New Year, New You
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Refresh, renew and embrace the new year with the joy of positive change: This is a wonderful time to celebrate the life you have created by implementing practical ways to keep focused on the good aspects of those changes.
You may want to make changes for your financial future; get fit, lose weight or take better care of your heart; or you may want to put some simple steps in place to help you look your best.
Whatever your specific goals are, we’re offering tips for getting started on each of them. By following the wisdom of some of San Diego’s finest financial and health professionals, you can make small changes that create balance and beauty in your life.
GETTING YOUR FINANCIAL HOUSE IN ORDER
No one likes the idea of a budget—least of all people with plenty of money. The word has negative connotations of suffering and going without. But the truth is that no matter how much money you have, you need a budget. “We run into people who make a lot of money, who spend all of it and more,” says Michael Fenison, founder and CEO of Pure Financial Advisors. “When people are making a lot of money, they think that it will never end.”
Create a Financial Plan
A comprehensive financial plan that includes cash flow lets you see what will happen when money stops coming in. The reality often hits when people see the hard numbers, says Fenison. “It’s worthwhile to get an accurate profile of your finances, to see if what got you here is going to get you where you want to go,” he says.
Set Aside for the Future
Once you come to grips with knowing that a budget can mean the difference between living the future you want and losing out on the lifestyle you always planned for, it’s time to make a few changes. “People need to decide how much money they are going to spend on their own future,” says Bernard Surovsky, insurance representative with Kingsroad Financial. Consider putting aside money for your future as the first bill you pay each month, he says. Then, decide how much to spend on the rest of your expenses.
Budget for One-Time Expenses
Avoiding unnecessary fees is another easy change. “Save for [purchases] and then pay cash,” Surovsky says. “Don’t pay it off for the next year.” As an example, he says, someone who pays for a car up front can get it for 12 to 15 percent less than someone who pays monthly interest over a period of years.
PRIORITIZE ESTATE PLANNING IN THE NEW YEAR
Many people avoid thinking about estate planning, assuming that they have plenty of time to do so in the future. The truth is, the time to think about estate planning is when you have plenty of time to think—and not stress—about it.
“There are a lot of [people with] larger estates who haven’t done proper estate planning,” says Fenison. “The magnitude of the consequences for this can be staggering.”
There’s no question that estate planning is important: You don’t want to accrue wealth only to have your heirs lose a large portion of it to the government simply because you didn’t plan ahead. You also don’t want the fruits of your hard work to be tied up in court for years.
Still, Fenison says, estate planning is often triggered by a panic-inducing event, which may affect how clearly you think. Even worse, you can be too late. “I know people who have been in the middle of the process and someone dies,” says Fenison. “The time to plan is before you need it.”
Estate Planning Basics
Anybody who has assets exceeding $500,000 should create an estate plan, says Surovsky. “And certainly if you are a homeowner and have a child, you definitely need to look at it.”
The most basic reason to create an estate plan is so that California’s courts won’t decide where your money goes. “There is a process of probate in absence of an estate plan,” says Surovsky. In such a case, a California judge decides where your money goes. Without an estate plan, anything other than qualified assets, such as money in a retirement account with a designated beneficiary, will go through probate—which will cost you between 3 and 7 percent of your gross assets.
Beyond that, each estate plan will address customized issues, which could include: distributing your assets to the people you choose, not who the government chooses; designating who will raise your children; and authorizing someone to pay your bills should the need arise.
GET FIT IN THE NEW YEAR
If your new year’s resolution is to finally get fit, make sure you choose a fitness program that works for you—that way, come summer, you’ll still be at it. Exercise is, after all, the foundation for keeping a good body weight, according to Dr. David Ostrander, cardiologist at Rees-Steely and medical director of the cardiac catheterization laboratory at Sharp Memorial Hospital. He recommends an hour a day of moderate aerobic exercise.
To reach such activity levels, gradually increase your physical activity by 10 minutes a day until you are exercising at least five hours a week, recommends cardiologist Dr. John Verkleeren, FACC, of Kaiser Permanente San Diego Department of Cardiology.
