By Becky Carter
President/CNO, Blue Ridge Regional Hospital
Welcome to 2019! Many of us – myself included – think about adopting new health resolutions after a holiday season of extravagant meals and abundant sweets. The problem is that usually, after just a few months, we fall back to our old ways again.
Why? Because our resolutions are often too drastic and difficult to maintain, so we get discouraged and lose steam. I’d like to suggest doing things differently this year. Let’s commit to five realistic, not-too-painful health resolutions that will get us off to a great start and that we’ll still be doing come spring, and even fall.
The first one may be the easiest of all: if you don’t yet have a primary care physician, get connected with one. These physicians serve as your healthcare “home base” and they will guide you in your pursuit of wellness over time. A primary care physician sees you regularly, discusses your current health conditions and disease prevention needs, brainstorm about how to lower your risk factors for illness, manages your medications and works with you to set health goals.
Another easy step to take to ensure good health for the coming year is to check whether you’re up-to-date with immunizations. Parents should make sure their children are current with all recommended vaccines from MMR to chicken pox; adults should keep their shingles protection current and – especially if they will be near infants – update pertussis coverage, while those 65 and older should receive a pneumonia vaccine. Unfortunately, we still see outbreaks of easily avoided diseases like a recent outbreak of chicken pox in Buncombe County or Pertussis (Whooping Cough) in Henderson County. And I can’t emphasize this one enough: everyone should get a flu shot. Even if you should still contract the flu, it will lessen symptom severity. Sadly, North Carolina has already experienced its first influenza deaths this year. This simple step not only protects your own health, but the health of others in our community.
“Knowing your numbers” also reveals much about your health and helps lower your risk for serious conditions. The numbers I’m referring to are blood pressure, blood glucose level, weight, body mass index and cholesterol, and they’re easy to measure through simple blood tests and in-office evaluation. These measures paint a picture of one’s risk for heart disease, certain types of cancers, diabetes, and stroke, the top health concerns of our time. Armed with this knowledge, patients can eat better, exercise, stop smoking and adopt other habits that will lower these numbers and risk levels.
We all want to incorporate more physical movement into our days, and purchasing a pedometer – a small device that counts the steps you take each day – is an affordable, painless way to monitor whether you are fitting in time for the daily number of steps recommended for adults: 10,000. Easy ways to increase your step count include taking the stairs or owning a dog. Look for simple ways to “inconvenience” yourself in a healthy way: park farther from your destination, hang laundry outside, walk around your house for a few minutes.
Last but not least in the attainable steps we can take to improve our health is getting higher quality sleep. Many don’t get the recommended eight hours per night, some of us struggle with insomnia or other sleep disorders. Practical ways to ensure better rest are limiting electronic device use in the bedroom, keeping to a nightly bedtime routine and limiting alcohol consumption. Sufficient rest has been linked to the prevention of cognitive decline and maintaining a healthy weight.
After you toast the New Year, try adopting these easy resolutions – they’re sensible and much less punishing than vowing you’ll get up at 5:00 am for a daily five-mile run or swearing off chocolate for the rest of your life.
Rebecca W. Carter, MSN, RN, FACHE, is President and Chief Nursing Officer of Blue Ridge Regional Hospital in Spruce Pine. Carter has served in senior hospital management for over 20 years and previously served as Chief Operating Officer and Chief Nursing Officer of Transylvania Regional Hospital in Brevard, also a part of the Mission Health system.
Ms. Carter is board certified in healthcare management and is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE). A native of North Carolina, she holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in nursing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ms. Carter is currently a resident of Burnsville.