Lehigh Valley, Pa.,
04:07 PM

Planning Healthy Resolutions for a Healthy Year

Timely advice from Lehigh Valley Health Network doctors

As you busily prepare for the New Year – attending or hosting social gatherings, visiting with relatives, reviewing the current year – you might also make New Year’s resolutions to usher in 2018 with healthier behaviors. Doctors at Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) want to help you focus those resolutions in the context of simple activities that promote health in specific areas – which might add value to your plans and increase the likelihood of your success.

Following are some helpful resolutions from physicians at LVHN:

For parents: connect with your baby through playtime

Pediatricians Kim Brown, MD, and Elaine Donoghue, MD, encourage parents of newborns to bond early with their babies, with the payoff of creating a lifetime of close connections with smart children.

Encourage parents of infants and toddlers to play the “Serve and Return” game, says Donoghue. “Parents can play this ‘imitation game’ with their babies, making a face or performing a gesture, which the child will repeat in turn,” Donoghue explains. Responding to the child’s “serve,” such as pointing to a book, by delivering a “return,” such as naming an object on the page, encourages the child to continue the back and forth.

This interaction promotes healthy attachment between baby and parent, which is very important for optimal development of social skills and language,” adds Brown. Sound simple? It is! In this age of media distraction though, it’s not happening enough, and babies’ attention and development are suffering, Brown says. “But playing with babies is fun and important, so make time for play!”

For adults: Get screened for cancer

Many types of cancer can be avoided altogether if detected early with a screening, says Suresh Nair, MD, physician-in-chief of LVHN’s Cancer Institute. “The start of the year is an ideal time for people to make a New Year’s resolution and get their recommended screenings,” he says. These include mammograms, colonoscopies, prostate exams and skin cancer screenings.

“Your primary care physician can provide recommended timing of these tests and talk to you about your family history. In cases of a strong family history of cancer, your primary care physician may recommend that you schedule a visit with a genetic counselor,” Nair says.

For people with hernia problems: Schedule a needed treatment

Don’t put off having that hernia surgery if it’s been diagnosed and recommended. “An unrepaired hernia can possibly lead to a more serious condition with long-term consequences, like trapping and strangulation of the bowel,” says Raymond Singer, MD, physician-in-chief of LVHN’s Institute for Special Surgery. LVHN offers free hernia screening events featuring hernia experts. To find out about one, call 888-402-LVHN (5846), or visit LVHN.org/herniascreening.

For your heart: Know your cholesterol and blood pressure numbers

Heart health increases in importance as one ages or is diagnosed with heart disease or at high risk for it. Cardiologist Andrew Sumner, MD, of LVHN’s Heart Institute, encourages his patients and the public to, “Know your numbers, know your risk. Specifically know your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, both good and bad. If they’re not in the normal range, learn how to improve them,” he says.

The current healthy readings for blood pressure are less than 130 over 80. And be sure to know your cholesterol levels and discuss them with your doctor if it’s low enough, based on your risk for developing heart disease. Sumner recommends trying to control these factors through changes in diet and exercise. But if that doesn’t work, it might be time to ask your doctor if you need a medication.

For all: Recognize the signs of stroke

Steven L. Lewis, MD, LVHN’s chief of neurology, encourages everyone to know the signs and symptoms of stroke, which can save a life: these include drooping or numbness of a side of your face; weakness or numbness of an arm or a leg; difficulty with speaking, understanding, or confusion; problems with vision, balance, or dizziness; or a sudden severe headache.

“There is so much that can be done to improve the chances of recovery from a stroke, if patients get to the emergency department in time, including getting the “clot busting drug” or even removal of the blood clot causing the stroke,” Lewis says. “So, know to call 911 immediately with any potential symptom of a stroke.”

About LVHN

Lehigh Valley Health Network includes eight hospital campuses - three in Allentown including the region's only facility dedicated to orthopedic surgery, one in Bethlehem, one in East Stroudsburg, one in Hazleton and two in Pottsville, Pa.; 26 health centers caring for communities in seven counties; numerous primary and specialty care physician practices and 18 ExpressCARE locations throughout the region including the area’s only Children’s ExpressCARE at the Health Center at Palmer Township; pharmacy, imaging, home health services and lab services; extensive inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services; and preferred provider services through Valley Preferred. Specialty care includes: trauma care at the region’s busiest, most-experienced trauma center treating adults and children, burn care at the regional Burn Center, kidney and pancreas transplants; perinatal/neonatal, cardiac, cancer care, orthopedics, and neurology and complex neurosurgery capabilities including national certification as a Comprehensive Stroke Center. The Lehigh Valley Cancer Institute, the Lehigh Valley Heart Institute and the Lehigh Valley Institute for Special Surgery give clinicians of the highest caliber the necessary infrastructure, programs and partnerships to help community members stay healthy and provide the most advanced treatment when needed. The Lehigh Valley Cancer Institute is a formal member of the Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Alliance, a transformative initiative to improve the quality of care and outcomes for people with cancer in community health care settings, including access to key MSK clinical trials. Robotic surgery is offered in ten specialties across the health network with more than 10,000 procedures performed since 2007. Lehigh Valley Children’s Hospital, the only children’s hospital and Level 4 NICU in the region, provides care in more than 30 specialties and general pediatrics. Lehigh Valley Hospital–Cedar Crest has been recognized among the top five hospitals in Pennsylvania by U.S. News & World Report for for five consecutive years. Lehigh Valley Hospital–Cedar Crest, Lehigh Valley Hospital–17th Street and Lehigh Valley Hospital–Muhlenberg are national Magnet hospitals for excellence in nursing. Additional information is available by visiting LVHN.org, or following us on Facebook and Twitter.