This content is sponsored by Adventist HealthCare.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we live, work and even how we view our health. The past year has brought challenges to protecting and maintaining our physical and mental health. As you look toward getting back to some of the normal activities of life again, you may also be looking to getting back on a path to a healthier you.
It may seem daunting at first, especially if it’s been awhile since you had a health routine or thought about starting one. Starting the journey with small, gradual changes can make it easier. Whether your goal is to get to a healthier weight, prevent future diseases or get in a healthier state of mind, it all starts with developing healthy habits.
Ogechi Anyaoku, MD, internal medicine physician with Adventist HealthCare Adventist Medical Group in Fort Washington, MD, shares her steps on how to get back to a healthier you.
Reconnect with Your Primary Care Doctor
Your primary care doctor isn’t someone you should see only when you’re sick. Annual screenings and physicals can help your doctor catch potential health problems early, before they develop into something more serious.
“Primary care doctors are your frontline doctors, essential to navigating good health and coordinating your care,” says Dr. Anyaoku. “The relationship you build with them is one of the most important you’ll ever have.” You can schedule an appointment any time to see them to discuss your overall health and learn more about what preventive health screenings you may need. Many primary care doctors have telehealth now available and can see you right from your home.
Add More Fruits and Vegetables to Your Diet
Fruits and vegetables carry vitamins and minerals that help our bodies function. When grocery shopping, pick brightly colored foods in the produce aisle. “You should aim to eat the rainbow daily when it comes to fruits and vegetables, with an emphasis on more vegetables than fruits,” says Dr. Anyaoku. These items, which are high in antioxidants, can be apples, oranges, tomatoes or avocados, among many others. Aim to add a fruit or vegetable to every meal or snack.
Try to limit your consumption of sugary drinks, fried foods and processed snacks. If you’re unable to limit yourself, make a vow to not buy these types of items next time you’re at the store.
Along with adding more fruits and veggies to your diet, many of us could drink more water. Staying well hydrated is essential to your health. Swap out any sugary drinks with water and have a glass with each meal.
Instead of starting your exercise journey with intense workouts, find small opportunities to be more active every day. Dr. Anyaoku suggests:
- Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
- Park further away when you go to the store
- Set a reminder to get up, stretch, and walk around once an hour
- Convert your desk to a standing workstation
- Track your steps and try to reach 10,000 steps each day
Getting your heart rate up a little each day will help maintain a healthy weight, keep your heart healthy and improve your mental health.
Prioritize Your Mental Health
Taking care of your mental health is often an overlooked part of your well-being. Not only does having poor mental health affect your mood and stress levels, but it can affect you physically as well. Make your mental health a priority and try to spend at least 15 minutes a day doing something for yourself.
“Find ways to take care of your mind and soul. Good examples of this are journaling, connecting with loved ones, practicing deep breathing exercises or prayer,” says Dr. Anyaoku. “If you find yourself needing additional help, reach out to a professional.”
Get More Sleep
Most of us don’t get the correct amount of sleep our bodies need. The amount you receive is directly tied to your overall health. Over time, not sleeping enough can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure and raise your risk of heart attack and stroke. If you’re having trouble getting shut-eye, try sticking to a sleep and wake schedule – even on your days off. Some tips for a healthier sleep include:
- Avoid consuming caffeine later in the day
- Disconnect from devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime
- Reduce fluid intake before bedtime
- Wind down by reading a book or listening to soothing music
- Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night
- On days off, do not sleep in more than 2 hours longer than your usual wake up time
Living a healthier lifestyle is a marathon, not a sprint, and it’s all about making small changes along the way.
“Getting your health back on track can be a process, but your future self will thank you for the healthy habits you’re developing today,” says Dr. Anyaoku.
To get started on your path to better health, visit AdventistMedicalGroup.org/Healthy.