As Santa prepares his sleigh for another trip around the world, it’s probably time to look at our own bellies (bowl full of jelly, anyone?) and think about how naughty we’ve been this year.
“New Year’s is usually the time for making resolutions, but before I can decide what I’m doing next year, I need to figure out what went wrong and what went right this year,” said OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D.
Put yourself on the nice list if you’ve been trying to get more exercise this year, he said. Even if it’s just 30 minutes of walking a day—cut that into a couple of 15 minutes walks, if that’s easier—the benefits of moving are evident.
“Not everybody has time for the gym, but 30 minutes of brisk walking a day has been shown to lower blood pressure, strengthen bones and improve your mood,” he said. “Over the long term, it can help control weight and lower the risk of heart disease—two big problems in Oklahoma.”
Feel like you’ve been too naughty with your diet? That’s understandable, Prescott said. Oklahoma ranks last in the country for consumption of fruits and vegetables.
“Maybe that’s a selling point to the picky eaters of the world, but it’s making us unhealthy,” he said. “If you’d like to eat something that tastes good and helps you live longer, try nuts.”
In a paper published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers showed that eating an ounce of nuts daily—peanut, almond, cashew, etc.—could help increase longevity. Even those who didn’t exercise or diet were found to live longer if they ate a 1 oz. serving of nuts a day. Just 20 almonds, or 16 cashews, or 45 pistachios could be key to a longer life.
Sometimes we think we’re being nice when we’re actually being naughty, Prescott said. That’s when it helps to have a third party weigh in, and who better than a primary care physician.
“One of the nicest things you can do for your health is to get an annual check up from your doctor,” he said. “Part of the new Affordable Care Act requires all plans to offer no-cost preventative care. No more excuses for avoiding the doctor.”
The list of free preventative care options includes obesity testing and counseling, vaccines for influenza, hepatitis, tetanus and more, high blood pressure and diabetes screening and much more.
“Whatever you think about the new laws, it’s important to see your doctor at least once a year, and not just when you’re sick,” Prescott said. “These benefits are guaranteed as part of your insurance, so why not take advantage and keep yourself feeling healthy?”
Whether you’re expecting a lump of coal in your stocking or a shiny new toy under the tree, the best gift you can give yourself and your family is better health, he said.
“Not only will you feel better, but you’ll also live longer, so your family can enjoy many more holidays with you,” he said. “And if you want to be a little bit naughty and sneak an extra piece of peanut brittle…I won’t tell.”