Top Ten Tips for 2011

We should all have a wish list for the new year. Looking back at the year in medicine, I’ve chosen what I believe are ten goals, that if we were to meet them, could fundamentally change our lives for the better. These apply to both men and women and are in no particular order:

  1. Have a waist size no greater than 35 inches (ideally 32 inches or less) — Much has been written this year about metabolic syndrome; obesity as defined by waist size, high triglycerides, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, high blood pressure and high fasting blood sugar (greater than 100). This combination—found in 20% to 30% of adults in industrialized countries—reportedly leads to cardiovascular disease. If we exercise or diet (ideally both) and get our waist sizes below these magic numbers, almost all these metabolic issues can go away. And if they don’t completely disappear, they may still need far fewer medications to keep us healthy.
  2. Update your immunizations — Get a seasonal flu shot every year and stop inventing excuses why you haven’t had one. The risk of spreading the flu encompasses those around us, so let’s all do our part. Get an updated tetanus/diphtheria, pneumovax and shingles vaccines (when eligible). Hepatitis A and B vaccines are not a bad idea either. The point is to stop rolling the dice and acquire protection where we can.
  3. Know your medications — We should know every medication we put into our bodies. We should understand why were taking them, what the potential side effects are and most importantly when we can stop taking them. For some, the answer may be ‘never,’ but we should all be looking for alternative ways to improve our health without the use of pharmaceuticals (and that includes those we buy off the shelf).
  4. Walk at least 30 minutes everyday — We’re talking nonstop walking, not in–and–out at the mall type walking. Walking that gets our hearts pumping a little harder and makes us huff and puff. It can make a dramatic, positive impact on helping us get to that magic waist size.
  5. Stretch your brain — Read at least one book a month, work crossword puzzles, play games (especially with others) that challenge us to stay sharp. Studies show this can be the best defense against developing dementia and mental decline. And no, watching television or surfing the internet doesn’t count.
  6. Count your calories, then drop 500 — Be honest and count up every calorie you take in on your average worst day. Then pick one food, or combination of foods, that add up to 500 calories and drop it from your daily intake. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you reach goal number one and how much better you’ll feel within days.
  7. Know your numbers — It’s our responsibility to know our own blood pressure. We wouldn’t drive a car with someone else responsible for telling us how much gas we have in the tank. Ideal blood pressure is 120/80 or below and if we’re not there, we need to find out why and what we can do about it—ideally without medication.
  8. State your business — This has to do with advance directives. We should write down and make known what we want done if the worst happens to us. If we’re unable to speak for ourselves, what measures do we want to keep us alive?It’s unfair to our loved ones to make them guess and deal with the potential guilt afterwards. Fill out an advanced directive and have a healthcare proxy that can speak on your behalf.
  9. Reconnect — We live in a society where it’s easy to fade into the woodwork. Life’s pressures can make us want to crawl into a hole and surface only when the need arises. But what underlies in all of us is a social animal. We need each other and the wheels of society need our presence to stay greased. Reconnect with your church, your social group, your friends and be present. Give the gift of your time and talents. Mentor someone who needs guidance and never lose sight that the smallest effort, or comment, may change someone’s life forever.
  10. Lose the past — We all could have, should have, would have about something. But that moment is gone. Living in the present, this moment, is all that counts and all that we have. The future is really unknown to us. But by striving to make these changes, now as we read this, we are changing and as we reaffirm our commitment during our waking moments, we become the change the world is looking for.

That’s what I believe and I would love to hear what you think. Have a safe and happy new year!

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About Steve P. Sanders

A general internist writing and sharing ideas and art.

3 Responses to “Top Ten Tips for 2011”

  1. Great post! I’m going to share it with my side of the family! Thanks!

  2. Good site you’ve got here.. It’s difficult to find high quality writing like yours these days.
    I truly appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!

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