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New Year, New Beginnings for a Healthier You
By Nancy Kennedy

Traditionally, the New Year is a time for new beginnings, and on January 1 – okay, January 2 – many people embark on self-improvement projects. Whether you actually make resolutions or simply decide to make better choices, the post-holiday period is an ideal time to improve one's health and well-being. The holiday feasting and partying is over, things have calmed down, and most of us have some breathing room. We have assembled a compendium of excellent advice from regional healthcare and wellness experts about the best ways to make this your healthiest year ever.

Weight Management on YOUR Terms

"For many the New Year means starting a new weight loss program. Key to successful weight loss is accountability and awareness of how much you eat and what you eat, while making it livable. To make the lifestyle livable all programs should be designed around YOUR foods on YOUR terms, with no magic pills, no special foods and no dieting otherwise. Additionally, if you are post-rehab, following cardiac rehab or physical therapy, it's important to keep active and not return to a sedentary lifestyle. At My Fitness Kitchen, we can help people make that essential transition safely and effectively. Here at My Fitness Kitchen, you will have professional assistance and direction whether you are looking for weight management or post-rehab help."

– Mark Rullo, Exercise Physiologist and Owner, My Fitness Kitchen

Exercise and Prevent Health Complications

"Life is all about being active. Immobility leads to all sorts of health complications and eventually to organ failure. To me, exercise is like religion and I practice what I preach. I want to get people moving. You can't enjoy life if you're stuck at home with arthritic joints that limit your activity. I believe that my job is to get you mobile and keep you mobile. That's how you prevent complications of aging, like diabetes and heart disease."

– Gregory Habib, M.D., orthopedic surgeon

It's OK to ask for Help

"Learn to ask for and accept help. Our goal at All Abilities is to help people maintain themselves in the community, with independence and safety, and to keep them out of institutional care. Many of the clients served by All Abilities have been trying to manage on their own, despite the often severe obstacles posed by their disabilities. Some get scattered support from family, friends and neighbors but that is likely to be inconsistent. Small things become big things, when they are impossible to complete. It's okay to ask for help – that's what we are here for."

– Tina Jackson-Heacox, All Abilities

Get the Flu Shot for Yourself AND Your Children

"Get you flu shot. When you get the flu vaccine for yourself and your children, you may be saving lives: your own, theirs, and maybe mine and my kids' lives. You're protecting your loved ones and the loved ones of your neighbors, co-workers and people you've never met. It's a small act that has enormous benefits: the flu vaccine saves lives."

– Robert Ketyer, M.D., Pediatric Alliance

Outdoor Fun and Exercise

"Find an enjoyable activity to do in every season of the year. In winter, get outdoors. You can make a snowman, have a snowball fight, go cross country skiing or just explore. Westmoreland County has many state parks and the Laurel Highlands hiking trail. Try to do these activities several times each week, in every season. You are more likely to exercise if you're having fun outside while you're doing it."

– Janelle Emery-Smith, PT, MS, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist,  Excela Health

Prepare to Quit Smoking For Good

"It's easy to quit smoking, it's much harder to stay quit. This is why it is so important to prepare and plan to quit. It's not as easy as just putting down the cigarettes. What are you going to do now that you aren't going out for a cigarette break? What is going to keep your commute smoke-free? Research shows that people who prepare to quit are more likely to stay quit. Smokers that use both professional help and pharmacotherapy (patches, nicotine gum) are twice as successful."

– Tobacco Free Allegheny (1 800-QUIT NOW)

For Drug Free Children - It All Starts In the Home

"Remember that everything starts in the home, so do your best to provide a healthy, addiction-free environment in which your child feels safe and protected. Parents should set limits and have consequences that let your child know that you will not tolerate drug or alcohol use. Parents need to understand that growing up today is very different from when they were kids. The pressures are enormous, especially with social media, which adds a whole new level of pressure. Substance abuse can start online, with meeting a stranger or an older student who is selling drugs. Check and double-check on the kids, pay attention and listen to them. Don't ever forget what your role is."

– Richard Foster, Ph.D. vice-president, Gateway Rehab Center

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