Each year, Americans’ most popular New Year’s resolutions are more or less the same: get healthy, get organized, save money. But doctors at the American Medical Association (AMA) have some more specific thoughts in mind for 2020.
The AMA this week released a list of 10 wellness-focused resolutions that could “help Americans make the most impactful, long-lasting improvements to their health in 2020 and beyond.” Here’s what they are — and how to make them happen.
Learn your risk for type 2 diabetes
Diabetes is one of the most common chronic health conditions in the U.S., affecting an estimated 30 million Americans. But as of the CDC’s last estimate, almost a quarter of Americans who have type-2 diabetes are undiagnosed, meaning they’re not getting the care they need — and even more people may have prediabetes without knowing it. The AMA recommends taking a self-screening test at DoIHavePrediabetes.org to find out if you’re at risk.
Be more physically active
Most people do not meet the federal guidelines for physical activity, which say that adults should get 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week, plus twice-weekly muscle-strengthening sessions. The good news, however, is it’s easier to meet that goal than you might think. Everyday activities like walking, cleaning, dancing and taking the stairs all count toward your total, so there’s no need to slog it out at the gym if you dread it.
Know your blood pressure
High blood pressure is associated with a heightened risk of stroke and heart disease, so it’s important to know your blood pressure reading. The AMA recommends visiting LowerYourHBP.org to learn how to manage your blood pressure through strategies including diet, exercise and stress relief.
Eat less processed food
Eating lots of highly processed foods, which tend to be packed with sugar, salt, fat and chemicals, is associated with health problems ranging from weight gain to type 2 diabetes and cancer. Swapping soda and sugar-sweetened beverages for water is a good place to start, the AMA says. Cooking at home and building meals around produce and plant-based proteins, instead of red and processed meats, are also good strategies.
Take antibiotics exactly as prescribed
Taking antibiotics unnecessarily, or stopping a course early, can cause your body to build up a tolerance to the drugs. That’s a major public health concern, since widespread antibiotic resistance is already contributing to issues like drug-resistant infections and treatment-resistant sexually transmitted diseases. Follow doctor’s orders, and keep in mind that antibiotics do not work against viruses.
Drink in moderation, if at all
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that women consume no more than a drink per day, and men no more than two per day. Above this threshold — and potentially even below it, according to some recent research — drinking is associated with health issues including cognitive decline and cancer. Experiments like Dry January, in which you give up all alcohol for a month, can help you get control of your habits, as can strategies like mindfulness. But if you have trouble cutting back, you may want to consult a substance use specialist.
Stop using nicotine and tobacco
Smoking puts you at risk of lung cancer, but it’s also associated with conditions including heart disease and other types of cancer. Kicking the habit is notoriously tough, but nicotine replacement aids — such as patches and gum — can help. Going cold turkey can also be effective. Cigarettes aren’t the only reason for concern, either. The AMA recommends talking to your doctor about how to quit vaping, and committing to keeping cars and homes smoke- and aerosol-free.
Don’t share pain medicine
Sharing prescription drugs or improperly disposing of them may put them in the hands of people at risk for opioid dependence. If you’re prescribed painkillers, take them exactly as directed and safely get rid of extras by bringing them to a drug take-back site.
Make sure your family is up to date on vaccines
Vaccination is one of the best ways to prevent diseases ranging from the flu to measles. And by lowering your risk of getting sick, you also decrease your chances of transmitting disease to others, resulting in a healthier total population. Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s list of recommended vaccines to make sure your family is up to date.
At low levels, stress can actually be good for you. But chronic stress can threaten your physical, mental and cognitive health, so it’s important to find stress-reduction techniques that work for you. Everyone is different, but research shows that activities that elicit the “relaxation response” — such as yoga, meditation and even prayer — can make a big difference. Exercise is also a great stress-reliever, and eating a healthy diet can help, too.