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From the column To Your Health


The origins of the phrase “turning over a new leaf” lie in the 16th Century, when writers would use a folio, or book of pages. Turning a new leaf meant a fresh page to start anew. So, what are your health resolutions (new leaves) for the New Year? Here are 16 possibilities to consider:

Stand Up Every Hour

One study recommended sitting for 20 minutes, standing 8 minutes, and walking 2 minutes of every half hour. That may be OCD for most, but getting up a couple of minutes every hour shows benefit. A device such as a fitbit can help monitor movements. Aim for 10,000 steps a day.

Try a Plant-Based Diet

Reducing fat intake can cut the risk of heart disease, and avoiding red meat is the best way to do that. Vegetarians have 29 percent lower heart disease mortality, according to a large study. A Mediterranean diet would also help, using meat as a condiment, not a calorie source.

Lose 5-to 10 Percent of Your Body Weight

That may not get you to your ideal weight, but you will gain most of the health benefits by losing just that much. And, it will give you a real confidence boost to lose more weight.

Wear Seat Belts

More than half of all fatalities occur to the 15 percent of passengers who do not wear seat belts. Non-wearers are 30 times more likely to be ejected from the car, and 75 percent of those die.

Get a Hobby

As people grow older, they tend to stay home and are more isolated than when they were young. Engaging in group activities and hobbies helps people stay healthier. While group worship is scarcely a hobby, it’s mentioned in every article I’ve seen on staying healthy as we age.

Play Brain Games

Challenging your mind with new activities can help avoid memory loss as we age. Computerized games have shown benefit, but all kinds of new things can help keep your brain sharp. So go learn a new language!

Take a Vacation Every Day

Workers who take frequent breaks are more productive than those who don’t. They also experience less work loss due to illness.

Turn Off the TV

You use less energy when watching TV than while sleeping. So watch only one-to-two hours a day, then turn it off.

Sleep More and Better

Sleep deprivation causes all kinds of problems, from poor immune response to more traffic accidents. Check out this article.

Laugh—a Lot

Studies show our cardiovascular and immune systems benefit from laughter.

Get a Check-up

In 30 years of practice, I’ve found pastors especially neglectful of their own health. Check-ups can find problems before they start.

Take a Multivitamin/Supplement

Or not! Multivitamins may help you get vitamins you don’t get in food, but you’d be better off with a better diet. I cringe when I see patients who swallow 10-to-15 supplements per day. Such heavy intake is hard on stomachs and wallets, and shows no proven benefits.

Get Your Vaccinations

Yearly flu and pneumococcal vaccines reduce hospitalizations for pneumonia. Go to vaccines.gov to learn more.

Get a Pet

Dog owners recover better from heart attacks, and have lower blood pressure than petless individuals.

Take a Walk Outside

In the sun. Ten-to-fifteen minutes of sun three times a week is enough to provide all of your Vitamin D requirements.

Eat a Little Chocolate

Cocoa can lower blood pressure. Lighter chocolates have less cocoa solids and too much sugar. So have a square a day of 60-to-70 percent chocolate.

You don’t have to try everything on this list. As a start, pick three of these well-researched tips, and get started! For references or to give me ideas for future articles, contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Have a great 2016!

Dr. Steven C. Burns is board-certified in family medicine and has been in practice for almost 30 years.

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