New Year's resolutions are great — when you stick to them. But the reality of the matter is that 2017 is now underway, and if you've already fallen off the resolution bandwagon, there's no sense in putting your goals off for another year. Instead, why not channel your focus into the important things you can do for your health in 2017? There's no time like the present to take control and tackle the actionable stuff you can accomplish in the name of living a long and healthy life.
You've probably got the basics covered — drink plenty of water, get in some cardio when you can, and so on. But it's also entirely likely you have been overlooking some of the biggest health-boosters out there. You've probably heard of these things and have even been advised at some point about how you should heed their importance, and yet here we are. Don't feel bad; we're all basically in the same boat.
The good news is we've got the chance to start things off on the right foot this year. No more making excuses. No more putting our well-being on the bottom of our ever-growing to-do list. Let's make 2017 the year we take back our health by tackling these important steps.
1. Get More Sleep
Sleep doesn't just affect one aspect of your health — it affects all of them, from mental health to your quality of life. Without the proper amount of sleep, your brain quite literally can't function properly. Plus, sleep deficiency has been linked to heightened risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes, and more. Aim for at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night, ya hear?
2. Wear Sunscreen Religiously
Although skin cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer, it's on the rise — possibly because people simply aren't using sunscreen every day, which has been proven to decrease the development of these cancers. Need more incentive? Wearing sunscreen also protects your body from harmful rays caused by the depleting ozone layer.
3. Research Your Family History
It might not seem like a huge priority to find out whether or not your Grandma Verna had diabetes, but, well, it should be. Because doctors can take a proactive approach to certain diseases, knowing your family health history early means they can take steps to reduce your risks. That sounds like a pretty solid plan, right?
4. Monitor Your Resting Heart Rate
Having an annual physical is a must-have, but you can also quite literally keep a finger on the pulse of your health by knowing your resting heart rate. Take your pulse first thing in the morning, when you are nice and relaxed. Count the number of beats in 15 seconds and then multiply that number by four. The lower the number the better, because that means your heart has to work less. Ideally, you want to fall somewhere between 60 and 80 (or even lower if you are an extreme athlete).
5. Eat More Fruits and Veggies
Despite our best intentions, many of us still don't get the recommended daily servings of fruits and veggies. This isn't necessarily the end of the world, but it is something we should seek to remedy. A diet rich in fruits and veggies is a diet packed with cancer-fighting properties. Eating nature's "superfoods" can also keep your blood pressure lower and reduce your risk of a whole host of diseases and health conditions.
6. Spend Less Time on Social Media
Let's just get real real for a minute — spending too much time on social media can wreak havoc on your mental health. When you spend all day staring at the perfection of friends, family and perfect strangers, it's impossible not to make unfair comparisons. It's no wonder that studies have shown social media can cause feelings of anxiety and inadequacy to intensify.
7. Find Something Funny Every Day
Someone should amend the old axiom, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" to reflect the potent health punch of laughter — in fact, humor therapy has been proven extremely effective in treating people afflicted by everything from dementia to depression. Bonus? Laughter causes a spike in oxygen-rich blood flow in the body, which is great for the heart.
8. Get Your Fill of Fiber
You know how much fiber the average American eats every day? 14 grams. You know how much the average American woman in your 20s and 30s should eat every day? Um, a lot more than 14 grams, that's for sure. We should really be consuming at least twice of that to stave off certain kinds of cancer and other major health problems.
9. Take Your Vacation Days
Why are we working so hard if we never take the time to stop and enjoy the fruits of our labor? Working too much can lead to symptoms of clinical depression, which is why it's crucial you actually "cash in" any sick time or vacation leave you accrue each year. I mean, c'mon, that's what it's there for. Don't let it got to waste!
10. Don't Forget to Brush and Floss
Brushing and flossing your teeth doesn't just give you a nice set of pearly whites. When you follow the American Dental Association's recommendations to brush twice a day and floss once a day, you're curbing bacteria and germs that could lead to much more serious problems like gingivitis and even heart disease.
11. Stress Less
One of the most important things you can do for your health in 2017 is to stress less. I know, I know . . . easier said than done. But here's why you should try to get a handle on it — stress has adverse effects on nearly every system of your body. It can interfere with sleep, cause chronic tension headaches, lead to clinical depression, and be a contributing factor to high blood pressure, muscle tension, heartburn, digestive issues and more.