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Here is How You Can Optimize Your Health in 2019

For many of us, another new year means another list of New Year's resolutions. But before you pledge to lose 20 pounds and run a marathon, wouldn't it be nice to know which changes could have the biggest impact on your health and wellbeing?

"We're all so busy that we often ignore our health until something happens, and your body is screaming, 'Please take care of me!'" said Cedars-Sinai family medicine physician Maya Benitez, MD.

She works with patients in her Culver City practice to understand their current lifestyle and then tailors a plan for them that's reasonable. Benitez shares some of her tips for getting the most out of your resolutions in 2019.

Mental Health -- Benitez has seen an increase in stress, anxiety and depression among her patients. She says that taking care of your mind is just as important as taking care of your body. Getting good sleep is a big driver of mental health.

"A lot of people cannot fall asleep or stay asleep because of stressors," Benitez says. "But bad sleeping habits can be fixed."

She advises not going to bed until you're ready to snooze. Avoid lying in bed and waiting for sleep to come. A few things can help with this:

  • Dedicate your bed to sleeping rather than working, munching popcorn or watching TV.
  • Wind down before bedtime. Shut down your screen time and do some deep breathing or meditating.

Benitez is a big fan of meditation for giving your mind a break any time of day. She says it doesn't have to be an hour-long session. As little as three minutes can make a big impact on reducing stress.

Diet -- Rather than jumping on a fad diet, Benitez advocates balanced eating, portion control and maximizing plant-based foods. She points to the Mediterranean diet, which is supported by medical evidence, for its use of healthy oils, fresh vegetables, chicken and fish.

"It's not about the pounds," she says. "It's about the slow shift in lifestyle and the longevity of these goals."

Exercise -- You should aim to get about 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity. Get your heart rate pumping and break a sweat. Benitez favors group fitness classes for the camaraderie and motivation, or a couple of personal training sessions to learn workout moves that you can do at the gym on your own. And there are plenty of apps that offer free guided workouts you can do in the privacy of your home.

For busy professionals who can't set aside a full hour to sweat, Benitez suggests breaking up the time into manageable chunks.

"Wake up earlier to do a 10-minute core workout on YouTube, and then take a 10-minute walk around the neighborhood during lunch."

Sexual Health -- With sexually transmitted diseases on the rise in the U.S. according to a 2017 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Benitez says everyone should get tested at the start of a new sexual relationship.

"Some of these things can cause lifelong consequences, and they're easily detected with just a urine sample or blood draw," she said. "Don't be afraid. It's your body and your health."