It probably won't surprise you to learn that most New Year's resolutions are health- and fitness-related.
While the big resolutions -- like losing weight or quitting smoking -- are hard to achieve, not all health-related goals need to be. Here are seven small, practical resolutions we can all make for our health this year. They aren't dramatic, but they are achievable -- and, best of all, they will make a real difference.
1. Make those doctors' appointments that you've been putting off
Most of us are overdue on some routine doctor visits and tests. Pick up the phone and get them scheduled. Preventive care saves lives. Once they're on your calendar, you're on your way to better health.
2. Organize your medical records
Does your spouse or adult child know who your doctors are and all your health conditions? Could they produce your medical history quickly if needed?
If not, spend a few valuable hours getting your medical records in shape.
3. Make a list of your current medications to keep in your wallet
It's important to keep an updated list of all your medications -- including dosages and supplements -- handy.
Make a pocket-size version and have it laminated, so you can tuck it in your wallet. Bring a copy on all your doctors' visits, and update it whenever your medications change.
4. Use your smartphone's "ICE" app
Did you know most smartphones include an "In Case of Emergency" app that first responders will look for in the event of a health crisis?
Find yours and use it. It will allow you to document your medical conditions, blood type, emergency contacts, allergies and prescriptions -- all vital information when every minute counts.
5. Complete a health care power of attorney form
A health care power of attorney form (also called an advanced directive) lets you name someone to make decisions about your medical care if you can't make them yourself.
Typically, the forms also allow you to express your wishes regarding life-sustaining treatments, organ donation and more. You can find downloadable forms (each state has its own) on the AARP.org website.
6. Start planning ahead for aging parents
If you're seeing slight changes in a parent's behavior or appearance, don't bury your head in the sand. Get him or her to their doctor for an assessment and start looking into caregiving options.
It is no easy task, but it can help you avoid a traumatic family crisis down the road.
7. Make one small health change every month
Small lifestyle changes add up to big health improvements.
Consider creating modest monthly challenges for yourself: drinking more water, adding daily walks around the block, signing up for a yoga class with a pal.
Get them down in writing (it really helps), and fulfill a day-by-day commitment to be good to yourself. After all, you only get one body -- resolve to take great care of it this year.
• Teri Dreher, RN, CCRN, iRNPA, is an award-winning RN patient advocate and a pioneer in the growing field of private patient advocacy. A critical care nurse for more than 30 years, today she is owner/founder of NShore Patient Advocates (www.northshorern.com), the largest advocacy company in the Chicago area. She is the author of "Patient Advocacy Matters."