(Good Things Utah) – The ushering in of a new year often brings contemplation, resolution, or goal setting and a renewed focus on putting our best foot forward, especially when it comes to our health. While New Year’s resolutions such as watching what we eat or starting a fitness routine are common to many, the importance of prioritizing and scheduling an annual wellness visit with a primary care physician is often overlooked.

Dr. Chad Bittner, Chief Medical Officer for OptumCare Utah, joined the show today to share tips and reminders to help reinvigorate our health care resolutions for a Healthier Utah.

1. Healthy New Year’s Resolutions

It’s important to make sure you schedule an annual physician visit for a variety of reasons. Getting annual health exams and tests can help find issues before they begin to cause problems and may increase the chances of finding a treatment or cure quicker.

In addition, certain aspects of your lifestyle and family history can contribute to your health – a visit with your physician can help to suggest screenings for tests that can detect possible problems before you even notice them, such as a mammogram for breast cancer.

That said, I think it’s important to make a resolution to get a cancer screening scheduled – This month is cervical cancer month – and if detected early, cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treatable cancers. That means PAP smears for women.

  1. Pap Test
    • Utah’s cervical cancer screenings are consistently below the national average … only 69.5% of Utah women aged 18 or older have had a Pap test in the last 3 years, compared with 74.9% of U.S. women.
  2. HPV
    • Also, if you have a child 11-12 years of age, discuss with your primary care physician the HPV vaccination and resolve to get them scheduled for it to protect your child from developing certain types of cancers later in life.
    • The HPV vaccination is also recommended for everyone through age 26 years, if they were not adequately vaccinated already – it’s a two-dose series under age 15, three- doses for teens and young adults.
  3. And Mammograms
    • Schedule a mammogram. Did you know that Utah falls far below the national percentage of Utah women aged 40 or older who reported receiving a mammogram within the past two years?
    • According to the Utah Department of Health Cancer Control Program only 64.5 % of Utah women 40 or older have had a mammogram in the last 2 years, compared with 72.3% of U.S. Women.[5]

3. Exercise and Fitness Resolutions

With the cold, snowy days as well as Utah’s winter inversion, plus the added concerns of the pandemic, many may find it hard to stick to the goals let alone be active or want to go outside. But there are other ways to make sure you are living a healthy lifestyle.

Over the past years, we’ve all been impacted by the limited options caused by the pandemic, and then there is Utah’s winter weather that may deter us. It’s important we aim to increase our activity (of course discuss any new strenuous activities with your doctor) but in general, to increase our activity. One way is through something called the ABC plan

What’s the ABC Plan?

  1. Accountability – Having a buddy to meet up with (maintaining a social distance) or call regularly to share your goals and progress towards accomplishing them. This can help keep you focused and on task. The camaraderie makes one look forward to exercising even on cold or dreary days.
  2. Benefits – Keep your eye on the prize – good health. This is priceless! There are many benefits to a nutritious diet, staying active, and exercising from improved mental health to prevention of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and diabetes, among others. Plus, people in good overall health can be sidelined by illness less often or have better treatment outcomes.
  3. Community – There are many free resources, programs, and continuing education opportunities throughout our area. Many of these also offer virtual opportunities too including OptumCare’s Community Centers – which are currently offering virtual community center classes to help keep you healthy from the comfort of your own home.
  4. Do Something Every Day – Simply make sure you are doing something every day. It’s not an all-or-nothing approach. The best way to reach your goals is one step at a time or building blocks to a great foundation. Cooking a new healthy dinner recipe one day to adding stretches to your daily routine the next, can all add up to creating a healthier lifestyle.
  5. Excersize – Keep moving too! Make exercise easy to fit into your schedule from going to a nearby gym, packing an exercise bag, or dressing for your class earlier in the day to having equipment at home like resistance bands or even household items like can goods for lightweights. 

3. Resolutions to Get Key Vaccinations

Another important health resolution that should not be overlooked is receiving key vaccinations

  1. Make a plan to get the Covid-19 vaccine or booster
  2. And remember – It’s not too late to protect yourself and people around you by getting a flu vaccine.
    • Influenza usually hospitalizes hundreds to thousands of Utahns every flu season. Given the threat of both COVID-19 and influenza, the Utah Department of Health recommends you get an influenza vaccine.
    • Influenza vaccines protect you and your family from the flu, while also protecting Utah’s hospital capacity and ability to fight COVID-19. Please continue to practice physical distancing, wear a mask while in public, and wash your hands to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent influenza.

Visit Optum Virtual Community Center to learn more.

This story contains sponsored content.