Avoid processed food and added sodium. This is a category of unhealthy choices hidden right under our noses, in the form of many packaged foods such as meat, poultry, seafood, pasta, dressings, sauces, soups or gravies. You may, of course, consult the nutrition label to seek out lower-sodium options. A less confusing route is probably to opt for fresh, frozen or canned foods without any added sauces or seasonings. By seasoning your own food when you cook at home, you control how much sodium is used. And try out other herbs and spices to get the kick you want instead of shaking on more salt.
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. If you are a woman, that means up to one drink a day, and two drinks daily for men, as defined by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans—which the AMA supports. And only adults of legal drinking age ought to drink alcohol. Keep in mind that not every drink equals “one drink,” depending on the alcohol content.
Talk with your doctor about tobacco use and quit. Your physician will help you drop the tobacco habit for good with evidence-based, Food and Drug Administration-approved cessation aids. Electronic cigarettes do not fall into that category. A U.S. surgeon general report notes that evidence for e-cigarettes as quit-smoking devices is lacking, adding that the “health impacts of frequent exposure to the toxicants in e-cigarette aerosol are not well understood, though several are known carcinogens.”
And while you’re at it, make your home and car smoke-free. Declaring this the policy of your abode and automobile can help eliminate your exposure—and the exposure of loved ones—to secondhand smoke. Giving friends, family and colleagues who are smokers one less place to light up may also encourage them to take the necessary step of quitting.
Manage stress. The good news on this front is that a good diet and daily exercise, as noted above, are key ingredients to maintaining and improving your mental health. So you are killing two birds with one stone by eating better and moving more. Another essential element on this front is to realize the power of saying “No.” It is never easy to do this, but taking better care of yourself will make you a better colleague and friend over the long run. Lastly, do not see it as a sign of weakness to ask for help from a friend or mental health professional when you need it. We are here for each other.
Safely store and properly dispose of all your prescription medications. If you are taking prescription opioids, follow your physician’s instructions and safely store those medicines. Among other things, medication safety in this area means that you should:
- Organize and keep careful track of prescribed and over-the-counter medications. Keep stronger medicines separate from items more commonly found in medicine cabinets, keep medicines in the original bottle or container that it came in and never mix medications in the same bottle.
- Keep medicines secure. Ensure that all lids close tightly, and treat medications like you would other valuables. Make sure they are concealed when guests or visitors are in your home. You may even consider installing a lock box in your medicine cabinet.
If you have any unused medication left over, you should properly dispose of it. Use this U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration search tool to locate nearby public drug-disposal locations.
Make sure your family is up-to-date on its immunizations. Work with your physician to ensure that you are all following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. And remember that it is not too late to get your flu shot. Here are six reasons patients give for avoiding flu vaccination—and how to counter them.