To increase vitamin D blood levels without unnecessarily increasing the risk of cancer, limit sun exposure to no more than 20 minutes per day. Remember, sunscreen is important even in the winter months. Avoid midday sun and protect the skin with a hat, shirt, sunglasses, and a broad-spectrum sunscreen.

  1. Supplement with Vitamins

I recommend consuming at least 40 mcg of vitamin B12 and 2,000 IU (50 mcg) of vitamin D3 daily to protect yourself from developing Alzheimer’s and dementia, and to offer some protection against coronavirus, particularly for people of color. Add omega-3 – 1,000 mg daily (or two servings of fatty fish per week) – for its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.

  1. Sleep Seven to Nine Hours Nightly

This might help prevent several diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. If you have difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep, try to avoid over-the-counter sleep aids and instead try melatonin or exercising at the end of the day.

  1. Socialize and Engage Your Brain Daily

Join a club or social group, attend worship service, or volunteer to keep your mind and body active. I read and study almost every night after dinner. Try incorporating activities such as crossword puzzles, learning a new language, or how to play a musical instrument to keep your mind sharp.

  1. Know Your Numbers

By numbers, I’m referring to your blood pressure, height, and weight measurements to determine body mass index (BMI), lipid profile (cholesterol and triglycerides), and diabetes testing (fasting blood sugar and hemoglobin A1c) performed annually after 40 years of age. If possible, schedule a regular complete physical examination annually, including cancer screening.

At 90 years of age, I am blessed to continue enjoying my long, healthy, and active life. I quote the words of my late friend Zig Ziglar who always said, “You don’t retire, you re-fire!” as my passion is working with my patients and continuing the mission of improving the quality and quantity of people’s lives. I exercise both my mind and body daily.

If you accomplish all of these recommendations in the new year, you will certainly enjoy better health and will be honoring God in your body and spirit. That is my wish and prayer for all of you!