We’re still early enough in 2019 that if you felt you didn’t resolve in enough excellent ways to improve your health and well-being, there are a few more solid strategies to check out.
You could, for example:
- Get your hearing checked and ensure you’re protecting and enhancing it in every appropriate way.
- Dive deeper into the array of available diets to see which get the highest marks from a notable expert group.
- Clear your life of clutter and distraction that can cause surprising harm to well-being.
Now hear this
It’s worth repeating more than a few times: Hearing loss can be harmful to tens of millions of Americans, including a growing and disproportionate number of seniors. As the New York Times reported:
Not only is poor hearing annoying and inconvenient for millions of people, especially the elderly. It is also an unmistakable health hazard, threatening mind, life and limb, that could cost Medicare much more than it would to provide hearing aids and services for every older American with hearing loss. … Two huge new studies have demonstrated a clear association between untreated hearing loss and an increased risk of dementia, depression, falls, and even cardiovascular diseases. In a significant number of people, the studies indicate, uncorrected hearing loss itself appears to be the cause of the associated health problem.
Those with hearing loss can over time become cut off from others and not only socializing but also in needed cognitive stimulation and challenge. This not only can affect their mental health, it can speed other declines in health and well being.
Hearing aids can be imperfect and disappointing, especially because users may have unrealistic expectations for their usefulness. Technology is improving the devices’ effectiveness and lowering their cost. So, those with hearing loss should explore their effectiveness and use as well as being persistent in wearing them. Don’t toss those hearing aids in a drawer and ignore them.
The tough test for many patients as to when they may be suffering hearing loss also may be the most obvious: If loved ones and friends tell you that you’re not hearing them, or that they’re getting tired of repeating themselves or turning up the TV or radio too loud, maybe it’s time to get the ears checked, right? By the way, don’t ignore children’s ears during check-ups and protect adolescents from damaging their hearing by helping them so they don’t blast their music, especially with in-ear plugs or other devices.
The editors of U.S. News and World Report over the years have gotten experts together to rank colleges, graduate programs, hospitals, and doctors. So, why not diets, too? The news organization asked two dozen medical and nutrition researchers and scientists at leading institutions across the nation to examine more than three dozen diet plans and to rate them.
The criteria for the diet rankings, U.S. News says, included:
[H]ow easy it is to follow, its ability to produce short-term and long-term weight loss, its nutritional completeness, its safety and its potential for preventing and managing diabetes and heart disease. We also asked the panelists to let us know about aspects of each diet they particularly liked or disliked and to weigh in with tidbits of advice that someone considering a particular diet should know.
Three plans topped the rest overall:
- Mediterranean, which, as USA Today reported, “is focused on fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and lean meats like fish … [as well as] more plant-based foods, healthier oils like olive, as well as whole grains.”
- DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) was second, with its emphasis on lowering blood pressure. The magazine noted the diet embraces “fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy, which are high in blood pressure-deflating nutrients like potassium, calcium, protein and fiber. DASH also discourages foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy foods and tropical oils, as well as sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets. Following DASH also means capping sodium at 2,300 milligrams a day, which followers will eventually lower to about 1,500 milligrams.
- “The flexitarian diet, a modified vegetarian diet where users eat animal products in moderation, ranked third,” as USA Today noted.
U.S. News’ experts said three plans rated best for weight loss: Weight Watchers (the commercial plan), with a tie between the diets known as flexitarian and Volumetrics (as advocated by Penn State nutrition Prof. Barbara Rolls).
American life may be obsessed with material acquisitions, but excess stuff can be taxing. Clutter — an overabundance of possessions that collectively create chaotic and disorderly living spaces — “can negatively impact mental well-being, particularly among women,” and it also can “induce a physiological response, including increased levels of cortisol, a stress hormone,” the New York Times reported.
Its story noted that researchers also have found “a substantial link between procrastination and clutter problems in all the age groups. Frustration with clutter tended to increase with age. Among older adults, clutter problems were also associated with life dissatisfaction.”
The stresses caused by clutter may be due to widespread and unrealistic expectations for women, especially, to live in and run perfect homes, always neat, orderly, and clean. Working women, especially in kid-filled homes, struggle with not only routine messes but their perception that too much stuff adds to the chaos.
And it is tough to break powerful habits — to keep stuff and even to acquire more of it.
The New York Times quotes experts about ways to de-clutter, including by not buying goods and handling items before giving them away, lessening the contact and attachment to them.
Maybe many of us need a dose of kon mari, Japanese de-cluttering guru Marie Kondo’s “gratitude based,” gentle system of sorting, organizing, and discarding possessions that fail to bring genuine joy to their owners.
In my practice, I see not only the harms that patients suffer while seeking medical services, but also the damage that can be inflicted on them by defective and dangerous products. A painful lesson that too many parents learn (and re-learn) at this time of year focuses on their struggles to get their kids that gift they’ve whined for, for weeks. It may be broken and forgotten already, joining a building pile of junk in the house.
But here’s what won’t be: the quality time that we all spend with our loved ones, hearing and listening to them talk about their hopes and dreams and being fit and well enough to join in moments of holiday play and joy. Stay healthy and enjoy the folks all around you. That’s a solid resolution to keep all year long.