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Health Goals to Consider in the New Year

Dec 01, 2016

health goals

by Myers Hurt, MD

With each New Year come new resolutions — goals we set to achieve within the next 12 months. Many times, our New Year’s resolutions are about losing weight, but shifting the focus to other health concerns can help us improve overall wellness.

Here are five health goals everyone should consider for 2017.

Find a primary care physician
. If you don’t have one, find one in your area. In addition to taking care of your coughs and colds, primary care physicians address preventative health issues, help coordinate your care if you see multiple specialists and can assist you in finding community resources for mental health, social work and behavioral concerns.

Have blood work done. General screening labs include a cholesterol panel and a metabolic panel with indicators of kidney and liver function. Good goals to set include a total cholesterol below 200mg/dL, an LDL (known as “bad cholesterol”) level below 160mg/dL, and an HDL (aka “good cholesterol”) level above 35mg/dL. Ideally, a fasting blood sugar should be between 70mg/dL and 100mg/dL, and hemoglobin A1C, a diabetic screener and a measurement of blood sugar over 3 months should be between 4.5% and 5.4%

Check your blood pressure. Blood pressure guidelines were recently updated, and the target blood pressure for most individuals is 140/90 mmHg. If you are not already at or below this target, consider restricting your salt intake or reducing the amount of nicotine, caffeine, or alcohol in your daily routine. In addition, diet, regular exercise and stress reduction all greatly impact your blood pressure. If this is an area you would like to focus on, the two most recommended heart-healthy diets are the DASH and Mediterranean diets.

Address psychosocial health concerns. These include patterns of alcohol and tobacco use, feelings of depression and anxiety, risk of falls and intimate partner abuse. All play a vital role in your overall health and are ideal for setting a specific goal. Discuss each with your primary care physician to determine any risk factors you have, and how to best approach them.

Have your regular cancer screening. Colonoscopies, mammograms, pap smears, rectal exams, and skin checks may apply to your age group. Talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of each of these exams, and make a plan for cancer screening. Lots of data surrounding the pros and cons of each exam exists, and being an informed patient will help you choose what is best for you.

When looking at your approach to the New Year, I would encourage you to consider setting specific health goals for yourself often. You may find that by focusing on lowering blood pressure or blood sugar, waist size and weight will soon follow!

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