New Year’s Resolutions: Start Small and Have a SMART Plan

Are New Year’s resolutions on the brain? Do you swear you are going to complete your goal this year?  Self-awareness and improvement are great for overall mental and physical health. But according to the New York Times, one-third of those working toward resolutions don’t make it past the end of January. So what is the problem? Studies show that many of these commitments fail because they are too vague, unrealistic, or it wasn’t your idea in the first place. The trick is to make the right goals.

It’s a wonderful idea to have goals for the New Year. They just need to be smart, or S.M.A.R.T. – the acronym devised from the journal of Management Review for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound goals. Does this sound familiar? Businesses use it all over the country as an employee performance tool. But it is also a great way to set your New Year’s resolutions.

Specific. Saying something vague like, “I want to lose weight” or “get fit” isn’t going to cut it.  Your resolution should be precise. How much weight do you want to lose? How are you planning to lose the weight? Do you have a deadline for yourself? Think about all the particulars and write them down to be more effective.

Measurable. While it’s easier to track things with numbers like weight or fitness, other goals can be measured by logging your progress or taking photos. Sometimes there are even apps to track different behaviors and encourage progress. Resolutions such as getting more sleep, consuming less sugar, walking so many steps in a day – these can all be measured if you set up a system to do it ahead of time.

Achievable. You can have big goals, but ease into things and start small so that you don’t become frustrated. For example if your goal is to get eight hours of sleep each night, start going to bed maybe 15 minutes earlier each week or each month. Or if you’re working on your diet, swap out one unhealthy food with a healthy one each week. This will help you keep steady, attainable progress toward your ultimate goal.

Relevant. Does this goal really matter to you? Are you doing it because your friends do this or your kids suggested it? If you are making a resolution because of peer pressure or spontaneity, you may have a harder time completing it. Think hard about your long term goals and about the support system you have to reinforce those goals when designing your resolution. This will make your chances of success that much greater.

Time-bound. Now that you have made a “specific” and “achievable” plan as suggested above, creating a timeline toward reaching your goal is the next step. Breaking your goal up to create small wins gives you more personal encouragement and also helps to create positive habits over time. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, can you break your ultimate goal out into monthly increments? This will not only help keep you on track throughout the process, but it makes the end goal seem less daunting.

Now that you have a strategy for success, do you need some ideas? Check out this article from Women’s Health for some inspiration. They’ve got great ideas that start small and build toward bigger goals and healthier habits. You can try things like eating one meal of only fruits and veggies each day, or trying to add 1,000 more steps to your daily routine each week. Maybe your goal is more about your mental health and trying to reduce stress. Try taking 30 minutes of “me time” each week. We all need it!

And if you feel like your goal is just too much for you to handle on your own, seek out help where you need it. Your primary care provider can provide plenty of tips and support for diet and exercise goals. They will also know of other resources in the community, such as the Smoking Cessation program from our Internal Medicine Department.  Whether you are trying to break a vice like cigarettes, or create good habits like reading each night with your kids – you can do it by creating a SMART plan.

 

 

Sources:
https://www.womenshealthmag.com
https://www.lifehack.org
https://www.nytimes.com
 

Tips to Help Manage Holiday Stress

The holiday season is a time filled with excitement and special traditions. But it also brings a chaotic cluster of demands which can leave many feeling overwhelmed, out of sync, or even lonely. Baking, shopping, cleaning, decorating, wrapping, traveling…it can all add up to quite the list of things to do! It’s important to take a little time to regain control and balance. Here are some key things you can do to stay mentally and physically healthy throughout this busy holiday season.

Make a realistic plan. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting with family and friends, and other activities. Plan your menu and make a shopping list before you go to the store. This will help prevent last-minute scrambling for forgotten items. And if you need help with food or party prep, delegate and line up your helpers in advance.
It’s also important to remember that the holidays do not have to be perfect, or exactly the same as last year. As families grow and change, traditions and rituals can change too. Focus on a few favorite customs to enjoy if others are no longer possible.

Set a budget and stick to it by learning to say no. Before you even go shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Gifts can be the main expense for many during the holiday season, but don’t forget to account for the cost of holiday meals, any wrapping or decor supplies, and any travel costs. If you are nervous about your budget, there are easy ways to save. Try homemade gifts instead or start a family gift exchange.

