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Start off 2023 Healthier with Tips from Atrium Health Navicent

Experts offer tips for eating healthy, increasing exercise and quitting smoking

New Year’s Day has come and gone. If you made a New Year’s resolution or two, you’re in good company. Studies show 141 million Americans do so annually. Chances are, things have been going pretty well so far, but trouble may be on the horizon. Only 22 percent of resolution makers maintained their resolve for one month after Jan. 1, according to a 2022 study.

Year after year, the most popular resolutions deal with “living healthier” and all that encompasses. Physicians at Atrium Health Navicent advise that eating healthy, increasing exercise and quitting smoking are all popular resolutions, and that sticking with them can reap life-long rewards.

Here are some tips from Atrium Health Navicent experts about how to keep your New Year’s resolutions, and the benefits of doing so.

Eating healthy

When changing your diet, it’s all about having a plan. Meal planning, snack planning and planning for when you are bored, hurried or tired are key. Also, know your limits for foods that can trigger overeating — such as sweets, chips or alcohol. Late night eating, eating on the run or skipping meals and then overeating at the next meal are all pitfalls that can be avoided by meal planning. Start with small changes in your food. For example, take fast food out of your diet most of the time, and then progress to keeping fast food at a minimum, if at all. Use the same strategy for sugary drinks. Daily increase your water intake until you reach 64 ounces a day or more. Long-term health can be the greatest benefit in switching to more mindful eating habits.

“We need to make our health and exercise a priority,” said Audrey Bowen, a health educator for Atrium Heath Navicent’s Healthy Communities Food as Medicine Market which provides food assistance and nutrition education. “Some benefits of healthy eating are lower blood pressure, lower blood glucose levels and better cholesterol levels. And, of course, it’s great to see the results on the scale, in how your clothes feel and to have family and friends notice the change in you.”

Increasing exercise

When starting an exercise program, it’s important to think S.M.A.R.T. Set goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based. Write them down to help you visualize them every day.

“Make baby steps with exercise, meaning slowly add in either more exercise days per week, or exercise minutes per day. Starting with 5-10 extra minutes is an achievable and manageable way to slowly increase your activity levels,” said Catalina Torres Lopez, lead exercise physiologist at Atrium Health Navicent Wellness Center.

A key to maintaining an exercise program is to find something you enjoy doing, whether that’s at a gym, outside with friends or an at-home program.

“Consistency is key. Because motivation can wane, get a buddy to make this lifestyle change with you. The people I see who really stick with it have someone they can be accountable to,” Lopez said. Short-term benefits of increased exercise include more energy, better sleep and more self-confidence. Long-term benefits include improved blood pressure, less anxiety and depression, more muscle and improved cardiovascular fitness.

Quitting smoking

When making the decision to quit smoking, the first step is to set a quit date. Before that date, clean your house and car to get rid of the smells from smoking. For help with accountability, tell the people in your inner circle that you are starting a smoking cessation program. Strategies for quitting include nicotine replacement therapy, avoiding triggers, replacing smoking with an immediate healthy habit such as gum and starting a workout regimen such as walking. Allowing a doctor or counselor to assist you with smoking cessation will increase your chances of success.

“Smoking cessation reduces the risk of so many adverse health issues such as cardiovascular disease, pulmonary diseases and cancer. Tobacco products contain more than 7,000 chemicals and compounds — at least 69 of these can cause cancer,” said Comblena Johnson, an oncology nurse navigator at Atrium Health Navicent Peyton Anderson Cancer Center.

There is a lengthy list of long-term health benefits for people who have quit smoking. In addition to easier breathing and less coughing, in one year, the risk of heart disease is half that of a person who is a smoker. In two to five years, stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker and risk of cancer of the mouth, esophagus, throat and bladder is cut in half. In 10 years, lung cancer death rate is half that of a smoker’s risk, as is the risk for kidney disease or pancreatic cancer. After 15 years, the risk of heart disease is back to that of a nonsmoker.

“Most people just set a New Year’s resolution because they want to become better overall,” Johnson said. “But quitting smoking is life-changing. It not only saves your life, but the lives of your loved ones as well.”

For more information about the Atrium Health Navicent Healthy Communities Food as Medicine Market, call 478-633- 5656.

For more details about exercise and wellness services available at Atrium Health Navicent Wellness Center, call 478-477- 2300.

For help quitting smoking, call Atrium Health Navicent Peyton Anderson Cancer Center at 478-633-2614.

About Atrium Health Navicent

Atrium Health Navicent is the leading provider of healthcare in central and south Georgia and is committed to its mission of elevating health and wellbeing through compassionate care. Atrium Health Navicent provides high-quality, personalized care in 53 specialties at more than 50 facilities throughout the region. As part of the largest, integrated, nonprofit health system in the Southeast, it is also able to tap into some of the nation’s leading medical experts and specialists with Atrium Health, allowing it to provide the best care close to home – including advanced innovations in virtual medicine and care. Throughout its 125-year history in the community, Atrium Health Navicent has remained dedicated to enhancing health and wellness for individuals throughout the region through nationally recognized quality care, community health initiatives and collaborative partnerships. It is also one of the leading teaching hospitals in the region, helping to ensure viability for rural health care for the next generation. For more information, please visit www.NavicentHealth.org.