Take these 6 overlooked steps to better health in the new year

If the experience of a global pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we should not take health and well-being for granted. While some may still be feeling the lingering fatigue of the pandemic, it’s important to pause and reflect before ushering in the new year. But focusing on your health and well-being doesn’t have to become a new diet or exercise goal when making effective New Year’s resolutions. Instead, there are some healthy habits that patients may overlook.

The AMA’s What Doctors Wish Patients Knew™ series gives doctors a platform to share what they wish patients knew about today’s healthcare headlines.

Here’s a list of stories from this series about what doctors want patients to know about overlooked health habits to practice in the new year.

    1. Immunizations or vaccinations have prevented countless cases of disease and disability and save millions of lives each year. Yet there are still people sick or disabled from preventable infectious diseases and families grieving the devastating loss of loved ones from vaccine-preventable diseases. That’s why it’s important to stay up-to-date on immunizations for the whole family, including the COVID-19 vaccinations. It has gained increasing importance in light of the “triple demy” of influenza, COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
    1. We’ve seen actress Betty White live to be 99, and recently Queen Elizabeth II died at 96 after a 70-year reign. This has a lot to do with healthy aging, which doesn’t have to start as an older person—it should be paramount even in the college years. And while there are many factors that influence healthy aging, some of them—like genetics—are beyond our control. That’s why it’s key to know what steps to take. This article outlines what patients can do to maintain their physical and mental health as they age.
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    1. Colorectal cancer – which refers to cancer of the colon or rectum – is the second leading cause of cancer death in the US and recently claimed the life of former Cheers actor Kirsty Alley. And colon cancer doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of slowing down – with colorectal cancer rates rising among adults aged 20 to 49. Yet about 30% of eligible patients in the United States have not yet been screened for colorectal cancer. Two doctors share what they need to know about colon cancer screening and prevention.
    1. Although people are becoming more connected through social media and other outlets, the great irony is that many people still feel lonely. This loneliness, in turn, can have profound effects on a person’s health and well-being. Loneliness as a public health problem has intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic. Two doctors discuss how to recognize loneliness and what can help patients overcome feelings of loneliness.
    1. It is natural for women to worry about breast cancer, especially since many people know someone who has been affected by the disease. Although there is no surefire way to prevent breast cancer, there are things you can do to reduce your risk. Some factors you can’t change, but knowing what can help is key to reducing your risk of breast cancer. This article looks at how patients can reduce their risk of breast cancer.
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    1. While the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for everyone, digital tools have allowed people to work remotely, participate in school from home, and maintain virtual personal connections. Understandably, people are now on their devices more than ever to stay connected. But spending too much time in front of screens can have negative health consequences. That’s why it’s important to take proactive steps to reduce your screen time. Two AMA members share how patients can reduce screen time.

For more great tips, check out this column — “10 Health Decisions Doctors Encourage You to Make Today” — published this month in the Hanford, Calif., newspaper The Sentinel.

As AMA President Jack Resneck Jr., MD, noted, “The good news is that small, positive health choices made right now can have long-lasting effects.”

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