5 ways to improve your health in 2024

A New Year brings a chance for a new beginning. It’s a time to start something new to improve our bodies, minds and spirits. Dr. Megan Mahon McQuarrie, M.D., C.A.Q.S.M. of Shore Physicians Group’s Ocean City practice who specializes in Family and Sports Medicine offers important advice for getting, and staying, healthy in 2024.

Be Realistic

“My best advice for setting a health and wellness goal in 2024 is to be realistic. Do not set an expectation so high that they cannot be reached,” said McQuarrie. “This will only lead to frustration and a sense of failure when the expectation is not met”

Dr. McQuarrie recommends that people start by focusing on one thing, and then building on their success. “Rather than planning on restructuring your entire diet, focus on one thing such as replacing soda with a flavored seltzer. This can be very difficult for someone who has been a soda drinker for years, but when the health results start to show from the reduction of sugar intake, it can create a sense of accomplishment and lead to a subsequent dietary change.”

Prior to setting any exercise goals, Dr. McQuarrie strongly recommends having a discussion with a healthcare provider. “If someone has been sedentary, they need to check with their doctor about a safe plan to start exercising again. I also recommend that before jumping in with both feet and buying a year-long gym membership, you begin with walking, and establishing a routine.”

Do Not Set the Bar Too Low

While it is important to be realistic and listen to our bodies, we have to make sure we are challenging ourselves if we want to achieve results. One of the ways in which you can measure effective cardiovascular activity is through heart rate, defined as the number of times your heart beats per minute. Dr. McQuarrie explains, “Take your age and subtract it from the number 220. That is your maximum heart rate. Generally speaking, you should aim for a heart rate of 60% – 80% of your maximum heart rate to be considered a moderate intensity exercise.”

Dr. McQuarrie also believes that accountability is key when setting your goals and keeping them. “There are many fitness APs and smart watches available to help you measure your progress and keep on track,” she said. “But one of the most effective ways of making sure you stick to your routine is to get a workout buddy. You can push each other to keep on schedule and reach your goals, and it also adds a fun, social element to healthy activities.”

Listen to your body

Human are not built like sports cars. They are not meant to go from 0-60 at a moment’s notice. If you are doing something that does not feel right, then it might be time to try something else. “The important thing to remember is that not everyone fits in a box,” said McQuarrie. “Some people like to walk or jog, while others may find it to be boring. If that’s the case, then try something else, like dancing or taking a Zumba class. If you are the type of person who isn’t comfortable working out around other people, then try some home exercise equipment or body weight exercises outdoors. Finding something you enjoy will make the process of establishing a long-lasting exercise routine much easier.”

Feed Your Mind

Dr. McQuarrie believes that it is important to stay active physically as well as mentally. She recommends reading a book and setting a goal of learning something new. “Just as it is necessary for the body to be challenged through exercise, it is just as important for us to make sure our minds are stimulated. Listen to your mind when engaging in learning activities, much the same as listening to your body. If you enjoy reading books, then there is an endless world at your fingertips. If you enjoy learning how to fix or build something, then go in that direction. If you like to travel, take a trip and explore new places.”

See Your Doctor

If you have not been to the doctor in a while, the new year is the perfect time to get on track, by having your vitals checked and be sure you are up to date on your screenings. There are many health screenings necessary, depending on age and other factors, but below are some common ones. These screening recommendations are for people with average risk. Family history and other risk factors may call for recommendations for earlier screenings.

  • Anxiety Disorders in Adults Screenings: Adults 64 years or younger, who do not have a diagnosed mental disorder, including pregnant and postpartum women
  • Breast Cancer Screening: Beginning at age 40
  • Cervical Cancer Screening: Beginning at age 21.
  • Colorectal Cancer Screening: Adults ages 45+
  • Lung Cancer Screenings: Adults ages 50-80 years who have a 20 pack per year smoking history.
  • Hypertension in Adults:18 years or older without known hypertension
  • Prediabetes & Type 2 Diabetes: Adults ages 35 to 70 who are overweight or obese.
  • Prostate Cancer: Men ages 55 to 69 should discuss with their healthcare provider.
  • A complete list of screenings is available at www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org.

Dr. Megan Mahon McQuarrie, M.D., C.A.Q.S.M. practices primary care at Shore Physicians Group’s Ocean City office, located at 1645 Haven Avenue, Suite C. To schedule an appointment, call 609-365-6200.