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Resolutions: Five ways to make you healthier

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It's a new year with new hope to make life healthier and better in 2012. With numerous New Years’ resolutions to choose from, it can be difficult to know which choice will improve your health the most. If you are a smoker, your number one priority should be to quit this year. If you are a non-smoker, there are many other important choices you can make. Here are some simple but powerful health moves that can change your life in 2012.

 1. GET YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE CHECKED

 It is always surprising that many people think high blood pressure will not affect them, only someone who is older or in poor health. Furthermore, high blood pressure can lead to kidney problems, eye disease, heart attacks and stroke. A stunning 40 per cent of those with high blood pressure do not even know their pressure is high. Some individuals know their blood pressure is a "little high" or "borderline" but they are not receiving active treatment to bring their pressure into a normal range. Blood pressure is either elevated or not elevated. Get it checked. Get it treated. Live a longer life.

 2. MAKE A MEAL

This may sound like an odd choice for a resolution but if you gain more control over what you are eating, you will discover better nutrition in your diet.

 With hectic schedules and busy lifestyles, eating out and packaged foods are replacing the home-cooked meal. It is time to take back your kitchen and eat fresh.

 Cook more meals and you can control the fat and salt you eat every day. Your salt intake can easily climb above the 2,400 mg daily limit if you eat a lot of packaged meals and snacks. It is estimated that a million cases of high blood pressure could be eliminated if salt consumption was reduced by 50 per cent.

3. WALK FOR YOUR SUPPER

 If you were asked about risk factors for heart disease and stroke, would you consider physical inactivity to be just as important as smoking? Well, they are both important risk factors and physical activity has become optional in our commuterchallenged communities. Try a daily ritual like walking your dog or walking for your supper. If you have hip or knee problems, get on a stationary bike. Just spare 20 minutes and make it happen.

 Don’t be shy about your commitment to get into shape. When you do a workout, post it on your Facebook page, tweet it, email it, announce it to your friends and family and inspire them to get moving too.

4. TAKE A MULTIVITAMIN

If you eat a well-balanced diet every day, you really do not need a multivitamin supplement or any supplements. However, no one is perfect and most Canadians are not consuming enough vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables. Even two dairy servings per day does not supply enough of the daily calcium requirement so a little bit of help from a supplement is a good idea.

 While some folks like to take multiple vitamins pills every day, just one multivitamin and some extra Vitamin D will suffice.

5. GET A SCALE AND USE IT

 There seems to be a lot of confusion as to whether weighing yourself is a good idea. It is true that very muscular individuals can end up in an "overweight" category even though they are physically fit. However, the truth is that those people are in much smaller numbers than the majority of heavy people who are truly overweight and obese. For many, not using a scale has become a way of ignoring a weight problem. The bottom line is keep track of your weight by weighing yourself twice per week and you won’t be caught by a surprise 20-pound weight gain. If you need to lose weight, the scale can be a helpful motivator in your weightreduction program.

 Don’t hesitate to check with your physician for more information on the health choices that can make a great difference to your health this year. Develop a checklist, check them off one by one and reap the benefits of the simple actions that can truly make 2012 your healthiest year yet.

 Dr. Maureen Kennedy MD, CCFP, FCFP, MSc, PhD(c) Kinesiology, Dip. Sport Med., is a sport and exercise medicine physician at Sport for Life Centre, www.sportmedicinecentre. ca Readers are welcome to ask Dr. Kennedy questions, but due to the volume of requests, replies are not guaranteed.

 askthedoctor@freepress.mb.ca

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About Dr. Maureen Kennedy

Born and raised in The Pas, Dr. Kennedy graduated from the University of Winnipeg Collegiate, earned a BSc and BA from the University of Winnipeg and an MD from the University of Manitoba in 1994. After certifying in family medicine at the University of Manitoba, Dr. Kennedy was awarded a two-year fellowship in primary care sport medicine at the University of Calgary Sport Medicine Centre. She completed this fellowship along with a MSc in Kinesiology at the University of Calgary. Her research focus was exercise counselling by family physicians. Dr. Kennedy further explored the use of exercise in medicine with PhD projects examining aerobic exercise in individuals scheduled for total hip or knee replacement surgery. She holds a diploma in sport medicine from the Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine and has served on numerous provincial and national committees for organizations such as the Alberta Medical Association, Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine, College of Family Physicians of Canada and Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology.

For the past 11 years, Dr. Kennedy has practised as a consultant in primary care sport medicine.

Dr. Kennedy's practice focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of injuries, muscle, bone and joint problems, orthopedic triage, weight management, osteoarthritis and dance medicine. She has served as the head physician for Alberta Ballet for the last nine years and has worked with the national women's hockey team along with many elite and amateur athletes in various sports. She points out that sport medicine physicians provide a tremendous service to the general public and the health-care system by shortening orthopedic waiting lists and providing non-surgical treatment options. "It's great to be back home in Manitoba and Winnipeg is a fantastic city," she adds. Readers can expect coverage on a wide range of fitness and health topics, including insider's tips on how to navigate the health-care system.

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