When it comes to setting New Year’s resolutions, many of us hope that each year we will be feeling healthier and happier than the year before. We make fitness goals and promises to eat better, plan to work smarter and spend more time with family or friends.
This year, be sure to spend some time thinking about your health as you go through this reflection and projection process. Here are some ways to make your health a priority in 2019.
Make Weight Loss a High Priority
Obesity is a global epidemic. Nearly 35 percent (78.6 million) of American adults now suffer from obesity, according to a 2014 study by the U.S. Centers of Disease Control.
“It is extremely important that we help our patients to address their weigh issues successfully,” says Dr. Chinyere Ofonagoro of Premier’s Internal Medicine Division. “Overweight and obesity are implicated in such a long list of negative medical conditions… some of the leading causes of preventable death.” These include heart disease, type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, arthritis, stroke and a number of cancers.
“We make it a priority to help patients understand the impact of obesity on their overall health and the importance of weight loss,” Ofonagoro says. “When a patient comes to us for an appointment, has a weight problem and does not raise the issue, we take the opportunity to counsel them on how to manage their problem, set goals and begin their journey to better health, beginning with education.”
Obesity can be caused by a constellation of factors, not just overeating and failing to exercise. “Certainly those are pieces of the problem,” says Ofonagoro, “but so are genetic predisposition, environmental factors, psychological and situational stressors.”
“We explain that weight loss and weight management are comprised of three major areas: diet, exercise and, if required, medication. We explain how weight loss and maintenance will reduce the risk of negative medical complications.”
The health care team follows up education with recommendations for exercise and what type of diet might work for the individual. “If the patient asks for a referral to a weight loss program, we provide that.”
When a patient comes back for subsequent appointments, “we reinforce the individual’s achievements and explain the health benefits they have already achieved, such as lowered blood pressure,” Ofonagoro says. “This helps to keep them committed to the goals they set.”
“But what is key is the constant reinforcement and support from the health care team, incorporating family, friends and significant others,” she says. “It goes a very long way toward helping the individual stay the course.”
Kick the Smoking Habit – You CAN Quit!
Over 16 million Americans suffer from a disease caused by smoking: cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases (such as emphysema, bronchitis, and chronic airway obstruction) and diabetes result in 1,300 deaths every day.
“Most people who smoke know they should stop, but it is very hard to kick the habit,” says Dr. Davide Michael DeBellis, of Premier’s Internal Medicine Division. “It is nicotine that makes it so tough to quit smoking. Nicotine is the most addictive drug known to mankind. It is what makes smoking, or any other use of tobacco one of the most difficult, but not impossible, addictions to conquer. Over the 30-plus years that our physicians have been in practice in the Dutchess County area, we have helped thousands of patients quit.”
What worked for those patients, DeBellis says, is the individualized approach our IM physicians take. “At its heart is the unique physician-patient relationship, the personal rapport we build with our patients that enables us to give each person specialized counseling.”
The privacy of the examination room frequently provides an opening for a dialogue about smoking. “How the physician approaches the topic with a patient is based on the individual’s medical records and patient profile,” DeBellis says. A detailed knowledge of each person’s health care record enables the physicians to assess how tobacco use is affecting his or her health.
The physicians can also, with the patient’s permission, help create a personal support group comprised of their family members. “It’s the most important support group that anyone trying to quit smoking can have,” he says. And, when appropriate, the physician may provide prescription medication to help ease an individual’s withdrawal from smoking.
“We encourage individuals who want to quit smoking to talk to us about smoking cessation options,” says DeBellis. “We’ll help you choose the option that’s best for you, and we’ll be with you every step of the way.”
What Happens to Your Body When you Quit Smoking?
- In 20 minutes, your blood pressure and heart rate drop to normal.
- In 8 to 12 hours, the carbon monoxide and nicotine levels in your blood reduce by half and your oxygen levels return to normal.
- After 2 days, carbon monoxide is eliminated from your body.
- After 4 days, breathing becomes easier.
- In 2 weeks to 3 months, your heart attack risk begins to drop. Circulation improves and your lungs work better.
- In 1 to 9 months, coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
- In 1 year, your risk of heart disease has dropped to half that of a smoker’s.
- In 5 years, your risk of stroke is the same as someone who does not smoke.
- In 10 years, your risk of dying from lung cancer is half that of a smoker’s. Risk of heart attack falls to the same as someone who has never smoked. Your risks of most types of cancer also decrease.
Get a Yearly Physical
“Be more proactive about your health and get a yearly physical,’” says Dr. Davide DeBellis. “Insurers, employers, and Medicare offer incentives for patients to get a periodic physical examination, or checkup, or health maintenance exam, as different plans call it.” Dr. DeBellis continues, “We call it a great opportunity to build your relationship with your physician, to establish baselines for good health, and to put in place preventive regimes that will serve you well throughout the year.”
Many insurance plans offer periodic health maintenance exams with no patient co-pay. It’s worth checking if your insurance offers these visits without member contribution. Medicare Part B offers a free “Welcome to Medicare” introductory visit within your first 12 months of coverage. This visit includes a review of your medical and social history related to your health and counseling about preventive services, including screenings, shots, and referrals for other care, if needed, all detailed in a written plan. After your first year, you are entitled to free annual “Wellness Visits” to follow up on your wellness plan.
The whole point of a complete physical exam is for your physician to look you over from head to toe and do preventive health care. Dr. DeBellis points out that “many diseases are silent – high blood pressure, diabetes, hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol), and even cancers like melanomas, breast, cervical, and colon cancer. If your physician knows your family history, can see your bloodwork, and does a physical exam, you are much more likely to have these conditions diagnosed and treated early.”
So why are some patients reluctant to make the call for an appointment for an annual visit? Most likely, its concern about extra weight they are carrying or some other condition they want to “fix” before they see their provider. Dr. DeBellis offers reassurance, “We know nobody’s perfect. In fact, if patients do come to see us, we can help them get control of their health and wellness and set them on the right track.” These days, everybody is pulling for the patient – there are receptive physicians who will be in their corner.