However, keep in mind that some exercise is always better than none, according to dietician Candy Cumming, of Sharp Weight Management and Health Education. “If getting off the couch right now is a challenge, set a reasonable goal of doing a five- to 10-minute walk each day.” And, she says, do as many of these short walks in a day as possible.
So, with no excuse not to do something to get active, keep the following pointers in mind as you gear up to get on a program.
Set Realistic Goals
“You want to set a realistic goal, such as running a faster mile, rather than something unattainable or discouraging,” says Carolyn Ryba, general manager of Frog’s Fitness at Carmel Mountain Ranch. Realistic goals are very personalized, so first you have to really think about what you want to achieve.
Hire a Trainer
Once you’ve determined what you want, hiring a personal trainer is one of the best ways to get started—even if only for the first month. According to Karen Hill, owner, nutritionist and trainer for The Burn in downtown San Diego, a trainer helps set goals through a comprehensive look at your diet, habits, medications and injuries. At The Burn, the trainer even gives a body mass index (BMI) test to determine how many calories you burn in a day. With this information, the trainer customizes a food and nutrition program.
And, with a tailored program, “You don’t have to be in the gym for hours,” Hill says. “[In a 40-minute workout] I can give you everything you need. It just has to be compact, powerful and to the point.”
A trainer is also helpful in keeping you accountable, while giving an extra push. Even without a trainer, do find a way to establish accountability to help keep you on track, says Ryba. “It’s tough to motivate yourself, but it’s great to have a friend there—that way you are responsible for each other,” she says. So, organize a fitness program with a friend, colleague or spouse.
And if you sign up at a health club, make a connection with some aspect of the club, Ryba says. Learn how to use the equipment, make friends there or find some other meaningful connection. Otherwise you’ll probably drop out within three months. “[But] if you find a little niche, then you are going to stay,” Ryba says.
TOP TIPS FOR HEALTHY WEIGHT MANAGEMENT
If your new year’s resolution is to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, it may be time to get focused. So, keep the following in mind as you reach for your weight goal.
“You may need to get serious about getting help,” says Dr. Albert Ray, physician director, patient education and health promotion for Kaiser Permanente in Southern California, and president of the San Diego County Medical Society. “It’s a good time to visit your physician, get a health counselor, a fitness expert or a trainer. It’s hard to do it on your own.”
Aim for Moderation
“I always advise people to follow moderation in their activities,” says Ray. He recommends skipping seconds and leaving empty room on your plate. “A portion should be no bigger than a billfold wallet, whether it’s a piece of meat or vegetables or bread. And, you should be able to see clear parts of your plate.”
Start the Day with Breakfast
Dr. Sunil Bhoyrul, FACS, head of the surgical weight-loss program at Ximed Medical Group Inc., Surgical Associates of La Jolla, says the key to achieving a healthy weight is starting off with a healthy breakfast. “Do whatever it takes to have breakfast,” he says. If you don’t have time for breakfast, you have to be creative. “Go to Costco and buy protein bars,” he suggests as one way of being resourceful. Without breakfast, you will make worse decisions by the time lunch comes around. “The worst choices are going to happen when you are hungry,” he says.
In addition to that essential first meal, Bhoyrul recommends having fruit, yogurt or nuts for snacks. “You have to take a midmorning snack with you [to work], so that when it comes to lunch you are thinking sensibly,” he says. “And before you go home, have a snack so you aren’t raiding [the refrigerator] for the worst thing in the house.”
Target One Eating Habit to Change
“Trying to overhaul your entire eating routine is overwhelming,” says Cumming. Instead, target one eating habit. For instance, if eating cheese and crackers is a daily part of your routine, reach for veggies instead—which could save enough calories to help you lose up to one pound a week, she says. Or, eliminate sugary beverages. “Two 12-ounce cans of Coke a day packs 300 calories,” she says. “Over a year’s time that little switch will enable you to lose about 30 pounds, provided you don’t pick up those calories elsewhere.”
