Health Tips to Start 2022 Off Refreshed
21st February 2023
Happy New Year!
The beginning of a new year is the perfect opportunity to set new resolutions and make a fresh start in life. Wondering where to start? We at Alea have talked to a General Practitioner, our internal nutritionist expert and a life coach for some simple tricks to recover from the exhaustion of all end-of-year celebrations and to kick start 2022 full of energy and good vibes!
Tips from a General Practitioner
Dr. Sarah Borwein is a General Practitioner who has been practicing family medicine in Hong Kong for over 15 years. She also studied Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and has been involved in public health communication in Hong Kong and Beijing since the 2003 SARS outbreak.
#1: Have a checkup
Coronavirus has reminded us all of the importance of our health. Safeguard yours by being proactive with prevention. See your GP for a checkup! There are a lot of packages on offer, but nothing really beats a thorough check by someone who knows you and can tailor it to your age, sex and family history. Some of the important things to check:
- Blood pressure
- Cholesterol and blood sugar
- Skin check
- Screening for sexually transmitted diseases, depending on your age and risk profile
- For women, a breast check and Pap smear, preferably with HPV testing. Breast imaging recommendations depend on your age other risk factors.
- For men, a prostate check starting at age 45
- Bowel cancer screening, if possible with colonoscopy, starting at age 45, or younger if there is a history of early bowel cancers in your family
- Other tests may be recommended depending on your lifestyle, diet, family history and other risk factors
Beware of packages that are “padded” with lots of blood tests to make them look like a good value. Often these are not useful tests and can subject you to false positives with lots of follow-up examinations, causing unnecessary anxiety and expense.
#2: Get your shots
Vaccines are not just for little kids. Hopefully, you have all had your COVID jabs by now, but please get your third dose if you haven’t already. Remember that the mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer-BioNTech are the safest and most effective vaccines we have and are therefore preferred unless you have a specific contraindication.
Other shots that adults should have:
- An annual flu shot. Just like COVID vaccines, flu shots are recommended both to protect you from a nasty illness, but also to reduce your chance of infecting someone more vulnerable. Flu shots are especially important for young children, people with heart or lung disease (including asthma!), and adults over the age of 50.
- A Tetanus-Diphtheria-Whooping Cough booster every ten years
- Hepatitis vaccines
- Shingles vaccine, preferably with the two-dose Shingrix vaccine, if you are over 50
- Pneumonia shots if you have risk factors such as asthma, or are older than 65
- HPV vaccine, especially if you are younger than 45. HPV vaccine can be given to men as well as women.
- Other vaccines may be recommended for travel — when we start to travel again, that is! Talk to a knowledgeable practitioner about protecting yourself. Traveling around Asia may necessitate immunization against typhoid, rabies and Japanese encephalitis, for example.
#3: Get some Zzzz’s
We’ve all heard that “you are what you eat'' but we are also increasingly recognizing that “you are how you sleep”! Sleep is important for a healthy immune system, brain function and even for weight management. Most adults require at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night for optimum health. Here are some tips for getting a good night’s sleep:
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule
- Leave some time to wind down and relax before going to bed
- Get your phone out of the bedroom! This is a hard one for many of us, but screens are very bad for sleep
- Avoid caffeine late in the day
- Minimize alcohol intake. Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but it leads to poor quality, fragmented and shorter duration of sleep so overall it is detrimental
- Exercise regularly — but not right before bed
- Invest in a comfortable mattress
- Make sure your room is quiet and dark. In Hong Kong, that sometimes means wearing earplugs and an eye mask. Cover blue and red lights with black tape!
- If you can’t sleep, don’t toss and turn or read your phone. Get up and go and read a book or listen to music in another room until you feel sleepy.
If your partner says you snore loudly, or if you consistently wake up feeling tired and unrested, talk to your doctor to rule out sleep apnea, a common and treatable problem that has many health consequences if not addressed.
Finally, sleeping pills and even supplements such as melatonin are not a substitute for the measures above. They can help with jetlag, or if an acute episode is causing temporary insomnia, but are not a long-term solution. If you have persistent difficulty sleeping, see your doctor.
#4: Be a brainiac!
Just as your muscles need exercise to stay healthy, so does your brain. Keeping your brain active will sharpen and maintain your cognitive skills, improve mental agility, and boost concentration and memory, especially as you age. To keep your brain healthy, it is important to stay physically active, eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, limit alcohol intake, and avoid (or quit!) smoking. Beyond this, some simple brain boosting activities include:
- Learning a new skill
- Maintaining healthy social interactions
- Taking time to de-stress by doing meditation, tai-chi or yoga
- Listening to or playing music
- Learning a new language
- Playing cards or Mahjong
- Doing jigsaw puzzles, crosswords
- Including brain-boosting healthy foods in your diet, for example walnuts, blueberries and salmon
Incorporate brain exercises into your daily routine. Even something as simple as taking different routes to work can help build brain agility.