When your established plan or budget is in jeopardy, it’s important to say no. Overcommitting or overspending will only leave you resentful or overwhelmed later. Your family and friends will understand if you can’t be there for everything.

Acknowledge your feelings and set aside differences. Gathering with loved ones might be the most common holiday tradition. This positive practice can inadvertently be a negative reminder for some by pointing out those that couldn’t be with you this year. If a loved one has recently died or can’t be with you this year, it’s okay to feel sadness and grief. In fact, it’s absolutely normal. Take time to express your feelings. Next, reach out if you feel lonely or need support. Surrounding yourself with family and friends through social or religious gatherings is a great defense. Volunteering with others is also a great way to meet new people and spread cheer. If these feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, or sadness persist and you can’t sleep or motivate yourself to do routine chores, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

And if you are surrounded by family and old friends and your personality doesn’t really mesh with a few people, try to set aside any differences you may have. Do your best to accept family members and friends as they are. Set aside grievances for a more appropriate time.

Think positive and take time for you. When stressed, it’s that much harder to stop and regroup even though it’s what your body really needs. If holiday plans are getting too overwhelming, simply take a break. Even if you can only achieve 15 minutes of quiet, alone time – do it. Go for a walk, listen to soft music, work out, get a massage, or read a book. Recharge and then move forward with a better attitude. And when all else fails, just do less and enjoy more. The memories with loved ones are the whole point, not ribbons or fancy meals.

Don’t abandon your healthy habits. Amidst the carols, treats, and shopping, don’t forget the simple things – like eating breakfast and getting enough sleep each night. Keep time for exercise in your daily plan and enjoy special holiday treats in moderation. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t over indulge or bring a healthy food option to contribute. By sticking to your health routine as much as possible during the holidays, you won’t feel like you have to start over come January.

The holidays can be peaceful and enjoyable with a little planning and positive thinking. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers and delegate tasks so all the prep doesn’t become a burden. You can survive the frenzy! Just remember the reason for the season and hold loved ones close. Happy holidays from Medical Associates!

 

Sources: www.heart.org
www.mayoclinic.org
www.clevelandclinic.org

Sleep Apnea and Heart Disease, Stroke

Elderly man lost in thought

Plain old snoring can get a little annoying, especially for someone listening to it. But when a snorer repeatedly stops breathing for brief moments, it can lead to cardiovascular problems and potentially be life-threatening.

It’s a condition known as sleep apnea, in which the person may experience pauses in breathing five to 30 times per hour or more during sleep. These episodes wake the sleeper as he or she gasps for air. It prevents restful sleep and is associated with high blood pressure, arrhythmia, stroke and heart failure.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and stroke is also a leading cause of death and disability. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for both.

“The evidence is very strong for the relationship between sleep apnea and hypertension and cardiovascular disease generally, so people really need to know that,” said Donna Arnett, Ph.D., chair and professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the incoming president of the American Heart Association.

A Common Problem
According to Dr. Arnett, one in five adults suffers from at least mild sleep apnea, and it afflicts more men than women. The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), when weight on the upper chest and neck contributes to blocking the flow of air. OSA is associated with obesity, which is also a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Besides obesity contributing to sleep apnea, sleep deprivation caused by sleep apnea can, in an ongoing unhealthy cycle, lead to further obesity. In OSA the upper airway closes off because the muscles that hold it open lose tone. The more weight, the more loss of tone and the more severe the sleep apnea. Each time the airway closes, there is a pause in breathing.

A less prevalent type of sleep apnea is called central sleep apnea (CSA). In CSA the brain doesn’t send regular signals to the diaphragm to contract and expand. There is limited snoring and it has been associated with brain stem stroke because the brain stem is where the impulse to breathe comes from.

Listen to Those Snoring Complaints
A roommate or sleeping partner of someone with sleep apnea often notices it. “It’s really hard to detect if you live alone, unless you go through a sleep study,” Dr. Arnett said. People with sleep apnea may be more tired during the day and therefore prone to accidents or falling asleep.

Getting Proper Treatment
Through treatment known as continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, blood pressure is stabilized. The CPAP device involves wearing a mask while sleeping. It keeps air pressure in the breathing passages so they don’t close down.

In a sleep study, doctors count pauses in breathing to determine whether the patient has mild sleep apnea, characterized by five to 15 episodes per hour; moderate sleep apnea, defined by 15 to 30 per hour; or severe sleep apnea, meaning more than 30 each hour.

