What's up doc? Ideas for a healthier new year

Dr. Jeff Hersh

Happy New Year!

This is the time of year for resolutions -- things we think will make the coming year better for us. Better health should surely be on the top of this list: Don't we always wish people a healthy and happy new year? So, here are my Top 5 New Year's resolution suggestions to ensure the healthy part of the New Year.

Stop smoking

It amazes me that despite all we have learned about the ill effects of smoking, more than 20 percent of adults still smoke. One in 3 smokers will die from something related to their smoking -- whether it is heart disease, lung disease, cancer or something else -- so it is obvious that stopping smoking is one of the best things you can do to improve your health. If you are a smoker, New Year's resolution No. 1 should be to try to stop.


Regular exercise is key to good health. It will make you feel better and has been shown to improve many aspects of health; not only the quantity of years you will live, but very importantly the overall quality of your life, including those extra years.

Exercise has benefits for your heart and lungs, it can help improve your cholesterol, help protect you from diabetes, help strengthen your bones and help keep your blood pressure in check. You should pick an exercise regimen you enjoy so you can stick with it; exercising with a friend can also help you stay on track.

Exercise can include taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking, bicycling, etc. It is recommended to get at least 30 minutes of exercise several times a week, but I am a believer in daily exercise. Talk to your health-care provider to be sure it is safe for you to begin an exercise regimen, then get out there and stick with it.

Get your "routine maintenance"

By this I mean getting the proper screening tests for diseases as well as the proper preventative treatments to minimize the risks of many diseases. The particular routine maintenance you need depends on your age and your risk factors, including your family history. This is the "ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" resolution.

You will need to see your health-care provider to discuss what tests and treatments are right for you. These typically include appropriate vaccinations to prevent illnesses, appropriate tests to uncover risk factors for various diseases (mammograms, colonoscopy, cholesterol checks, blood pressure checks, etc.), and then following through with appropriate treatments (medications to prevent or treat osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.), if any of the screening tests are positive.

Complying with the medications your doctor prescribes is also important. Take control of your health and understand what medications you are on and what they are for. Review these with your health-care provider regularly as your medical condition can change, sometimes for the better.

Watch your weight

You do not need to be a twig, but being obese is bad for your health. If you are obese, weight loss can benefit your heart, improve your cholesterol, protect you from adult-onset diabetes and help keep your blood pressure in check. I hope these sound a little familiar; they are some of the benefits of exercise noted above.

It turns out it is better to be slightly overweight and active than skinny and sedentary, and, of course, exercise can help keep your weight controlled, so combining an exercise regimen with a weight-loss program is often a great idea.

Obesity is at epidemic proportions in our country, so weight loss should be on the New Year's resolutions list for many of us.


This will help you as well as others. Volunteering is a great way to stay active and meet people. It will make you feel good about yourself and improve your general sense of well-being, and this is well known to improve one's overall health. People who volunteer improve their self-confidence and self esteem, decrease their stress levels and suffer less physical illness as well as less depression.

Improving your health will make your New Year healthier and happier. So add some health improvement New Year's resolutions to your list; and then, importantly, stick to them.

Jeff Hersh, Ph.D., M.D., F.A.A.P., F.A.C.P., F.A.A.E.P., can be reached at