Making 2013 your healthiest year yet

Changing behavior holds the key to making sure your health improves

As you make your New Year’s resolutions for 2013, why not decide to make some easy changes to benefit your and your family’s health?

Behaviors are the No. 1 killer of Americans. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the country. Being overweight or obese is expected to move into the top spot soon.

The World Health Organization recently declared physical inactivity to be the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality. The Centers for Disease Control predicts that one of three people in the U.S. will have diabetes by 2050.

Further, one of four people has a mental health problem, but fewer than 25 percent of those people receive treatment. Stress, anxiety, and depression are pervasive problems. Last year, nearly 54 percent of our students at Ohio State reported having more than average or even tremendous stress over the previous 12 months.      

As startling as such facts are, they don’t typically lead people to change their health behavior. Usually, it takes a crisis or an emotional experience.

My mom passed away unexpectedly when I was 15 years old. She had suffered from headaches for a year and had finally seen our family physician the previous week. She died instantly, right in front of me, when she sneezed and burst a cerebral aneurysm.

Afterward, my father found an unfilled prescription for high blood pressure medication in her purse. Filling that prescription and taking the medicine might have saved her life.

What will motivate you to change your behavior?

Over the past year, colleagues and I have been building a leadership team, the One University Health and Wellness Council, to implement a new integrated approach to promoting wellness at Ohio State. We’re working with faculty, staff, and students to create a culture and environment that make it easy and fun for everyone to engage in wellness behaviors.

You could easily take some of the strategies we’re recommending to the university community and adapt them to your daily life. Here are some suggestions:

  • Rather than sitting at a desk to pay bills, write letters, and do other work, use a standing desk in your office or at home.
  • Walk or stand while meeting or chatting with others.
  • See your doctor or nurse practitioner for a personalized health assessment, and follow up with a health coach if wellness risks or chronic conditions are discovered.
  • Enjoy becoming and staying healthy by participating in community events such as organized walks and runs. And don’t forget Pelotonia, the annual bicycle ride and fund-raiser for the James Cancer Hospital.
  • Check Ohio State resources for wellness tips, and integrate them into your routine. You’ll find lots of good information at www.buckeyewellness.osu.edu.

At Ohio State, we know that research-based strategies lead to improved health outcomes and reduced costs. Generating new research will be a major part of our new health and wellness initiative. In fact, in April we will spearhead the first National Summit on Building Healthy Academic Communities, where people from academic institutions across the country will share their best health and wellness practices.

We’re deeply committed to creating the healthiest university, community, and alumni base on the globe. I challenge you to join us in achieving this goal.

This essay is featured in the January/February edition of Ohio State Alumni Magazine.