The pandemic has occupied the minds of many, perhaps taking one’s eye off other common diseases which afflict  so many people.

In most instances, apart from treatment and medication, a change of lifestyle can go a long way towards improving  one’s health and well-being. This is where New Year resolutions come to the fore, often forgotten and neglected later  in the year. It is not easy to create and maintain new behaviour. Whatever your New Year resolutions are – exercise,  healthy eating, quitting tobacco or stressing less – here are some tips from Harvard University to help you on your  way.

1. Dream big. Whether you want to compete in a marathon or just fit into your favourite clothes again, think and dream big. It will take perseverance and determination but those close to you will identify with your dream and support the cause.

2. Break the dream into small steps. Now break down that dream into small steps. Start with easy steps so that you can quickly tick those boxes, building your confidence to tackle more difficult tasks on the list.

3. Understand what’s stopping you from changing. Until you grasp what is stopping you, it’s difficult to break a habit. Why are you eating between meals when you’re not hungry? What’s stopping you from exercising for 10 minutes? Worried that you’ll have a heart attack? Go for a check-up with your GP. Enjoy having a cigarette while taking your break? Find a healthier way to enjoy your break. Go for a 5 minute walk.

4. Commit yourself. Accept accountability by committing to people that you don’t want to let down. Connect with like-minded people with similar goals.

5. Give yourself a medal. You don’t have to wait until the finishing line to celebrate. Health changes are incremental so acknowledge both small and big steps along the way. Tell your friends and family and let them celebrate with you.

6. Learn from the past. Whenever you fail to achieve a milestone don’t beat yourself up about it. Take time out to consider what worked and what didn’t work. Were you too ambitious? If so, scale back – put a revised plan in place. Break up the big challenge into smaller steps so that you can tick the boxes and build new confidence.

7. Give thanks for what you do. Forget perfection. Set your sights on finishing that marathon, not on running it. If you compete to complete, you’ll be a winner even if you walk as much as you run.

Why should you consider changing your lifestyle and habits?

  • Type 2 Diabetes: According to WHO (World Health Organisation), this most common form of diabetes is found mostly in people with excess body fat and where there is physical inactivity. Smoking is also a contributor. WHO recommends at least 10 minutes of regular, moderate exercise per day. Left untreated, potential risks can include: Heart and blood pressure disease; Nerve damage; Kidney damage; Eye damage; Slow healing; Hearing impairment; Skin conditions; Sleep apnoea, and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Obesity: The CDC (Centre for Disease Control) lists the impact of obesity, including: High blood pressure; High LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol; Type 2 diabetes; Coronary heart disease; Stroke; Gall bladder disease; Osteoarthritis; Sleep apnoea; Many types of cancer; Depression and anxiety; Body pain, and a low quality of life. While some medication or conditions can contribute to obesity, it is mostly caused by a poor diet and inactivity.
  • High Blood Pressure: Also referred to as hypertension, this disease is often referred to as the ‘silent killer’. Like Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity, the condition can also be managed through lifestyle changes (often combined with medication). Potential risks of hypertension include: Heart attack; Stroke; Kidney failure and Blindness.

We can explore more common diseases where lifestyle plays a role such as heart conditions and cancer, but these examples illustrate that making a New Year resolution to improve lifestyle choices can save lives and lifestyle in the years ahead. Making behavioral changes is never easy. It is however easy to make an appointment with your GP or clinic for a check-up so that you can structure and prioritise your resolutions and add meaning to good intentions. Your Link pharmacy owner is also there to talk to, dispensing good health in the community.

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While all reasonable effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of information contained in this article, information may change or become dated, as new developments occur. The Link group shall not be held liable or accountable for the accuracy, completeness or correctness of any information for any purpose.