Resolve today to make 2013 a year of better health.
State Director of Health Michael Fine, MD encourages Rhode Islanders to make health and wellness a priority in 2013. "The new year is a great time to focus on improving your health and that of your loved ones," said Fine. "You don't need to make drastic changes all at once. Choose something important to you, set realistic goals, and resolve to make at least one small change today." Below are several steps Rhode Islanders can take to get and stay well in the coming year.
1. Have and use a primary care (family) doctor. Primary care doctors include family physicians, pediatricians, and internists. Care is best provided in a continuous manner with the same healthcare provider or patient-centered medical home, where many healthcare providers work as a team. Visit www.health.ri.gov/find/healthservices to find primary care services for people with low incomes or limited access to health insurance.
2. Get your flu shot. Doctors say that everyone older than six months of age should get a flu shot now. Flu vaccine is the most effective protection against the flu. For those who are vaccinated but still get the flu, vaccine shortens the duration of the illness and makes symptoms less severe. It also lessens the chance that the infected person will spread the flu to others. Flu vaccine will help you stay active and at work and will help you avoid visits to the doctor and trips to the hospital in 2013.
3. Only take prescription medications that are prescribed to you by a healthcare professional—preferably only by your primary care doctor. Never share or sell your prescription drugs. Keep all prescription medicines (especially prescription painkillers) in a safe place that can only be reached by people who are prescribed to take them. Dispose of unused, unneeded, or expired prescription drugs. Do not use medications unless you really need them.
4. Spend time with family and friends and get to know people in your community to build your social support system. If you are depressed or if life seems overwhelming, reach out for help. If you are pregnant or have young children, request a free home visit to get answers to questions and connect with community-based resources. Visit www.health.ri.gov/homevisiting to see how.
5. Get regular exercise. Keep moving each day. Set 30 to 60 minutes aside each day for some type of aerobic or strength training activity. By enlisting the help of a friend, you can make yourself accountable to someone, which can give you the support you need to stick to your work out routine. Find other small ways to include physical activity in your day, such as taking the stairs.
6. Eat a heart-healthy diet. Add more fruits and vegetables, fish, and fiber-rich whole grains into your diet, and limit calories, sodium, and sugar-sweetened beverages. Visit www.health.ri.gov/eatsmart for tips on eating smarter in the new year.
7. Drink tap water. Providence water is ranked number two in the nation in water quality. Water helps keep your temperature normal, lubricates and cushions joints, protects your spinal cord, and helps your body remove waste. Fill a reusable bottle with tap water and drink throughout the day when you are thirsty and at meals. Choose water when you eat out to reduce calories.
8. Quit smoking. The more times a smoker tries to quit, the more likely he or she will succeed. Visit www.quitnowri.com or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to learn how the Department of Health and other Rhode Islanders can help you quit smoking today.
9. Get screened for colorectal, breast, and cervical cancer. Talk with your primary care provider to choose screening tests that are right for you. In general, you should begin screening for colorectal cancer soon after turning 50. Women should discuss when to begin breast and cervical cancer screening with their doctors.
10. Monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol. Have your blood pressure checked regularly by your primary care provider and have your blood tested for cholesterol levels. Talk with your doctor about when to have your cholesterol checked and how to reduce your risk for heart disease.
11. Get screened for diabetes. Discuss diabetes screening with your doctor. In general, screening is recommended for people with risk factors for diabetes. These include high blood sugar, being older than 45, having a family history of diabetes, being overweight, not exercising regularly, and having high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
12. Get tested for HIV. Everyone should get tested for HIV. Know your status and help stop the spread of HIV in Rhode Island. To find an HIV testing site near you, visit www.health.ri.gov/find/hivtestingsites
13. Make sure your family members and friends get their flu shots. Flu shots are the best way to keep your entire household safe. Even the healthy members of your family can get the flu and spread it to people in your family who can get very sick, including pregnant women, senior citizens, and babies. Flu shots are especially important at this time of year, when the flu hits Rhode Island the hardest.