2020 Checkup

Six steps to a healthier, happier you in the new decade. 

With the start of a new decade, it’s the perfect time to take stock of your health and consider lifestyle changes that will help improve your longevity and well-being, says Karambir S. Dalal, MD, Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at Community Medical Center (CMC). Here's his best advice.

1. See a primary care physician regularly.

Adults should have a physical once a year, says Dr. Dalal. Those who have chronic health problems  may need to see their physician more frequently. “Your primary care physician may pick up a condition that doesn’t have any signs or symptoms, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, which we call silent killers,” he says.

2. Know your numbers.

At your checkup, you will learn important health-related numbers, such as your blood pressure, which should be 135/85 or lower, and fasting blood glucose level, which should be 100 mg/dL or less. Knowing these numbers will allow you to track any unusual increases. Another number to keep an eye on is BMI or body mass index, which can indicate whether you’re overweight or obese. Carrying extra pounds is linked to health problems such as heart disease and cancer, says Dr. Dalal. An ideal BMI is between 22 and 25.

3. Stay on top of screenings.

Schedule screening tests, such as those for breast and colorectal cancers, at appropriate intervals. Women ages 40 and older should have an annual mammogram, and adults ages 50 and older should have a colonoscopy every 10 years (unless instructed otherwise by your physician). Tell your primary care physician if you have a family history of cancer. If a close relative has had the disease, you may need to start screening earlier.

4. Keep your weight in check.

Start with baby steps: Cut back on calories by eating smaller portions and increase your activity level by 10 percent daily. Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces of water daily. (For a 150-pound person, that’s 75 ounces of water.) Drinking more water helps to quell hunger, increase energy levels and keep your kidneys healthy.

5. If you smoke, kick the habit.

Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body and is a risk factor for cancer, as well as heart and lung diseases. Quitting will improve your health and longevity. RWJBarnabas Health Institute for Prevention and Recovery’s Nicotine and Tobacco Recovery Program can help you overcome nicotine addiction. The program offers individual and group support and free nicotine replacement therapy, such as the nicotine patch, gum, lozenge, inhaler and nasal spray. For more information, call 833.795.QUIT.

6. Get moving.

Be sure to exercise on a regular basis. It’s the best way to have a healthy body and mind. It also helps to ease chronic pain. The government's recently updated Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend getting at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity—such as brisk walking, dancing and household chores—each week. That translates into about 20 to 40 minutes per day. The guidelines also recommend strength training, such as lifting weights, two days per week.

For a referral to a primary care physician, visit Community Medical Center.