Primary Care and Your New Year’s Resolutions – Orange County Register

Personal Injury Attorney

By Marco Ruiz, M.D., primary care, MemorialCare Medical Group – Huntington Beach

As the new year unfolds, many individuals embark on a journey of self-improvement and setting resolutions for healthier lifestyles. Some common goals for change include weight management, smoking cessation, and stress reduction. Partnering with your primary care physician, learning your numbers, and developing a course of action can help create tangible results to last throughout the new year.

At MemorialCare Medical Group, primary care physicians assume the role of trusted advisors, helping unravel medical concepts into understandable terms. This enables you to actively engage in your health care decisions and establish a sense of ownership over your well-being.

Your primary care physician plays a vital role in helping to identify risk factors and providing personalized health care plans to achieve health goals and maintain good health by “knowing your numbers.” By knowing health indicators such as blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and body mass index (BMI), patients can take proactive steps to reduce their risk of developing serious health complications in the new year.

One of the most common goals for people in the new year is weight management. Many people view their excess weight as an aesthetic issue, but the true burden of excess body weight leads to obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and depression. At MemorialCare Medical Group, primary care physicians help you develop a personalized weight management plan tailored to your individual needs.

Here are some tips your primary care physician might give you for weight loss:

· Set realistic goals: Start with small, achievable goals. For example, aim to lose 1-2 pounds per week instead of trying to lose 10 pounds in a month. Use metrics such as weight, BMI, or waist circumference to track progress while exercising four to five days per week.

· Eat a healthy diet: Whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats are nutrient-dense and can help people to feel full longer. Processed foods such as chips, cookies, and sugary drinks are high in calories, sugar, and unhealthy fats, and should be limited. Use smaller plates and bowls and pay attention to the body’s hunger and fullness cues.

· Stay hydrated: Aim to drink at least eight cups (64 ounces) of water per day. Foods such as watermelon, cucumbers, and tomatoes are high in water content and can help you stay hydrated.

· Get enough sleep: Studies have shown lack of sleep can lead to increased hunger and appetite, which can result in overeating and weight gain. Try sleeping in a dark room with limited artificial light from televisions, lamps, or your phone. Be sure to also avoid caffeine at least eight hours before bed and alcohol at least three hours before bed and engage in relaxing activities such as reading a book, taking a warm bath, or journaling before bedtime.

· Reduce stress through exercise and meditation: Stress can trigger overeating and make it harder to lose weight. Regular exercise can help improve sleep quality, reduce stress, and promote weight loss. Mindful meditation, yoga or stretching, and talking to friends, family, or a therapist can all be beneficial ways to reduce stress.

Another goal in the new year for many people is to quit smoking, which is often a challenging journey. It has been estimated that active smoking is responsible for close to 90 percent of lung cancer cases and is linked to mouth and throat cancer. Recognizing there is no one-size-fits-all approach, primary care doctors consider factors like smoking history, nicotine dependence, and overall health to create a personalized strategy.

Primary care physicians may recommend:

· Medications for withdrawal: Medications such as Varenicline (Chantix®) or Bupropion (Zyban®) may be prescribed to help manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

· Behavioral counseling and support groups: MemorialCare currently offers the Freedom from Smoking program which includes eight group-style meetings and features step-by-step plans to help tobacco users gain control over their behavior.

· Nicotine replacement therapy: Nicotine replacement therapy is a common over-the-counter strategy recommended by physicians and used by giving the body controlled, lower doses of nicotine to reduce withdrawal symptoms that include nicotine gum, patches, lozenges, nasal spray, or an inhaler.

Since smoking cessation is part of a broader approach to health, they may also address related health concerns such as respiratory issues or cardiovascular risks, ensuring you receive comprehensive care. By combining medical expertise with personalized care, MemorialCare primary care physicians empower individuals to overcome the challenges of quitting to achieve lasting success in their journey toward a smoke-free life.

As we enter the new year, we become busier and busier. Today, we are expected to work longer, harder, and faster in our jobs, but your personal life is not getting any less demanding. MemorialCare primary care physicians can help you with stress management in the new year by providing guidance and support through assessment of your health by evaluating stress levels and identifying potential stressors to understand the root cause.

Your primary care provider may start by recommending the following:

· Mind-body techniques: Meditation, deep breathing exercises or yoga can be beneficial in reducing stress and promoting mental well-being.

· Dietary changes and nutritional guidance: Patients may need to make dietary changes to ensure they are fueling their bodies with the right nutrients, as certain foods can impact mood and stress levels. Foods that can help reduce cortisol levels, the primary hormone responsible for stress, are foods high in vitamin B like beef, chicken, and eggs; foods high in omega-3 fatty acids like anchovies, avocado, or chia seeds; and magnesium-rich foods such as almonds, spinach, and tofu.

· Physical activity: Regular exercise is a powerful stress reducer. Exercise promotes the release of endorphins and contributes to improved mood.

· Adequate sleep: Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial for stress management. Physicians may address sleep-related issues, offering guidance on establishing healthy sleep hygiene practices to enhance the quality of sleep and reduce stress.

· Medication: In some cases, medications may be considered to manage stress or related conditions, ensuring a balanced approach to support mental health.

In the pursuit of a healthier, more balanced life in the new year, the collaboration between individuals and their primary care physicians at MemorialCare Medical Group can help foster a proactive approach to a healthy new year.

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