Sponsored: Ways to Get Healthy in 2023 | Sponsored: LCMC health

The start of a new year is when most people hit the gym, diet, or make other lifestyle changes. But, many times, these efforts only last a few weeks before people fall back into old habits. Fortunately, there are several proven ways to ensure these are lasting changes with long-term benefits to a person’s health.

“It’s about making small changes rather than taking on too big a goal or trying to achieve too many goals at once,” said Dr. Clare Farrell, primary care physician at East Jefferson General Hospital. “I always advise people to focus on around three realistic goals. The most important thing is to be consistent and start small so you don’t get overwhelmed and quit after a couple of weeks.

Dr Farrell said this is also an ideal time for people to get a comprehensive view of their health and lifestyle. Here he shares tips to help people achieve optimal health in 2023 and beyond.

Schedule time with your primary care physician.

Dr. Farrell said annual physical exams are a great way to check vital signs and blood tests. Your doctor can also advise if further tests are needed. If you don’t have a primary care physician, he or she seeks advice from family and trusted friends.

“We can’t manage what we don’t measure. That’s why it’s important to check those baseline markers so your doctor knows where you are,” said Dr. Farrell. “This is also a great time to work with your doctor to come up with a health care plan to make any improvements or changes you have in mind.”

Do a thorough assessment of your health.

While many people focus on areas like losing weight or improving fitness, reflecting on other aspects of your health can also be helpful. Dr. Farrell suggests people think about how they feel in general, their energy level, the quality and quantity of sleep, and stress levels. Discuss any concerns with your primary care physician.

Be realistic about your fitness goals.

“One of the best things people can do for themselves is incorporate more movement into their daily lives,” said Dr. Farrell. “If you’re starting a new exercise regimen, make it fun and not something stressful. Find something you enjoy that doesn’t feel like a chore.

Dr. Farrell said even a few minutes of exercise a day can be beneficial. As people build their strength and endurance, they may train for longer periods of time and more frequently throughout the week.

“Starting small and building up gradually is the best way to go if you haven’t exercised in a long time,” she said. “The ultimate goal is at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week, but that’s not where you need to start. You can build up to this over time.

Take steps to address any mental health issues.

Dr Farrell said she has seen a dramatic increase in patients dealing with issues such as anxiety and depression from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think people are more proactive about their mental health, which is wonderful,” she said. “For a long time there hasn’t been enough talk about mental health. Sometimes there is still a stigma around therapy or medications, but more patients and practitioners are getting used to these methods.

Dr. Farrell noted that anxiety and depression can result in physical impacts like lack of sleep, flare-ups of conditions like eczema and acne, stomach issues, and more. Anyone suffering from such problems should discuss them with their doctor to determine the cause and the best treatment options.

“Medications can treat some mental health problems, but there are also things people can do in terms of their lifestyles that can make a big difference,” she said. “It’s about coming up with an individual plan that is suitable for a specific person.”

Diets don’t have to be all or nothing.

To avoid feeling overly restricted with a new diet, Dr. Farrell advises people to think about foods they can eat instead of what they’re avoiding. Also, self-imposing too many dietary restrictions often backfires. That’s why Dr. Farrell said she likes the 80-20 rule in nutrition: Eat healthy 80 percent of the time and indulge yourself 20 percent of the time.

“Rather than making some foods completely off-limits, you can eat them in moderation as a treat instead of something that’s a regular part of your diet,” Dr. Farrell said. “If you eat well 80 percent of the time, it’s okay to give yourself a little grace every once in a while, as long as it doesn’t become a constant.”

LCMC Health is a New Orleans-based non-profit healthcare system with six hospital locations, a network of urgent care centers in the New Orleans metro area, and multiple physician offices. LCMC Health comprises more than 2,800 board-certified physicians in multiple specialties. For more information or to find a doctor near you, visit www.lcmchealth.org.

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