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House Call: Sensible New Year’s resolutions

It will be New Year’s Day soon and many of us are thinking about resolutions. Let’s talk about some health-related resolutions and strategies for keeping them. Common health resolutions are to exercise regularly and lose weight. These are admirable, definitely good for you, and I’d encourage them. But I have some other ideas for you to consider.

Get your annual physical exam and screenings

Make sure your vaccines are up to date

Floss your teeth daily

See your dentist for an exam and cleaning

Spend five minutes in prayer or meditation daily

Eat an extra serving of vegetables every day

Establish an Advance Directive for medical and/or financial decisions made on your behalf

Part of my recommended strategy for making and keeping your New Year’s resolutions is to set small, measurable goals. Instead of resolving to lose weight, try resolving to lose 10 pounds in the first six months of the year. Many of us work better under a deadline and having a distinct target can be immensely helpful.

One year, I decided to give up meat from the first of the year through Easter, kind of an extended fast for Lent. That was pretty easy. The next year I decided to give up desserts until Easter; that was a lot harder. Ideas like these for resolutions may seem too small, but that is the point. Making a resolution to lose weight can be overwhelming without a well-defined goal to let you know when you have achieved it and deserve some self-congratulations.

Another strategy to stick to and achieve your New Year’s resolutions is to make a plan for accomplishing the goal. If you resolve to get your mammogram, sit yourself down and make a list of the steps you need to get it done: contact your doctor and ask him or her to order the mammogram; make an appointment for it; get the mammogram. As you complete each step, cross it off the list for a sense of accomplishment. By the way, did you know some places in Spokane offer Saturday appointments for mammograms?

Enlist friends and family to help keep you accountable in a positive way. I have a friend who supports her neighbor by texting him on weekdays to see if he has done any pushups yet. If he has, she is always sure to respond with positive praise.

Don’t let cost be a hindrance to keeping your resolution. As a physician who wants the best for my patients, I am troubled when cost is a barrier to getting needed care. Remember, the Affordable Care Act requires health plans to cover a set of some preventive services at no cost to you. Many health plans also cover some doctor visits and prescription drugs even if you haven’t met your deductible.

Another solution may be a Health Savings Account. Find out if you are eligible for one under your insurance plan and use it to help you budget for medical expenses.

Keep in mind that prevention is the best and least expensive way to maintain good health when making your resolutions. Set definable, achievable goals with a deadline. Make a plan and execute it. Plan ahead and budget for any expenses your resolution might incur.

Most of all, have a happy and healthy 2017!

Dr. Bob Riggs is a family medicine physician practicing at Group Health’s Riverfront Medical Center.


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