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Three Health-smart Resolutions for a Healthy New Year

Diet and exercise are a good start for 2019. Consumer Reports has three more resolutions for a healthy new year to consider.

Diet and exercise are key, but experts also advise taking these other steps in 2019


By Catherine Roberts, Consumer Reports

If you’re like many Americans, your New Year’s resolutions may involve eating healthier foods and getting more exercise. Those are worthy goals.

Only about half of adults get the 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity per week recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And according to a 2017 analysis by the CDC, only about 11 percent of people ages 51 and older get the recommended 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day.

But other steps are also important, experts say. For starters, call your doctors to make sure they still take your insurance, whether it's Medicare or a private plan, suggests Stephanie Nothelle, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Here, three more health-smart actions to take now.

Do a Medication Checkup

Round up all your medications, including over-the-counter meds, vitamins, and supplements you take on a regular basis, and take them with you on your next visit to your primary doctor or pharmacist.

This is especially important if you take multiple medications and see more than one doctor. In a 2017 nationally representative survey of 1,947 U.S. adults, Consumer Reports found that 53 percent of those taking prescription drugs got them from more than one provider in the past 12 months.

A med check can ensure “that there aren’t bad side effects or unintended complications from combinations [of drugs] that other doctors weren’t aware of,” says James Powers, M.D., a geriatrician and professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University’s School of Medicine.

Go over what each drug is for, your dose, and how and when you should take it. Ask whether the meds could interact with each other in dangerous ways, and whether you can reduce the dose of a drug or stop taking it. (Don’t do this on your own.) Your doctor can tell you whether you need to make changes. Your pharmacist can call your doctor if he or she notices any problems.

Organize Doctors' Appointments

Schedule the vaccines you know you’ll need. Get a flu shot if you haven’t had one this year. If you haven’t had one or both of the vaccines that protect against pneumococcal bacteria, which can cause pneumonia, make plans to get them. (The shots should be a year apart.) Even if you got the older shingles vaccine, Zostavax, it’s recommended that you get the newer, more effective one, Shingrix.

Also discuss with your doctor the health tests you should have this year. Should you still be getting regular mammograms? Is it time for a colonoscopy? Get the recommended screenings on the schedule, even if they’re months down the road.

Having that conversation with your doctor is key because although major medical groups offer guidelines on certain screening tests, “the older you get, the more it’s a personalized recommendation,” Nothelle says, one based on your medical history and risk factors for diseases like cancer.

Get Your Info Together

These days, many consumers have access to patient portals—online platforms where they can view parts of their medical records, such as lab test results. But typically, each portal will give you access only to information from doctors within the same health system. Your healthcare providers may not be able to see records from outside their network, either.

Because these different systems may not “talk” to each other, it can be helpful to gather copies of your records from each of your providers and store them in one place. That way, you’ll have all of your health information at your fingertips. And bring it to future appointments so that any healthcare professional you see can review up-to-date information on your health concerns, medications, surgeries, and more.

To keep it updated, ask for a copy of the visit summary and any test results after each new appointment.

Catherine Roberts
I've spent years tackling subjects from urban health to medical marijuana to behavioral science—both as a city reporter for my hometown public radio station in Tulsa, Okla., and as a freelance writer. Now I cover health and food at Consumer Reports. My hobbies include tinkering with computer code and watching trashy TV. Follow me on Twitter: @catharob.

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Health News: Three Health-smart Resolutions for a Healthy New Year
Three Health-smart Resolutions for a Healthy New Year
Diet and exercise are a good start for 2019. Consumer Reports has three more resolutions for a healthy new year to consider.
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