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Annual Health Checklist: Start the Year with 4 Healthy Questions

If you’re a homeowner, you perform maintenance like changing furnace filters, replacing smoke detector batteries and adding salt to your water softener. Maybe you have a lawn or tree service to care for your property or possibly, a cleaning service to keep your home in top shape. If you own a car, you wash, wax and get the oil changed regularly to extend the vehicle’s life and ensure it gets you where you need to go. We put a lot of work into caring for our big investments, but do we make the same commitment to our personal health?

The beginning of the year is a great marker for important health-related tasks and appointments, and an opportunity to check in with yourself. Take stock of your personal health by asking the following questions to either prepare for an upcoming checkup or to guide your health-related goals for the coming year.

1. When was my last checkup?

Are you due to see the doctor or have preventive tests like a mammogram or colonoscopy? Even if these tests aren’t due until later in the year, take time to build them into your calendar now so you’re sure to get them in. Between the ages of 30 and 50, healthy adults should have a checkup every other year. At age 50, be sure to make an appointment annually.1 Use this time to discuss family history and disease prevention, any concerns you have2 and pertinent answers to the questions below. Think of your primary care physician as your healthcare partner; they’re there to help you stay healthy as well as treat you when you’re ill.

2. How do I feel?

It’s a simple question but one we rarely stop and ask. Are you feeling rundown, stressed, sluggish, even sad? The answers to these important questions can fuel simple, and sometimes obvious solutions, such as the need for more time with loved ones, downtime or sleep.  Or, they may disclose something that warrants a conversation at your next doctor’s visit. In a busy world full of all sorts of responsibilities, it’s important to check in with how you’re feeling regularly and make the simple changes that improve your life and identify issues to discuss with your doctor.

3. How often am I active?

This is great time to evaluate your movement regimen. You don’t need to do an intense HIIT workout every day to be healthy, but is there an opportunity to get more movement in your day? The American Heart Association recommends getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity exercise in addition to strength-based, muscle-building exercise twice per week.3 If you’re not currently active, make this amount your goal and work up to it gradually. And be sure to discuss your new fitness plan with your doctor first.

4. Is my eating plan serving me?

The old adage is true: you are what you eat. Are you getting the recommended daily amounts of protein, fresh vegetables and fruit, carbohydrates and fats? Do you feel good after eating? It’s challenging to make sweeping dietary changes or deprive yourself of things you enjoy, and it may not be needed. Instead, try to incorporate more healthy foods (fill half of your plate with veggies and fruit), swap out higher-fat proteins for leaner ones and choose more whole grains.4 Phasing in changes like these over time is easier (and likely more lasting!) than doing everything at once.

Cheers to a healthy 2018!


1 “Should you get an annual physical?” Duke Health, Duke University Health System, 2 Oct. 2013.
2 “Check-Up Checklist: Things to Do Before Your Next Check-Up.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 Jan. 2017.
3 “American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults.” American Heart Association, American Heart Association, 14 Dec. 2017.
4 “Dietary Guidelines.” Choose MyPlate, United States Department of Agriculture, 5 Feb. 2016.