December 21, 2009 – Each year as the ball drops, New Yorkers resolve to improve their health and wellbeing. Of all the challenges you could take on next year, which ones would do you the most good? Here are the Health Department’s top five picks, based on real data about sickness and health in New York City. Because changing old habits can be hard, our rundown also includes online resources that are available 24 hours a day to help you thrive in 2010.
1. Still smoking? It’s never too late to quit.
Smoking causes thousands of strokes, heart attacks and cancer deaths in New York City each year. If you smoke, every day is the right day to quit. If you need help, take a look at the Health Department’s Facebook page, facebook.com/nycquits. It’s a community forum where anyone trying to break a tobacco habit can find tips, resources and moral support. Nearly 5,000 people have joined the NYC Quits community since the page went live last April. Anyone who wants to help a friend or family member quit can use Facebook to send the person an e-patch – a friendly electronic reminder to call 311 for a free course of nicotine replacement therapy. And starting this week, members will have a new topic to discuss: two new video spots featuring Marie, a former smoker from the Bronx whose smoking-related illness led to nearly 20 amputations. Marie first shared her story in April 2008. Her disfigurement is a vivid testament to the importance of quitting, and her own perseverance should inspire and motivate anyone who is trying. The new video ads will air on television and online December 21 through January 10.
2. Shape Up, New York!
Besides warding off weight gain, physical activity can boost your mood, energy and overall health. Many people assume that “staying active” means joining a gym or a sports league. But in America’s most walkable city, everyday life is full of opportunities for exercise. Take the scenic route instead of the shortest one when you’re walking to the bus or the subway. Replace your dull elevator ride with a bracing dash up the stairs. Do Saturday errands on foot or by bike. And if you’re game for something more structured, check out Shape Up New York. It’s a free fitness program with a full schedule of offerings at parks, housing sites and community centers all over New York City. Sponsored jointly by the Health Department and the New York City Parks Department, it offers activities ranging from stretching and toning to weights, walking and step aerobics. The current class schedule is always posted. Fitness instructors interested in volunteering to teach a class should visit NYC Service to find out how.
3. Don’t drink yourself fat.
Eating less is one way to lose weight, but choosing different beverages may be easier. The calories in a daily bottle of soda can make you 10 pounds fatter over a year’s time, without ever filling you up. If you’re among the millions of New Yorkers who live on sugar-sweetened beverages (soda, sports drinks, fruit drinks, tea drinks, coffee drinks), spare yourself some empty calories by switching to water or seltzer. And when you’re looking for a boost, try plain coffee or tea. The sugar you add yourself won’t approach the amounts found in bottled products and coffeehouse concoctions. To find or share tips on healthy ways to quench your thirst, visit facebook.com/DrinkingFat. From there you can also see the Health Department’s sassy new video on the health impact of sugar-sweetened beverages.
4. Don’t drink yourself sick.
Toasting the season is part of celebrating it, but more booze doesn’t make for more fun. It makes for thoughtless choices, dangerous accidents and ugly health consequences. Alcohol increases your risk of liver disease, high blood pressure, depression and a range of cancers. Binge drinking – more than four drinks in one sitting for a man, or more than three for a woman – is especially risky. Stick to no more than one drink a day if you’re a woman and two if you’re a man. And if you are among the many New Yorkers for whom alcohol is a trap, resolve to free yourself this year. For tips on avoiding unhealthy drinking, check out our Health Bulletin, and for help with alcohol dependence, call 311 or 800-LifeNet.
5. Be smart about sex.
A city of 8 million offers a lot of potential partners – and a lot of potential problems. HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are more prevalent here than in most of country. So is teen pregnancy. Unless you have only one, mutually-faithful partner, you should use a condom every time you have sex. The Health Department offers an array of online resources to promote them. If you want to find free NYC Condoms, or give them away through your organization or business, visit the Health Department’s condom page. The NYC Condom also has a Facebook page – facebook.com/NYCcondom – where you can send e-condoms to friends or just hear what other people are saying about safer sex in the city.
New Yorkers can also go online to find free, confidential testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. You can get your test results on a secure website, and people with positive test results can get help notifying partners who may also need treatment. In addition to these resources, the Health Department maintains a sexual health website specifically for teens. Check it out for straightforward, accurate information, plus an array of services and resources.
For more tips on staying healthy throughout the year, visit nyc.gov/health.