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J. Black photo 2010Your Health Matters

Dr. Judith Black, medical director for Senior Markets at Highmark Inc.

Everyone wants to be as healthy as possible. To do so, we need to take care of ourselves every day by leading a healthy lifestyle. This includes taking steps as simple as eating well-balanced meals and fitting more physical activity into our daily schedule. As we say goodbye to 2012 and welcome in 2013, you should begin setting your health and wellness goals for the new year.

Your doctor is one of your most valuable resources when it comes to staying healthy or living with a chronic medical condition. Having a discussion with your doctor about your health and wellness goals for 2013 is the first step on the path to a healthier life. It’s not too early to schedule your annual wellness visit with your doctor for 2013. The annual wellness visit is not a physical exam. It’s a Medicare-covered, one-on-one discussion with your doctor to review your health from all angles, physical and emotional. At the visit, you and your doctor will create a personal prevention plan based on your unique health and lifestyle factors.

Based on your risk factors, your doctor will recommend certain preventive screenings and tests that are right for you. These may include screenings for breast and colorectal cancers, an eye exam to detect glaucoma or testing for cholesterol and diabetes. Preventive screenings and tests are important in that the earlier a disease is diagnosed, the more likely it can be cured or successfully managed. You and your doctor will also review any medications – both prescription and over-the-counter – that you are taking to make sure all of your medications are right for you.

Once these preventive tests and screenings are completed, your doctor will discuss your results with you and recommend your personalized prevention plan. This plan may include ways to improve your eating habits, lose weight, increase your physical activity, prevent falls and make healthier lifestyle choices.

In addition to your physical health, keeping your brain healthy is critical to enjoying all of the great experiences of life. So don’t wait until you feel mentally slower. Stay sharp now. There are a lot of fun things you can do to treat your brain to a boost. In the new year, make an effort to be more social. Having a commitment to something or someone is another way to keep you young at heart. Join a book club or learn a new language. Visit your local library for stimulating social and learning opportunities. Try listening to your favorite music – or even better, try out new music. Recent studies have shown that listening to music can reduce the impact of dementia. Regular exercise has been proven to keep your brain sharp as well.

As you can see, it’s never too late to start living a healthier lifestyle. Because your health matters, I encourage you to do what you can to start the new year off on the right path to wellness and remember, living a longer life means living a better life. Schedule your annual wellness visit today.

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