It’s certainly possible to have simple, loud snoring without sleep apnea. But with regular snoring, the person continues to inhale and exhale. With sleep apnea, the sleeping person tends to have periods when he or she stops breathing and nothing can be heard. The good news is treatment that keeps the breathing passages open and oxygen flowing can yield fast results, Dr. Arnett said. “Blood pressure comes down really quite quickly.”

Getting Good Rest
If you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep follow some of these suggestions:

  • Get regular physical activity, but don’t do it right before bed because that gets your adrenaline pumping and can keep you awake.
  • Limit alcohol consumption to one drink per day for women and two drinks for men; too much alcohol interferes with sleep.
  • Avoid caffeine before bed.
  • Develop a pre-bedtime routine such as taking a warm bath, dimming the lights or having some herbal tea.

If you are experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea, be sure to discuss this with your primary care provider. A referral to a pulmonologist may be necessary. At Medical Associates, Dr. Mark K. Janes is Board Certified in sleep medicine and provides diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders including sleep apnea. Examination of abnormalities of sleep is available with overnight trend oximetry and polysomnography.

 

Source: www.heart.org

 

Prediabetes:  What you Need to Know

Prediabetes is a serious health condition in which an individual’s blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Approximately 84 million American adults – more than 1 out of 3 – have prediabetes. Of those with prediabetes, 90% don’t know they have it. Prediabetes puts you at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

You can have prediabetes for years with no clear symptoms, so it often goes undetected until serious health problems such as type 2 diabetes show up. It’s important to talk to your doctor about getting your blood sugar tested if you have any of the risk factors for prediabetes, which include:

  • Being overweight
  • Being 45 years or older
  • Having a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes
  • Being physically active less than 3 days a week
  • Having gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or giving birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds
  • Having polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Race and ethnicity are also a factor: African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and some Asian Americans are at higher risk.

Physical Activity
If you have prediabetes and are overweight, losing a small amount of weight and getting regular physical activity may help lower your risk for developing type 2 diabetes. A small amount of weight loss means around 5% to 7% of your body weight, just 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person. Regular physical activity means spending at least 150 minutes a week of brisk walking or a similar activity. That’s just 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

What should I eat?
Nutrition is key to a healthy lifestyle when you have prediabetes. Along with other benefits, following a healthy meal plan and being active can help you keep your blood sugar (or blood glucose level) in your target range. What you choose to eat, how much you eat, and when you eat are all factors that can affect your blood sugar. A registered dietitian (RD) or certified diabetes educator (CDE) can help you create a meal plan that’s full of healthy-tasty options.The key is to eat a variety of healthy foods from all food groups, in the amounts your meal plan outlines. Some great food groups to include are:

  • Vegetables: Nonstarchy includes broccoli, carrots, greens, peppers, and tomatoes. Starchy includes potatoes, squash, corn, and green peas.
  • Fruits: Includes oranges, melon, berries, apples, bananas, and grapes.
  • Grains: At least half of your grains for the day should be whole grains. Includes wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, and quinoa, bread, pasta, cereal, and tortillas.
  • Protein: Includes lean meat (chicken or turkey without the skin), fish, eggs, nuts and peanuts, dried beans and certain peas (such as chickpeas and split peas), and meat substitutes, such as tofu.
  • Dairy: nonfat or low fat milk or lactose-free milk (if you have lactose intolerance) yogurt, and cheese.

Use oils when cooking food instead of butter, cream, shortening, lard, or stick margarine. Oils with heart-healthy fats, mainly come from the following foods:

  • Oils that are liquid at room temperature, such as canola and olive
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Heart-healthy fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel
  • Avocado

There are also some foods that those with prediabetes should limit. Try to stay away from fried foods and other foods high in saturated fat and trans fat. Foods high in salt or sodium are also good to avoid. Cut back on sweets, such as baked goods, candy, and ice cream. It’s also wise to limit beverages with added sugars, such as juice, regular soda, and regular sports or energy drinks. Drink water instead of these and consider using a sugar substitute in your coffee or tea.

Your primary care provider will keep a close watch on your blood glucose levels, monitoring them to make sure that your prediabetes doesn’t become type 2 diabetes. You should discuss diet and exercise recommendations with your doctor. Be honest about your habits and work together with your doctor to better control your blood glucose levels.

 

 

Sources: www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/prediabetes.html and
www.niddk.nih.gov