If you are looking for easy ways to have better physical and mental well-being this year, doctors probably know a thing or two about the subject. That’s why emergency physician Adaira Landry posted on Twitter asking other health professionals for tips to help people have a healthier new year.
The Twitter post reached 1.4 million views, with over 700 doctors on the thread sharing tips from medical specialties to promote wellness, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and provide guardians with advice for infant care.
Landry said: “Question for #medtwitter: what is a tip related to your specialty that can help people have a healthier 2023? Landry's tip was “never drive while intoxicated,” which we can all agree is good advice.
One user responded, “Great [thread]. Thank you! Takeaways: don’t smoke, eat more fiber, be social, vaccinate vaccinate vaccinate, seatbelts, be there for those you love with no judgment, mammogram, no web md-ing, and stay off the ladders!”
Here are some other great tips from doctors on how to live healthier in 2023.
Eat more fiber
This recommendation is from Dr. Erin King-Mullins, a colon and rectal surgeon, who diagnoses and treats problems within the intestine and colon such as inflammatory conditions, cancer, and polyps. To reduce the risk of colon cancer and inflammation, doctors like King-Mullins recommend consuming more fiber, which is found in whole grains, fruit, and vegetables. Fiber has anti-inflammatory effects on the body and helps digestion.
“The best way to increase fiber is by increasing fruits and veggies in the diet to take full advantage of all the nutrients they have to offer,” King-Mullins told BuzzFeed News. “Fiber is essential to colon and overall digestive health. Fiber is broken down by the good bacteria in your gut to what are known as short-chain fatty acids, which are literally the fuel that feeds the colon cells.”
Besides eating fruits and vegetables, people can increase their fiber through supplements found at the local pharmacy or grocery store in the digestive health aisle, King-Mullins added. These supplements typically include psyllium fiber or wheat dextrin, plant-based ingredients that can give you a fiber boost.
“They can be found in pill or powder form. Powders can be added to water, juice, smoothies, yogurt, and applesauce,” King-Mullins said.
Don’t put your feet on the dashboard if you’re a front-seat passenger
Dr. Emil Lee, a diagnostic and interventional radiologist, diagnoses and treats injuries and diseases using X-rays, MRIs, and CTs. In his reply, Lee pointed out the dangers of putting your feet up on the dashboard.
“Radiology/trauma: keep feet flat on the floor in the car. Do not cross your legs, put them on the dashboard, etc., ever. Very little force needed to dislocate hip backwards pulverizing the acetabular back wall. Inevitable hip replacement. (Thx to Ortho for the tip!)”
The most common injuries from car collisions and airbag deployment include hip dislocation, foot and ankle fractures, and thigh and hip injuries.
“You never know when or if an accident could happen,” Lee told BuzzFeed News. “Even if this injury is repairable, my orthopedic surgeon colleagues inform me that it is almost inevitable that even a very young person will require a full prosthetic hip replacement within a few years, after potentially significant pain and disability.”
Eat more plant-based foods
Dr. Onikepe Adegbola, a lifestyle medicine physician who manages irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) treatment through an evidence-based approach, also weighed in. “Lifestyle Med: Consider adding more plant-based dietary sources to support a healthy gut & reduce the risk of chronic diseases,” she said.
Beans, nuts and seeds, tofu and tempeh, quinoa, oats, nut and seed butters, and edamame are examples of plant-based sources individuals should integrate into their meals, Adegbola added.
“Plant-based diets have been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer such as prostate cancer,” Adegbola told Buzzfeed News. “Some plant-based protein sources, such as beans and lentils, have a low glycemic index, which means they are absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream. This can help to keep blood sugar levels stable, which may be beneficial for people with diabetes or at risk for diabetes.”
Vaccinate your children
Dr. Jennifer M. DeGeus, a general pediatrician, said, ”Pediatrics: Vaccinate your children.”
According to the CDC, less than 11% of infants between 6 months and 4 years old are fully vaccinated for COVID-19. In addition to COVID vaccinations, pediatricians recommend vaccination to prevent childhood diseases like measles, whooping cough, and mumps.
“Vaccines are one of the greatest advancements in modern medicine and a safe and important way for parents to keep their children healthy,” DeGeus said. “Unfortunately, there is an abundance of misinformation about vaccines that causes some parents to delay some vaccines or avoid them altogether, which can lead to outbreaks in susceptible children.”
Limit alcohol consumption and don’t smoke
Dr. Muhammad Beg, an oncologist, said, “Have less than two alcoholic beverages a week, and don’t smoke.”
The CDC shares that when alcohol is broken down in the body, the chemical damages DNA that controls the growth and function of cells. As a result of damaged DNA, those cells can go on to create a cancerous tumor.
