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Navigating the Road to Wellness: 6 Practical Steps for a Healthier You

January 26, 2024

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Reaching your dream weight and exercising more often may be on your New Year’s resolutions list, either because you want to feel better, have more energy or prepare for swimsuit season. Whatever your motivations, maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in regular physical activity and keeping risk factors at bay are vital for your health. 

Your personal health risk factors may include age, gender, family health history and lifestyle. Some risk factors, like your genes or where your family comes from, can’t be changed. Others can be adjusted or controlled, such as what you eat, how much you move or how often you exercise, and wearing a seatbelt. 

Taking control of your health is powerful and an excellent way to start the year strong. Explore these six steps today to begin your wellness journey:

1. Make gradual lifestyle changes.

Once you recognize and understand your risk factors better, it’s time to set clear, realistic goals. For example, if you smoke, set a quit date. Or, if you eat junk food, limit eating out to twice a week. Small swaps can make a big difference. Try healthier choices, such as replacing whole milk with 2% milk or substituting sugary snacks with fruits or almonds. Remember, carrying extra weight can lead to diabetes and boost your odds of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, fatty liver diseases, and some cancers. 

2. Move more, sit less.

Too much sitting and lying down with little to no exercise can raise your risk for many chronic diseases. Go for regular walks or bike rides in your neighborhood, or try a virtual workout at home. Every bit of movement counts, even chores around the house. Housework, gardening, and yard work are excellent ways to stay active and feel productive. Start slowly and add more exercise gradually. 

3. Keep stress under control.

Long-term stress can lead to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, stomachaches, headaches, anxiety and depression. Plan ahead and focus on one task at a time to keep stress in check. Relaxation techniques can also help ease the effects of stress, especially if feeling angry, worried or irritable. Take time to relax, stay active and eat healthy. Speak to friends and family about your feelings and practice mindfulness.

4. Sleep soundly

Poor sleep can also lead to serious health issues, including type 2 diabetes, heart problems, obesity and depression. Treat sleep with the same discipline you apply to your oral health. Create a cool, dark and quiet sleep haven, and watch out for big meals or caffeine before bed. Turn your bedroom into a gadget-free zone.

5. Read food labels

Food labels tell the real story of how healthy certain foods are. In general, eat more foods high in vitamins, fiber, and minerals (such as calcium and iron), and fewer foods high in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium (salt), and avoid trans fat. Don’t forget to check the serving size on the label.

The takeaway

Some conditions can be hereditary, meaning if close relatives have had a certain cancer or chronic condition, you may be more likely to develop it. Other conditions and health problems are influenced by unhealthy lifestyle habits like smoking, drinking excessive alcohol or eating processed foods. Understanding and tackling your risk factors can reduce your odds of getting sick or developing a chronic condition. Changes don’t happen overnight, so go easy on yourself. Talk to your primary care provider about setting weight and wellness goals that work for you.


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Messaging Sources:

Risk Factors: Tobacco - NCI (

Health Risks of Overweight & Obesity - NIDDK (

Understanding Health Risks | NIH News in Health

Health Risks of Smoking Tobacco | American Cancer Society

Alcohol's Effects on the Body | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) (

Alcohol's Effects on the Body | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) (

Poor Nutrition | CDC

Food Labels | CDC

Manage Stress - MyHealthfinder |

Health Risks of an Inactive Lifestyle: MedlinePlus

Sleep and Chronic Disease | CDC

Relaxation techniques for stress: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia