There is something special about new beginnings! Regardless of the past, or even speculations about the future, new beginnings offer an opportunity to press “reset” and venture into the New Year with an unlimited data plan in optimism!
Quite strategically, we focus on those factors in our live that carry high currency for our happiness. This includes financial stability, closer relationships with friends and family, protecting our environment, and health and wellness. In fact, the most precise self-imposed targets are often health related -“I want to lose 20 lbs in January” or “I want to fit into my old tuxedo from university days”, or even more extreme: “I’m going to give up all added sugar from January 1st!”.
Whatever the health targets, be prepared to modify as expectations change and reality sets in throughout the unfolding year. Set SMART goals for all of your health targets in 2020. This will maximize your chances of success and allow for tracking your progress!
S – Be specific – when, what, where? State exactly what you want to achieve. Rather than vague statements such as “be healthier”, try “I want to train to participate in my first UWI RBC Walk for Kids this year on March 10th.”
M – Measurable – make goals measurable – e.g. I will measure success by how much my walking or running time drops with increased physical fitness and endurance.
A – Achievable – to train effectively for a 5K for next week is probably not achievable, at least not with the desired outcome. Setting unachievable GOALS may make us feel better in the short term, but they also set us up for the fall.
R – Realistic – as successful I might be at achieving my UWI RBC Walk for Kids GOAL, I will not set sight, even with new progressive lens, to compete in the Olympic version of the race. This requires a healthy mix of training, athletic potential, and biological conditioning.
T – Time-based – your health and wellness goals should have a timeline. How much do I expect to reduce my 5K time by every two weeks?
Here are my top 10 tips for a healthier 2020. I’ve written these down (electronically, of course!) and will aim to modify as necessary to meet my health SMART GOALS and other health tips.
1. Drink more water – replace sugar-sweetened drinks with water – still, sparkling or fruit infused – and reduce the use of sugar sweetened beverages to quench your thirst.
2. Quit smoking – Smoking increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and many cancers. Smoking tobacco is additive. Your doctor can help you quit smoking with medicines or behavioural therapy.
3. Reduce the harmful use of alcohol – long-term alcohol use can cause damage to your liver and increases the risk of some cancers. Additionally, alcohol may leave a false sense of relief from a life stressor, and lead to festering mental health disorders, such as depression, being camouflaged.
4. Increase physical activity– my UWI RBC Walk for Kids challenge wasn’t just a hypothetical scenario for SMART goals! Commit to being more physically active in 2020. Reduce unnecessary sitting time at the desk at work, park further from the office and walk in, etc.
5. If you are prescribed medication, take your medicines! Far too many patients, diagnosed with a lifestyle disease such as high blood pressure or diabetes, carry a misconception that the drugs are just a “quick fix” but only before they get their healthy lifestyle in order. This seldom happens and most patients will require lifelong medication to control themselves.
6. Mental health – pay attention to your mental wellness. Take breaks during the workday to recharge and disconnect from technology. Enjoy the physical environment and seize the opportunity to have lunch outdoors in the natural environment.
7. Cut the salt – whether pink Himalayan, or ordinary “pot” salt, ditch the added salt and reduce consumption of canned foods. Sodium (salt) increases blood pressure, and may also independently increase cardiovascular risk.
8. Spiritual well-being – connect with your spiritual side and reflect on your beliefs and the being that brings purpose to your life. This may involve formal religious worship with a congregation, or in quiet reflection. Do NOT see spirituality as a “soft” point on your wellness checklist. People living with purpose and discipline are more likely to adopt and sustain healthy lifestyle measures.
9. Workplace as a health environment – remember that the work environment is another health environment. Take steps to make it conducive for a healthier lifestyle at work. Ensure that you have ample access to water, move around as much as possible, have walking business meetings. Reduce your use of stimulants, like coffee and tea, especially after lunchtime, to reduce sleep pattern disturbance and increased urination. Caffeine causes increased water removal and can lead to dehydration – watch out for this.
10. Be a participating patient – prepare for your doctor’s visit and walk with your plan! Tell your doctor, at the START of the consultation, what things you want to discuss during the session. These tips should get you set for a well-planned Heart Healthy 2020, as you strategize to claim your health goals!
The Heart & Stroke Foundation of Barbados Inc. (HSFB) continues our major advocacy campaigns, including our Childhood Obesity Programme and the special 2020 We Gatherin’ At De Museum public panel discussion series throughout this year.
We encourage you to volunteer at, or donate to, the foundation in 2020. This could be giving an hour of your time every week to assist patients to and from our Cardiac Rehabilitation Gym or assistance with one of our public fora. You may also consider becoming more equipped to deal with cardiac and stroke emergencies by taking our American Heart Association (AHA) Heart Saver Course.
I wish you a very healthy 2020 and will join you by committing to persevere with my own 2020 SMART health goals.