“While the public is generally aware of the risk between smoking and cancer, it's important to also recognize that there is a very well established, dose-dependent, association between alcohol and cancer,” Beg told BuzzFeed News. “Even small amounts of alcohol consumed regularly, or 'light' drinking, can increase the risk for diseases like breast cancer.”
Give your teens a “no questions asked” policy if they’re at risk
Dr. Christina Johns, a pediatric emergency medicine physician, said, “Pediatric Emergency Med: have a ‘no questions asked’ policy with your teenagers- if they ever find themselves in a high risk/dangerous situation & want out, that you’ll pick them up without judgment & save the consequences talk for later. Might save their life.”
The “no questions asked” policy Johns mentions is a way for teenagers to ask their parents for help without punishment.
“At some point during their teenage years, many kids find themselves in a risky or dangerous situation: for example at a party and their ride has had too much to drink. They may be hesitant to call their parents to bail them out of the situation due to fear of punishment or other consequences, and the result has the potential to be catastrophic or even deadly,” Johns told BuzzFeed News. “Kids need to feel safe to activate this type of plan, and by giving their word that they won’t embarrass their child publicly, or punish them right away, parents establish that safety net that might potentially save their child’s life.”
Address any delays in development
Dr. Tanjala T. Gipson, child neurologist and neurodevelopmental disabilities specialist, said, “For Child Neurology/Neurodevelopmental Disabilities, don’t ignore delays in a child’s development or behavioral challenges.”
These include motor skills, speech and language, cognition and performance, social interactions, and other benchmarks.
“Delays in development are present when children fail to meet milestones at the expected age, like sitting by 6 months, walking by 12 months; first word by 12 months,” Gipson said. “Parents should discuss these concerns with their primary care physician and if the delays persist, especially beyond 6 months, request an evaluation with a developmental specialist.”
Outline a living will for medical decisions
Dr. Gretchen Winter, a pulmonary and critical care physician, said, “Critical Care: Make sure your loved ones know what you want done for you medically!
“Pulmonary: Wear a mask in high risk spaces to protect yourself and others!”
As a pulmonary and critical care physician, Winter stressed the importance of conversations with loved ones and creating a plan in case individuals can’t make decisions for themselves. Also known as end-of-life planning or living wills, the person-centered approach asks questions like: Would you want to be put on a breathing machine? What about having a long-term tracheostomy if you cannot come off the breathing machine? If your heart stops beating, would you want CPR or would you prefer to not be resuscitated?
“Additionally, you should consider filling out an advanced directive that outlines these desires, and legally designating a healthcare power of attorney if there is someone specific you want making these decisions for you,” said Winters. “And, if you do fill out these forms you need to make sure your loved ones know where to find them. Have a copy with your loved ones, a copy at home, a copy with your lawyer, and a copy with your primary care doctor.”
Wear a mask in high-risk situations
The CDC recommends wearing a mask if you have a cold, flu, COVID-19, or any respiratory infections to prevent severe illness and the spread of viruses. People who are older, are pregnant, or have certain medical conditions are at a higher risk of severe illness.
“As far as wearing masks goes, we know that COVID-19 is an airborne disease. We also know that many other respiratory viruses are spread by droplets in the air. Wearing masks in crowded spaces decreases your risk of exposing others to illnesses you may have (any may not be aware of),” Winter told Buzzfeed News. “Additionally, wearing a mask yourself decreases the risk of you catching a respiratory virus from someone else.”
Consider getting a mammogram starting at 40
Dr. Lyndsey Burton, a musculoskeletal radiologist, said, “Get your mammogram starting at age 40 (not 50). We catch a lot of cancers on the first mammogram! I've also diagnosed breast cancers in women in their 20's and 30's so if something doesn't feel right with your breasts or you feel a lump, let your doctor know!”
The recommendations for when to start routine mammograms vary based on the medical organization and your personal risk, so you should discuss with your doctor what makes sense given your own personal risk factors.
Early detection of cancer means the tumors are more likely to be smaller and the cancer is less likely to have spread. Additionally, mammograms allow for the detection of cancer before symptoms start. As of 2011, 3D mammography techniques were approved by the FDA to include images of the breast for individuals with or without symptoms.
“Annual mammograms detect cancer early — when it's still treatable,” Burton told BuzzFeed News. “Three out of four women with breast cancer don't have a family history, so screening mammography is our best tool to catch breast cancer. The American College of Radiology, Society of Breast Imaging, and the American Cancer Society all agree that annual mammograms starting at age 40 save the most lives.”
The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends that people (at average risk) get them biannually starting at age 50 and says the decision to have mammograms before age 50 is an “individual one." The American Cancer Society says that mammograms are an "option" if you are 40 to 44 years old and then recommends annual mammograms starting at 45.