TIPS FOR KEEPING YOUR HEART HEALTHY
If you are at risk for heart disease, you are certainly not alone: Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women, accounting for about 29 percent of all deaths in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While the numbers may be daunting, there is good news. The following lifestyle choices will help you restore your good health and reduce those risks.
If you are a smoker, you need to quit. As an example of how important quitting smoking is, Ostrander says a 108-pound woman who smokes has the same heart attack risk as a 200-pound woman who is the same height and doesn’t smoke.
Determine Your Ideal Weight
To objectively determine whether you need to lose weight, Ostrander recommends calculating your body mass index (BMI), a measure of body fat based on height and weight. The easiest way to do so is to search online for a BMI calculator. You type in your height and weight and it calculates whether you are underweight, a normal weight, overweight or obese.
Eat a Healthy Diet
If weight is an issue for you, Verkleeren recommends reducing calories by 500 a day until you are consuming about 1,500 daily. And, he says, the ideal diet is the Mediterranean diet, with staples of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish, low-fat dairy, nuts, and olive oil or canola oil.
Check Your Blood Pressure
Your ideal blood pressure should be 120/80, says Ostrander. Anything higher than that increases your risk of having a heart attack. “Check your blood pressure on a regular basis, particularly if you are overweight or have a family history of high blood pressure,” he says.
Stress is a risk factor for heart attacks, especially when people feel trapped. While there is no simple solution to reducing stress, exercise and meditation are two tools that have been shown to help, according to Ostrander.
TOP TREATMENTS TO REDUCE WRINKLES
When you want to put your best face forward, it may be time to think about treating those wrinkles that make you look older than you feel. Thankfully, whatever your commitment level, there is an approach that will work for you.
Starting with lifestyle choices, stress management helps you avoid getting more wrinkles, according to Dr. Matt Hom, medical director and founder of Rejuve MedSpa & Wellness in La Jolla. Stress causes a breakdown in cellular activity, he explains, which can make people’s skin age faster. In order to manage stress, Hom recommends stress-reducing techniques such as meditating, yoga and deep breathing.
Hom also urges a good skin care regime, including SkinCeuticals, designed to correct previous damage, protect healthy skin and prevent future damage. In addition, Hom recommends Botox as a safe and effective way to smooth frown lines for up to four months.
Dr. Steven Cohen, medical director of FacesPlus in University City, also recommends Botox as a short-term wrinkle reducer. “It allows the body a little recovery time,” he says, which gives the tissue time to regenerate.
For many patients, Cohen also recommends fillers. “It’s not an either/or,” he says, explaining that you can have a combination of Botox and fillers. “There’s not one [treatment] that addresses all areas.”
One semipermanent filler Cohen recommends is Sculptra®, often called a “liquid face lift,” which causes the derma to thicken. Lasting about two years, it produces a volume effect—something people lose with age.
Another choice, permanent fillers, “have a permanent and progressive improving effect,” says Cohen. ArteFill® is an FDA-approved treatment that is superb for addressing discreet wrinkles and smile lines.
TIPS FOR IMPROVING YOUR SMILE
A great smile can make anyone feel more comfortable and confident. So, as the new year starts, take a little time to spruce up your pearly whites. “There are no magic bullets,” says La Jolla’s Robert A. Rees, DDS. “Nothing beats proper maintenance with diligent monitoring from a dentist and hygienist to keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy.”
To maintain your overall dental health, Rees recommends you visit the dentist every six months at a minimum. But proper dental maintenance often requires more frequent visits to keep teeth at their optimum form. “Your dental professional has to analyze, diagnose and evaluate your level of need,” says Rees.
While proper maintenance is the most essential aspect of keeping your smile in top form, additional things you can do include brightening your teeth. “There are over-the-counter brightening systems that are popular,” says Rees. “But nothing is better and safer than a professional brightening system.”
If you’ve already had your teeth brightened, Rees says Discus Dental has just launched a new Zoom Whitening Pen, a touch-up pen your dentist can provide you for daily upkeep which can be kept in your purse or pocket.
Rees also prescribes a home fluoride treatment system, which comes as a gel, paste or mouthwash, and helps seal and protect enamel. “This is another way to maintain a brighter smile longer,” he says.