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December 16, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, December 16, 2005

Resolutions for a healthy New Year Resolutions for a healthy New Year (December 16, 2005)

By Dr. Stuart Menaker

Q: Every year I make a New Year's Resolution to lose weight, but it never works. Any suggestions?
A: Every Jan. 1, nearly half a million Americans start a behavior change program, commonly called "New Year's resolutions." Sadly, more than half of us will throw in the towel on our self-made pledges within six months. On the bright side, individuals who promise themselves to make a change are 10 times more likely to succeed than those who do not. Remember that making a lifestyle change is a process and not something you can turn on and off.

The most common New Year's resolutions are about healthier living -- losing weight, getting more exercise and quitting smoking. Physicians and other health care experts applaud these renewed commitments because, according to a report by the University of Washington, 60 percent of Americans die from illnesses connected to unhealthy behavior, such as overeating, lack of exercise and smoking.

The most successful resolutions begin with a serious commitment and a realistic goal. It's also helpful to have the support of family and friends, or even a support group or class, to support and encourage you. When you do well, reward yourself at milestones (though not only with food!).
Q: I am determined to stop smoking this year. What is the most effective way to do it?
A: The best way to stop smoking is to set a date and quit completely on that day. Because of the addictive nature of smoking, this is an enormous challenge for many people. If this sounds too difficult, consider decreasing the number of cigarettes you smoke step-by-step. But don't be swayed from your ultimate goal -- to quit completely.

Quitting while relying solely on will power can be tough. Consider joining a support group. The American Lung Association offers a "Freedom from Smoking" clinic that is very effective.

Remember that your doctor will be very happy to help you quit smoking. If you are having difficulty quitting on your own or are sure you'll need help, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss medications and other assistance he can recommend.
Q: As a doctor, what resolutions do you think are best?
A: First of all, resolve to take good care of yourself. I love seeing my patients of all ages, particularly when they are committed to taking good care of themselves. Questions about health maintenance and prevention are just as important to me as those about health problems and illness.

On a practical level, I recommend these five preventive steps you can take to be well and healthy. They are simple, but not necessarily easy.
* Exercise -- Getting aerobic exercise for 30 minutes or more on most days of the week keeps you fit and boosts your immune system.
* Don't smoke -- Don't start, don't inhale someone else's smoke, and quit if you are a smoker. If you need help quitting, sign up for Camino Medical Group's smoking cessation class.
* Eat well -- You really are what you eat. Fresh, unprocessed foods are more nutritious. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and foods low in saturated fat and trans-fatty acids. Avoid salt and use alcohol in moderation. * Manage your stress -- Relax! Build stress reduction and play time into every day. Remember that exercise is a great way to reduce stress too. Seek professional help if you need it.
* Get enough sleep --Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Consider whether you are overusing stimulants, mainly caffeine, to mask fatigue. Limit intake of caffeine to no more than one or two 8-ounce cups of regular coffee a day or the equivalent (including caffeinated soft drinks).
Stuart Menaker, M.D., practices family medicine at Camino Medical Group's Sunnyvale Clinic.


E-mail questions to Camino Medical Group representative Cynthia Greaves at [email protected]

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