AtlantiCare experts offer ten tips for a healthy 2017

The start of a new year is a chance to reflect on the past twelve months and to set goals for the future.

“It’s a great time to take a look at the choices you’ve made about your health and to think about whether you might want to make better ones moving forward,” said Anael Delice, D.O., AtlantiCare Physician Group (APG) Primary Care Plus, Atlantic City. “As you head into 2017, think about small ways you can make healthy changes for yourself and your loved ones.” Delice and his AtlantiCare colleagues shared the following tips for a healthy 2017.

1. Exercise every day
Get moving! “Take a brisk walk, hit the gym or run outside to get your heart pumping, burn calories,” said Burak Arkonac, M.D., medical director, the Cardiac Catheterization and Rhythm Center, The Heart Institute at ARMC, and interventional cardiologist, APG - Cardiology. “If you sit for long periods or don’t get any regular exercise, make it a point to do something physical every day.” The American Heart Association’s recommends 150 minutes of exercise per week, he added. “Working out for 30 minutes a day, five days a week can help you burn calories and build muscle,” explained Arkonac. “It can also help to reduce your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even some cancers. Exercise can also help with managing stress.

2. Eat your fruits and vegetables
Get enough vitamins and nutrients in your diet and create low-calorie, filling meals to prevent some chronic conditions,” said Alexander Onopchenko, M.D., medical director of the Center for Surgical Weight Loss & Wellness at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center (ARMC) and medical director, APG - Surgical Services. To boost the number of fruits and vegetables you eat daily, try adding fresh fruit to a bowl of cereal, oatmeal or yogurt in the morning. For lunch, enjoy a green salad with a mix of your favorite vegetables and a low-fat dressing. For dinner, try adding extra vegetables to a pasta dish. When you’re hungry for a snack, reach for a piece of fresh or dried fruit instead of cookies or crackers.

3. Drink more water
Water helps you stay hydrated, digest food, and maintain circulation. It carries nutrients throughout your body and keeps your body temperature consistent. “Water is calorie-free and sugar-free, making it the best choice for a drink throughout your day,” said Laura Engelmann, MHA, Community Health and Wellness manager, AtlantiCare. “During meals, replace sodas and fruit juices with water. If you feel like getting that third cup of coffee, which has dehydrating caffeine, choose water instead. Keep a refillable bottle of water with you during the day to stay hydrated.”

4. Cut back on added sugar
Too much sugar in your diet can lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity. “Reduce the amount of added sugar you take in by replacing soda, sports drinks and juices with water at meals, said Brian Lee, ACE –CPT, fitness supervisor, AtlantiCare LifeCenter. “When you crave something sweet, try eating a banana or an apple, rather than a cookie or a piece of candy.”

5. Reduce your sodium intake
Sodium is sneaky—there might be more than you think in foods including bread, salad dressing and soup. “A high-sodium diet can lead to high blood pressure and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke,” said Sanjay Shetty, MD, cardiologist AtlantiCare Physician Group-Cardiology, and division chair, Cardiology, The Heart Institute at ARMC. “Stick to whole foods instead of processed ones, and check nutrition labels to see where sodium is lurking. Be especially wary of packaged foods that claim to be ‘healthy’ or ‘low-salt.’ Make your own soups and other dishes. Flavor them with vegetables and herbs.”

6. Schedule an annual physical
“Visit your primary care provider for an annual physical,” said Delice. “He or she can help you monitor changes in your health, prevent diseases and begin treating health issues that emerge before they become serious.” Ask your provider about health screenings you might need. Recommended screenings such as mammograms and pap tests for women, as well as colonoscopies, cholesterol and diabetes screenings for both men and women vary by age and personal/family history. “Ask questions and share concerns with your provider,” said Delice. “Talk with him or her about your hobbies and interests. The more he or she knows about you, the better the two of you will communicate to meet your health and wellness needs.”

7. Get good sleep.
Aim for eight hours of sleep. “Sleep contributes to your overall wellness,” said Maria Szpiech, M.D., AtlantiCare Physician Group – Endocrinology. “Not getting enough sleep can impact your endocrine system, putting you at risk for diabetes, heart disease and other serious health issues. Getting a full eight hours of sleep can help you prevent these and other issues. It can also help you think clearly, have more energy, feel rested, maintain a healthy weight, and manage stress.”

8. Take time to relax and de-stress
“Staying in good mental health is just as important as maintaining your physical health,” said Brian Isaacson, M.D., ” associate chairman of Psychiatry, AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center. “Stress can cause negative effects on your body, including muscle tension, headaches, fatigue and sleep problems. It can also contribute to depression and other mental health issues. Try breathing slowly several times a day, meditating, or doing yoga. Take the time to do things and be with people who make you happy. Getting a massage or listening to calming music can help you refocus, think positively and reduce stress. If you need assistance with managing stress, talk with your primary care provider. For mental health assessment and support, call the Atlantic County Crisis Center at 609-344-1118. For an emergency situation, dial 911.

9. Quit smoking
“Smoking causes lung cancer, and increases your risk of other types of cancer,” said James Wurzer, M.D., James C. Wurzer, M.D., Ph.D., medical Director, Oncology Program and medical director, Radiation Oncology AtlantiCare Cancer Care Institute, a Fox Chase Cancer Center Partner, and adjunct associate member, Department of Radiation Oncology, Fox Chase Cancer Center. Wurzer said smoking can also contribute to heart disease, gum disease and other medical problems. “Talk with your primary care provider about options for helping you quit.”

10. Drive, sober, alert, and attentively
“Refrain from doing anything while driving that distracts you,” said James Eakins, M.D., trauma surgeon and medical director, the Trauma Center, ARMC Atlantic City Campus. “Put your phone on ‘do not disturb’ mode, or turn it off. If you’re tired or you’ve had alcohol, ask someone else to drive you. Always wear a seatbelt.”