5 steps to a healthy new year: Sticking to your resolutions

Starting a new calendar presents an opportunity to start down a healthier path.

Posted Jan. 30, 2006.

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As the days of January pass, it seems that the blush of the new year fades, too. But that doesn't mean its good intentions -- to get in shape, to quit smoking, to address family health care concerns -- should be abandoned.

That's why the American Medical Association has offered a list of five resolutions to pave the way to a healthier 2006. Physicians play a central role in helping their patients, their families and even themselves achieve this goal. Now is the perfect time to review these resolves and, if necessary, renew the commitment to seeing them through.

A healthier lifestyle. These marching orders, of course, include a well-balanced diet, daily exercise and the avoidance of tobacco and excessive drinking. In interactions with patients, it is important for physicians to remember that doctors often are cited in surveys as having significant influence when their patients want to make such changes.

But this year also could be a chance for physicians to heal themselves. Even the busiest physician can choose the healthy option at lunch or become more active. It can be as simple as using the stairs instead of the elevator during hospital rounds.

Avoiding the flu. As press reports continue to detail the pandemic threat of avian flu, the AMA encourages Americans to remain informed but also sensible on this subject. For instance, the AMA recommends against the just-in-case stockpiling of antivirals such as Tamiflu.

For now, everyone -- doctor and patient alike -- should take steps to prepare for the current annual flu season. Physicians should not forget the basics when promoting infection prevention, reminding patients of the importance of washing hands and to avoid touching the nose or mouth with the hands.

Additionally, physicians are reminded that annual influenza typically does not peak in the United States until February, so to the extent supplies allow, patients can continue to be vaccinated -- a step which could potentially provide added protection against a pandemic. Meanwhile, as of Jan. 31, physicians who have established accounts with Sanofi Pasteur will be able to preorder their supply of next year's vaccine. For more information, visit the drug company's Web site (link) or call 800-VACCINE.

Preparedness. The destruction wrought by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita underscored the importance of preparing for emergencies. This is true for families and medical practices alike. It is important for physicians in private practice to develop some type of backup capacity for their medical records. The AMA also urges families to create an emergency supply kit, including copies of immunization and health records, a list of prescriptions and dosage, and the style and serial number of medical devices.

Advance directives. Last year, the tragic case of Terri Schiavo triggered a national dialogue on end-of-life care planning. Physicians are an important resource for patients as they grapple with the difficult topic. The AMA encourages everyone to write a living will, appoint a durable power of attorney for health care and discuss wishes with family members or caretakers.

Learn the options. This month, Medicare began offering a prescription drug benefit. As a result, Medicare patients could have questions for physicians or their office staffs. The AMA has prepared online information for physicians that can help doctors speak with their patients and their own loved ones about the program.

Overall, 2006 is still new and full of the promise of change for the better. The AMA provides a range of resources to help move in this direction. Physicians should take advantage of them and realize the potential they offer -- both for themselves and for their patients -- for a healthier future.

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External links

AMA resources on obesity, including information from the 2004 AMA-sponsored National Summit on Obesity and links to the AMA's Roadmap for Clinical Practice: Assessment and Management of Adult Obesity (link)

National Influenza Vaccine Summit (link)

AMA's Center for Public Health Preparedness and Disaster Response (link)

AMA resources and additional links for advance care directives (link)

AMA resources and additional links for the Medicare drug benefit (link)

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