It's a new year, full of opportunity, promise, and hope. While no one knows what 2015 will bring, there is one truth we can't escape: we're all older than we were last year. Aging is a natural part of life, and it's up to us to make the most of it. To me, that means being active and feeling my best. No matter your age, you can feel your best, too! Here are six easy ways you can stay active and healthy in 2015.
- Eat smart. I know it's not always easy to eat well. But a healthy diet can reduce your risk for women's major health problems — heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Start by making small changes. Pick leaner proteins (lean beef, chicken, and fish) and whole grains. (Not sure what to do with whole grains? Check this out.) Swap sugary drinks for water, and pick fat-free and low-fat milk products. I also work fruits and vegetables into every meal. Top your morning cereal with berries, and add vegetables to pasta and casserole dishes. My last piece of food advice is to cook at home as much as possible. Why? It gives you more control over what you eat. Need healthy recipe ideas? Check out the MyPlate Recipes Pinterest board.
- Move more. Exercise is one of Mother Nature's best anti-aging remedies. Regular exercise not only helps you live longer, but it also helps you sleep better, stay at a healthy weight, and feel good about yourself. Plus, it can be a lot of fun. How much exercise do you need? Aim for two and a half hours (about 30 minutes a day) of moderately intense activity a week (such as brisk walking) and two or more days of strength training that works all major muscle groups (such as sit-ups and lifting weights). Whether it's gardening, yoga, or hiking, finding activities you enjoy can make it easier to stick with it. Need inspiration? Try these easy exercises.
- Ditch the tobacco. Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your health — and for the health of those around you. There's no denying that quitting is tough. Ex-smokers say it's one of the hardest things they've ever done, and many quit more than once before they were successful. But they did it, and so can you. Visit women.smokefree.gov for free tools and resources to help you or someone you love quit smoking for good. And don't forget to check with your insurance provider to see if — thanks to the Affordable Care Act — your plan offers no-cost services and medications to help you quit smoking.
- Monitor your health. Schedule your well-woman visit every year. Even if you feel fine, a yearly visit allows you to connect with your doctor or nurse. It's your time to get important screenings and to discuss your health habits, family history, and future plans for your health, such as wanting to get pregnant or needing an effective family planning method. It also gives your doctor or nurse a chance to identify problems early, when they're easiest to treat. The best part? The Affordable Care Act requires most private insurance plans to cover your well-woman visit and preventive screenings at no additional cost to you.
- Don't forget your "Me Time." Life gets busy. And if you're like me, every time you cross something off your to-do list, you add five more things. Let's put ourselves on our to-do lists. Carve out time just for you every day — even if it's only a few minutes. Do something you enjoy or that feels relaxing and satisfying. Maybe it's meditating, an early morning walk, or a cup of tea and a crossword puzzle. (I like to knit.) Do whatever feels good and helps you de-stress.
- Be sun smart. Being safe in the sun isn't just for summer days at the beach. Whenever you're in the sun — even during the winter — you're exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Too much sun exposure can lead to skin cancer, immune suppression, and cataracts. But there are steps you can take to protect yourself, like wearing protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and hats and sunscreen every day. Your daily moisturizer or foundation may already have sunscreen, but you'll want to use products with SPF 30 or higher. Also be sure it offers broad spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays. And remember those sunglasses — they protect your eyes from sun damage. For more tips, check out these sun safety action steps for you and the whole family.
Let's make the most of the years ahead! Small changes can make a big difference in your overall health, so take one step toward a healthier you today.