Betsy Wadland: Making health changes for the better

Betsy Wadland

I have decided that "spring forward" is going to be my own personal mantra for the next few months. It's out with the old, making changes for the better and enjoying life with gusto. Care to join me?

So that we don't get overwhelmed, it might be helpful to put all of our ambitions into one of three categories: our health, our surroundings and our relationships. In the spirit of inspiration and motivation, here are some ideas to consider:

Our health

- Stock up on allergy medications if sniffles and sneezes plague you as the weather warms up. Both Zyrtec and Claritin are now available over-the-counter, but be sure to consult with your doctor if you take other prescription drugs to avoid any potential problems.

- Shift your schedule so that you go to bed and get up earlier. U.S. News and World Report reports that studies have shown that people who wake up earlier are healthier than those who sleep late. Of course, aim for a full 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.

- Take a walk during your lunch hour. Not only will you get away from your desk or out of the house, but you'll get some moderate exercise. Just be sure to wear your sunscreen.

- Don't forget insect repellent to ward off Lyme disease, EEE and other diseases. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using an insect repellent such as DEET (20 to 30 percent) or permethrin sprayed on clothing.

- Schedule your yearly visit to the doctor. If it's been a while since you had a full physical, eye exam and blood work done, call and make the appointment. Even if you can't get in right away, put it on the calendar and keep the appointment. Regular check-ups are a must to maintain good health.

- Eat your veggies! If you have a farmer's market in your town, visit it each week. Some farms offer CSA programs, where you can pre-pay for a weekly supply of locally grown produce. Not only does it taste better, it's better for you.

Our surroundings

- Clean out your make-up drawer, medicine cabinet and refrigerator and get rid of anything that has expired, has no expiration date or things that are so old, you can't remember when you bought it. You'll minimize your exposure to bacteria that may cause infection or illness.

- Buy new pillows. After five years, up to 10 percent of a pillow's weight is made up of bacteria, pollen, fungi, mold and dust mites that can aggravate allergies and asthma.

- Get into the garden a few times a week. Weeding, planting and mowing the lawn not only make your yard look great, but it also burns up to 350 calories an hour, using muscles we never knew we had.

- Paint a room in your house a cheery color to boost your mood. It's amazing how much a new color can change the look of a room. Have fun with it!

Our relationships

- That walk you are going to take at lunch is a great thing to do with a friend. It's an excuse to catch up and having a partner will help to make sure you actually take the walk.

- Build a strong social network by volunteering for a cause you believe in, joining a book club or getting in touch with a friend or family member that you've not spoken with or seen in a long time. AARP says that people who have good social networks live longer. They are also physically healthier than people who are socially isolated.

Taking care of ourselves, our surroundings and the people we care about form the three-legged stool that will keep us healthy, strong and happy this year. Whether you take on one project or jump into a few, this is the time to spring forward.

Betsy Wadland is director of development for the Natick, Mass., VNA, a nonprofit health care organization providing home care to thousands of people throughout the region each year. For more information, call the VNA at 508-653-3081.