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Five health habits to master in the new year

By Elizabeth Davis
Rowan County Health Department

Congratulations, you survived 2016! Here are five health habits that can help make 2017 a healthier year than 2016. These habits should improve both the quantity and quality of your life.

  1. Smoking — If you don’t smoke, congratulations; you have already mastered this. If you do smoke (which includes vaping or using e-cigarettes), consider calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). QuitlineNC provides free cessation services to any North Carolina resident who needs help to quit tobacco use. Quit Coaching is available in different forms that can be used separately or together to help any tobacco user give up smoking. Smoking is harmful to you and those around you, and it is also expensive for you and for your insurance. It can cause myriad health problems.
  1. Oral health — Teeth are important and help us in multiple ways. It is important to take care of your oral health by brushing twice a day, flossing once a day, and seeing the dentist every six months for checkups. Dental care is an investment in yourself or your children and is not something to put off. Children should see their dentist when they get their first tooth or their first birthday, whichever comes first. Baby teeth are just as important as adult teeth.
  2. Laugh more — This is extraordinarily important for everyone. WebMD suggests that some researchers have gone as far as to call laughter the best medicine. A good laugh can double as a workout since so many muscles are active, blood flow and heart rate increase, and blood pressure and stress hormones decrease. Laughter is also known to improve memory and mental health. So laugh until it hurts; then you know something good is happening.
  3. Decrease sugar — The recommended amount of sugar consumption for an adult woman is 25 grams. That is 6 teaspoons of sugar. For an adult male, the recommendation is 36 grams, or 9 teaspoons. One packet of sugar is 4 grams of sugar. In 1822, the average American consumed about 45 grams of sugar every five days (the amount in a 12-ounce can of soda). Today, that number is a staggering 756 grams of sugar. Not only does sugar do bad things to our teeth, but it also affects our health negatively in many ways.
  4. Learn something new — Research by Dr. Dennis Park at the University of Texas at Dallas has shown that people who learned new skills had an improvement in memory. The more difficult the skill, the greater the increase in connections made in the brain. Learn to quilt, take a math class, conquer pottery, meditate. The more you challenge yourself, the stronger your brain will be.

Elizabeth Davis is a quality improvement specialist with the Rowan County Health Department.

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