Some changes in memory are normal as you age but see your doctor if you are concerned. You should also see your doctor if you have unaddressed anxiety or depression, which can significantly impact cognitive function. It is not uncommon for poor memory or brain “fog” to be the presenting complaints in depression.
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Tips from a nutritionist expert
Marlie is a nutrition content writer at our sister company Healthy Matters. Marlie has a genuine interest in maternal and infant nutrition, she is also an enthusiastic baker and foodie with a strong belief that "Healthy foods can be good tasting ones!"
#1: A detox after the holidays
Christmas — a special time of the year for family and friends to share a scrumptious feast. During this festive season, we often put aside calories and consume more than what our bodies can take… but it is fine! As we resume our normal routines and diets, try to cut down on food intake gradually, and allow the body to adjust back to its normal metabolism in a few days' time. Yet mind not to lower food intake abruptly to compensate for the additional calories intake over the holiday season because it is harsh on our homeostasis (body balance).
#2: Taking probiotics
People with a sensitive stomach are more vulnerable to experiencing mild gastrointestinal discomforts, especially after big meals. For better digestion, enhance your intake of probiotic-rich foods, such as yogurt and fermented foods, or simply probiotic supplements. The “good” bacteria in probiotics promote the diversity of gut microbiota to ease digestion and prevent bloating. A lavish supply of probiotics also gives an extra boost to our immunity against infectious pathogens, particularly in light of the 5th COVID-19 outbreak with the Omicron variant.
#3: Cutting down on alcohol
A glass of wine never goes wrong on special occasions — and may be inevitable in social gatherings. However, excessive alcohol intake may burden the liver and the nervous system, potentially leading to serious complications, such as cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure and liver dysfunctioning. However indulgent and tempting the beverages are, to minimize the harm, men and women should not drink more than 2 and 3 alcohol units per day respectively. According to the Department of Health, each of the following is equivalent to one "alcohol unit":
- 3/4 can (~250 ml) of regular beer with 5% alcohol content
- 1 small glass (~100 ml) of wine with 12% alcohol content
- 1 pub measure (~30ml) of hard liquor with 40% alcohol content
It is important to stay hydrated before and after drinking, by increasing your water intake to alleviate and prevent symptoms of overdrinking.
#4: Eating more fish, fruits, vegetables and whole grains
Here, we would like to introduce one of the healthiest diets in the world — the Mediterranean diet, composed mainly of plant-based and minimally processed products, with proven benefits in lowering risks of cardiovascular diseases and chronic illnesses. Start off your 2022 refreshed by stocking up on your omega-3, fiber and vitamin C levels to strengthen your body defense system. Also, practice mindful eating — the essence of the Mediterranean diet — to start appreciating the little things in life and live a fruitful year ahead.
Tips from a Life Coach
Jérôme de Clarens is a Life Coach with Impactified, based in Hong Kong. An ex-professional footballer, he takes people to their next level, brings positive thinking and pushes them towards achieving their goals – and always with passion! He’s been in Asia since 2012, coaching clients based in both Hong Kong and France. He believes that there are no limitations unless you put them on yourself.
The first suggestion I would like to share would be to take a blank sheet of paper and a pen, the second would be to look back at the past year. In a few words, how did this year go? Did you set goals? If yes, did you succeed? Did you make the best of it? Were you able to achieve what you always wanted to achieve? What is THE thing that made you most proud? Did you have the impact you wanted to have on yourself or on others? If the answer is yes I invite you to continue, if it is not, here are some tips that could make your 2022 a big success:
#1: Vision and Feelings
As a life coach, I really like this first step to simply start thinking about your vision and what YOU could achieve in 2022. What would be the thing(s) you could put in place that would make you fundamentally happy, bring you confidence, bring you new feelings, goosebumps and have a positive impact on your life and those around you? It’s time to think about it right now.
#2: Important vs. Urgent
This concept determines and lays the foundation for this new year! What is the difference between these two words that are part of our customs? It’s Important to talk about QUALITY vs. URGENT as we talk about time and emergency. Do you want to focus on the quality of what you do in 2022? If so, starting today with tip #1, what are you going to put in place? Let’s write it down!
#3: Planning & Structure
This tip is to me the most IMPORTANT in the realization of 2022 in relation to what you have decided to put in place. The key is to take your agenda and choose the specific days and times that suit you best. These times must be fixed and cannot be shifted under any circumstances. At the beginning this new routine will be unusual and can be heavy, but after a few weeks you will see that it is essential to achieve what matters to you the most. Because it’s GOOD FOR YOU. Finally, start with small achievable and SMART goals as these will give you the confidence to achieve bigger things throughout the year.
Once your priorities are clear, it's up to you. With experience, We all have the strength and resources within us to make a positive impact on our lives. To conclude, I'd like to end with a phrase I often use: deciding to do nothing is the best way to change nothing so it's up to you to decide now. What’s your first move?
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This article was independently written by Alea and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and should never be relied upon for specific advice.