As we get set to welcome the new decade, what can we do to make 2020 a healthier year? I am not going to talk about making New Year’s resolutions. We know the drill, often resolutions fail and don’t turn into something achievable or tangible. So let’s look at simple practises that can help us achieve a healthier new year.
Set January aside for preventive screenings
Do not put it off any longer. Make sure, every year, you pencil in January as the month for your yearly health screening. Dr Nada Al Mulla, Head of Nad Al Hamar Primary Healthcare Centre at DHA says, “Preventive health screening is so simple and provides a good benchmark for where you are in terms of your health and helps zero in on the areas you need to improve on.
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death. Visiting a smoking-cessation clinic helps patients get the medical, social and psychological support they need to stub tobacco permanently.
For example, if a screening detects high sugar levels, you can avoid developing non-communicable diseases (NCD’s) such as diabetes through lifestyle modifications. Screenings also help detect health conditions early enough to begin treatment and prevent further complications. If the doctor recommends a follow-up test after a few months, make sure you do not skip that and keep a close track of your health.”
She adds that women above the age of 40 years should attend mammogram screenings for breast cancer and that those with a family history should be screened before the age of 40.
Track your BMI
Checking your weight on scales at home is not the optimum way of keeping track of your health. Dr Wafaa Ayesh, Director of Clinical Nutrition Department at the DHA says, “Take a closer look at your BMI ( body mass index). You can check this at your clinic or at the gym. This provides a breakup of the percentage of fat and muscle in your body. Understand how this works so that you can tailor-make your exercise and diet plan to improve your BMI. “Tracking your BMI will also help you understand how you need to divide your exercise sessions between weight-training and cardio to increase muscle mass, reduce fat percentage and improve your overall BMI.”
Ayesh says that drastic diets are a strict no-no; balanced wholesome diets are healthier, as there are far too many restrictive diets being promoted, which cut out whole food groups.
Set specific times for social media
According to Dr Khawla Ahmed Al Mir, Consultant Psychiatrist at Rashid Hospital, we spend excessive amounts of time-consuming content, randomly browsing through social media channels during the day. “Some studies have linked excessive social media use to the onset on anxiety. On average, if you spend one hour a day on social media, it amounts to 14 work days. We really need to be mindful of social media browsing,” she says.
Know your goals and set habits to achieve them
Ayesh says, “Often people tell me they want to be a certain dress size or drop a certain number of kilos. I tell them that weight loss should be an accidental benefit of regular exercise, clean eating and enough sleep. This means, you set monthly or weekly goals, for instance, four is the minimum number of times to go the gym every week, seven hours is the minimum hours of sleep per night. Also, be disciplined when it comes to mindful eating.
Once these goals are tangible, set them in a monthly format and once you start to focus on actions rather than the results, the results often comes naturally. Build triggers to help you achieve your goals. If you want to eat healthily, focus on meal prepping. If you want to wake up early to go to the gym, prepare everything in advance and clock-in seven hours of sleep.”
Stop multitasking and slow down the pace of life
Al Mir also debunks the concept of multitasking. “There is no such thing; you’re really just switching back and forth between tasks really quickly. This makes your brain work more so unless needed it is better not to task switch and do just one thing at a time.
Quit tobacco, visit a smoking-cessation clinic
Al Mulla says it often takes several attempts before a person successfully quits tobacco. “Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death. Visiting a smoking-cessation clinic helps patients get the medical, social and psychological support they need to stub tobacco permanently.”
30/30 throughout the year
There is enough evidence to prove that exercise is good for your overall health, including brain health. This year, many of us took part in the Dubai 30/30 challenge. Imagine the health benefits of incorporate the same practise 30 minutes of exercise each day, throughout the year.
According to the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR), everyone should aim to clock-in at least 150 minutes of moderate, or 75 minutes of vigorous, physical activity each week. Being active reduces risk for endometrial, breast (postmenopausal) and colorectal cancers. AICR says that it may also reduce risk of liver and esophageal cancer and improve survival after breast cancer.
Mayo Clinic says that 30 minutes of regular exercise can help lower blood pressure. A reduction of five to 10 millimetres of mercury (mmHg) is possible. In some cases, that is enough to prevent or reduce the need for blood pressure medications.
Al Mulla says, “Exercise helps boost your health, including brain health. There is far too much evidence today that highlights just how important exercise is. This should be one of the fundamental pillars or areas of focus in 2020 and beyond.”