Now is a good time to start planning for a healthier you

by Tracy Plaskey, NP
For The Review

Q. The New Year is almost here. I would like to improve my health next year, but don’t know where to start. Do you have any suggestions?

A. Yes. Now is a good time to concentrate your efforts on becoming a new, healthier you. The New Year is a perfect opportunity to reflect on the changes we want to make in the coming year.

You may have made resolutions in the past to lose weight, eat healthy and exercise regularly. Here are some tips to keep on track in 2017.

Learn to control (but accommodate) your food cravings. Completely eliminating your favorite foods can be a recipe for disaster. Instead, allow yourself small portions, on occasion.

A registered dietitian can work with you to design an eating plan that will meet all of your dietary requirements and help you lose weight safely and effectively.

You can begin by making small, incremental changes over time. Begin by opting for the stairs instead of the elevator, substituting a piece of fruit for a piece of candy, and find ways to incorporate more physical activity into your everyday life.

Go for a walk with the dog or take a hike with a friend. Any type of physical activity counts.

Get moving at least 30 minutes a day to maintain health (even longer to promote weight loss). Consult with your health care provider before embarking on a strenuous exercise program, especially if you’re over 40.

Don’t let cold weather sidetrack your exercise routine. If you prefer to exercise indoors, you can still walk the mall, join a health club, swim at an indoor pool or exercise at home using videos or a set of dumbbells, an exercise ball and a jump rope.

If you decide to brave the outside elements to exercise, be sure to:

• Start slow and warm up first. Cold temperatures can make your muscles tight and more prone to injuries.

• For some people, cold air can trigger chest pain or asthma attacks. If you have any medical conditions or concerns about exercising outdoors, please check with your health care provider.

• Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. Drink before, during and after your workout —even if you’re not thirsty. Cold air has a drying effect and increases the risk of dehydration that can increase the risk of frostbite.

• Pay attention to wind chill and watch for frostbite. If you think you may have frostbite, get out of the cold and gradually warm the affected area.

• Beware of slippery surfaces and choose appropriate footwear with enough traction to prevent falls outside.

In addition to improving your overall fitness, exercising during the winter months can help shake those winter blues. Exercise improves mood, increases your energy level and helps you sleep better. And you’ll be in better shape when the weather warms up in spring.

Vow to become smoke-free in 2017

If you use tobacco products, becoming a non-smoker is one of the best resolutions you can make to improve your overall health.

There are various free support services, hotlines and smoking cessation classes to help you kick the smoking habit.

For example, the Wisconsin Quit Line is free and sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Call 800-784-8669 to get started.

The Quit Line offers a free two-week supply of your choice of the nicotine patch, lozenge or gum, along with free telephone coaching from trained experts on how to quit smoking.

Your own health care provider can also help you conquer the nicotine habit, too.

The coming year can be a year filled with of positive lifestyle changes. Next year at this time you’ll feel good about what you’ve accomplished on your life journey to become a healthier version of you.

2017 can be healthy and fulfilling, if you set reasonable goals and stay focused throughout the year.

Tracy Plaskey, NP is a nurse practitioner at Aurora Health Center in Plymouth, 2600 Kiley Way.

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