Four tips to boost health and productivity in 2014

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Many popular New Year’s resolutions focus on how to improve health. Healthier habits not only improve physical health and well-being, but also provide a boost to mental health and productivity.

Small habit changes can make a big difference. For example, swapping out one sugary drink per day for water reduces calorie intake and can lead to increased health benefits; taking the stairs instead of the elevator adds exercise into a daily routine and may lead to more positive changes throughout the day.

Here are four tips to make a difference in personal health for the New Year.

1. Make an appointment. One of the easiest ways to stay healthy is to make sure to get recommended exams, screenings and immunizations. Screenings are designed to help detect some diseases in their early, most treatable stages. Staying up-to-date on immunizations helps prevent the spread of preventable diseases, such as pertussis (whooping cough) and varicella (chickenpox). Getting an annual flu vaccination can reduce your number of sick days at work, while protecting those around you from getting ill.

2. Swap out sugary drinks for water. Rethink your drink and choose water instead of juice or soda. Extra calories from sugar-sweetened beverages may lead to weight gain. Keep a bottle of water nearby or fill a pitcher of water and keep it in the fridge. Add a slice of lemon, lime, or cucumber for flavor.

3. Increase physical activity. For important health benefits, adults need 150 minutes of moderate activity every week. If 150 minutes sounds like a lot of time, remember it doesn’t have to be done all at once. Not only is it best to spread out your activity during the week, but you can even break it up into 10 minutes at a time. Try walking the stairs, take a standing stretch break during the day, or hold a walking meeting with colleagues. Exercise helps improve overall health, reduces stress, can boost your mood, and decreases your risk for many chronic diseases.

4. Make a plan to quit using tobacco. Tobacco use, of any kind, and exposure to tobacco smoke can increase your chance of getting cancer, heart disease and stroke, as well as respiratory, reproductive, and oral health issues. Businesses also suffer from the effects of tobacco. Tobacco use causes employees to miss work more often due to sickness, and makes them more expensive to insure. Each year, smoking deaths cost businesses $97 billion nationwide. Free resources are available to help people quit:

• The Colorado QuitLine provides free resources and an individual quit coach to help individuals stop using tobacco. Call 1-800-784-8669 or (1-800-QUITNOW), or visit www.coquitline.org.

Tobaccofreeco.org provides resources online in English and Spanish to help you or someone you love quit.

COQUITmobile.org is a free text message-based program that gives instant support and coaching to quit through a cell phone.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also tackling these “winnable battles,” as they are common issues that can have a big impact on people’s overall health.

Perhaps some of these four tips are lifestyle changes you’ve already made, and if that’s the case, continue to follow these healthy habits for a lasting impact on your well-being. If you haven’t yet made changes, make a choice to improve your health — it will benefit you and your loved ones.

Dr. G. William (Bill) Letson, medical director at El Paso County Public Health, has dedicated his career to research and implementation activities in public health, pediatrics and infectious diseases. He has a degree in environmental biology from the University of Colorado, Boulder; a master’s in zoology from Colorado State and a Doctor of Medicine from the CU School of Medicine, Denver.