7 best things you can do for your health in the new year

As the new year begins, you may be thinking about renewing your health and wellness goals. Of course, the health changes that benefit you on January 1st are the same changes that would benefit you any day of the year—which means the perfect time to renew your health is always right now.

But how exactly can you take charge of your health to make the biggest impact? Experts say there are seven key ways to change your health for the better – in the new year or anytime. Read on for seven simple tips that are sure to accelerate your health transformation.

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1

Follow a healthy eating plan.

Starting a new diet is probably the most common New Year’s resolution of them all. Experts say that while it can be counterproductive to try extreme or overly restrictive diets, focusing on your nutrition is a great idea any time of year.

Instead of jumping on the latest fad or TikTok, you’re likely to see the best health with a well-rounded, whole-foods-based diet that emphasizes plant-based nutrition. Many doctors recommend some version of the Mediterranean diet or the MIND Dash Diet, which are known to reduce the risk of heart disease, dementia, and more.

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2

Prioritize sleep.

Getting a good night’s rest can do wonders for your physical and mental health—making it a great goal for the new year or anytime. According to the Mayo Clinic, most adults need at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep per night for optimal recovery.

“For adults, regularly getting less than seven hours of sleep per night is associated with poor health, including weight gain, a body mass index of 30 or higher, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and depression.” , the clinic notes. Keeping a regular sleep pattern and practicing good sleep hygiene can help you get the most out of your rest.

3

Exercise regularly.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health. “Few lifestyle choices have as big an impact on your health as physical activity,” they write.

They note that by incorporating even short bursts of exercise into your routine, you can “improve your brain health, help manage weight, reduce your risk of disease, strengthen your bones and muscles, and improve your ability to perform daily activities.” . Aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week—plus resistance training and flexibility exercises—to enjoy the greatest benefits.

4

Curb your vices.

If you currently smoke cigarettes, it’s hard to overstate just how much you’ll benefit from quitting. “Tobacco smoking causes disease and disability and damages nearly every organ in the body,” explains the CDC, adding that more than 16 million Americans are currently living with a disease directly caused by smoking. “For every person who dies from smoking, at least 30 people live with a serious disease related to smoking. Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Smoking also increases the risk of tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, and immune system problems, including rheumatoid arthritis,” they wrote.

However, smoking isn’t the only vice you might consider curbing. Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to heart disease, hypertension, stroke, liver disease, certain cancers, weakened immune systems, dementia, and more. Men should limit their consumption to two drinks a day, while women are advised to limit their consumption to one drink a day, the CDC says.

5

Go to the doctor.

What better way to start your health-conscious new year than by seeing your doctor? While an annual medical exam is not a substitute for more targeted care throughout the year, it can help you and your doctor establish a baseline for the future and can give you information about the status of your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol levels and many others . By knowing your numbers and managing any underlying health issues, you’ll be better able to prevent other health issues or address them when they arise.

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6

Replace sugary drinks with water.

Staying hydrated is critical to your health, but if you frequently quench your thirst with sugary drinks, you may be doing more harm than good. That’s why right now is the perfect time to ditch those empty calories in favor of plain water and other unsweetened beverages.

Not sure how much water you need? The Mayo Clinic says men need 15.5 cups of fluid per day, while women need 11.5 cups. The average person gets approximately 20 percent of their water needs through food and the rest through drinks.

7

Take time to de-stress.

If you’re dealing with uncontrollable stress, prioritizing relaxation can have a huge impact on your physical and mental health. In addition to the emotional effects of stress—anxiety, restlessness, irritability, and depression among them—many people also notice physical symptoms of stress. These can include headaches, muscle tension, chest pain, fatigue, trouble sleeping, and more, the Mayo Clinic says.

While reducing stress in your life may be easier said than done, many of the changes that keep your body healthy should also have a positive effect on your stress levels. Aim to exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet, spend time with your loved ones, pursue hobbies that bring you joy, and prioritize sleep. If you find you’re still struggling with stress afterward, consider reaching out to a mental health professional who can help you come up with a strategy that works for you.

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