Steps to a healthier New Year

As we wind up 2013 and celebrate the holidays at this great time of year, many of us adopt some New Year’s Resolutions. Often, they have to do with improving or maintaining our health. Recall that we live by choice and not by chance, so make some healthy lifestyle choices as resolutions for 2014. Check out the following “Five S’s” and perhaps one or more of these could be your own personal New Year’s Resolutions for 2014.

Smoking: Smoking is the single worst choice anyone can make, as this is guaranteed to ruin your health. If you smoke, never, ever smoke around children or others who do not smoke. Second-hand smoke is also deadly, and chewing tobacco is nearly as bad as smoking tobacco. A smoker’s predicted life expectancy is 14 years less than that of a non-smoker. Smoking increases the risk of breast cancer by 16 percent, colorectal cancer by 18 percent, and prostate cancer by 22 percent. Further, 40 percent of all bladder cancer is caused by smoking. If you smoke or chew, do whatever it takes to stop all tobacco use, and do it now.

Screening: Be certain to follow the recommended guidelines and your doctor’s advice for screening for the most common adult cancers in the USA. Know your family history for these three common cancers. Here are some screening guidelines. Breast cancer: mammograms, self breast exams, and physician exams. Prostate cancer: Physician exams and PSA blood tests. Colorectal cancer: even with no symptoms, have a colonoscopy examination at age 50, or at age 40 if there is a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps. Millions of people have been saved from these common cancers by following these screening guidelines.

Sleep: The latest research tells us that adults need at least seven hours of sleep every night to keep themselves and their immune system healthy. You cannot make up for lost sleep, so do not think you can catch up on your sleep on the week-end. A good night’s sleep of at least seven hours per night is very important to support your immune system and therefore maintain your best personal health.

Stepping: One of the best exercises we can do is to just walk. It is easy on the joints and is great for your heart, lungs, and muscle tone. It can also be a great way to spend some “quality time” with family, friends, or co-workers. Unless you have a physical limitation not allowing you to do so, use the stairs instead of the elevator for shorter trips between floors. Go for a walk on your noon hour. Further, as your personal health status allows, don’t always park as close as you can to the entrance when out shopping. So, get off the couch and go for a walk.

Sugar: Refined sugar in your diet is very unhealthy. Sugar is stored as body fat and raises your cholesterol. Decrease the refined sugar in your diet and you will lose weight, keep it off and, if needed, lower your cholesterol as well. Become a “label reading detective” and check all food labels for sugar and dietary fiber content. Limit your refined sugar intake to no more than 20 grams per day, and eat about 25 to 30 grams of dietary fiber every day. You will be amazed at how will improve your personal health by increasing your dietary fiber and lowering your refined sugar.

I wish you all a most Happy and Healthy New Year.

Editor’s note: Dr. Jim Surrell, author of “SOS (Stop Only Sugar) Diet,” has his practice at the Digestive Health Clinic at Marquette General Health System. Requests for health topics for this column are encouraged. Contact Dr. Surrell by email at