Heading into 2024, about a third of people will make New Year’s resolutions — many of which will be tied to leading longer, healthier lives.
"Life expectancy is at its lowest in decades despite our wealth of scientific knowledge," Dr. Brett Osborn, a Florida neurologist and longevity expert, told Fox News Digital.
"But it doesn’t have to be this way — you have a choice to be healthy in 2024 and onward."
Rather than getting distracted by the latest wellness trends, Osborn recommends sticking to five tried-and-true basics for better health.
Ahead of the New Year of 2024, here they are.
Each food is assigned a score from 0 to 100 based on how it affects blood sugar (glucose) levels, according to the glycemic index.
Foods low on the scale have a minimal impact, while higher scores indicate a larger spike.
"Sticking to a low-glycemic index (low-GI) diet will lower insulin levels and drive fat loss while maintaining muscle, as long as daily caloric intake is adequate," said Osborn.
People should get the bulk of their carbohydrates from vegetables and greens, he advised, while steering clear of simple carbohydrates — including sugar, bread, pasta and rice — with glycemic indexes greater than 40.
"Eat liberal amounts of fat — olive oil, avocados, nuts and butter — to train your body to burn fat instead of sugar and moderate protein (from lean meat and fish) to support your muscle mass," Osborn recommended.
"Remember, the key to fat burning is amassing or maintaining muscle," he added. "It is your horsepower."
Age-driven muscle loss is not only associated with frailty, but also cognitive decline, said Osborn — which is why it’s important to protect muscle through strength training.
"It is a fact that your ability to stave off age-related diseases such as heart disease and cancer resides in your muscle mass," he told Fox News Digital.
Adding muscle is also the fastest way to melt fat off your waistline, Osborn added.
He recommends sticking to basic, compound movements and progressively "overloading" the muscle to evoke an anabolic (muscle-building) response.
"This means writing your exercises, sets and reps in a training log and striving to better your past performance every session," Osborn said. "You will improve slowly as the body adapts to the imposed demands."
The brain also benefits from strength training, he noted, as the practice releases chemicals that protect cognitive function and assist in learning and memory formation.
Osborn identified these five "basic yet effective" exercises as the pillars of any strength-training program:
"They stress the maximal amount of muscle in the minimum time," he said. "They require no fancy machinery and are non-gender specific."
For those just starting out, the doctor recommends seeking an experienced trainer to teach the correct form and prescribe a custom-tailored program.
"Remember, an injury could set you back months or longer," Osborn warned. "Staying injury-free is critical to lifelong health."
"There is no easier way to lower your risk for age-related disease than by monitoring your blood pressure," Osborn told Fox News Digital.
He recommends purchasing an automated blood pressure cuff and logging your daily readings.
"Aim for normal pressures, per the American Heart Association guidelines, and consult with your physician if your blood pressure is consistently elevated," he advised.
Uncontrolled high blood pressure elevates the risk of developing plaque in your coronary or carotid arteries, which can lead to heart failure or stroke, Osborn warned.
The best way to maintain healthy blood pressure is through clean eating, daily exercise and stress mitigation efforts, according to the doctor.
"Supplements such as magnesium, beetroot extract and omega-3 fatty acids may also help lower your blood pressure," he added.
As people age, inflammation rises, hormone levels falter — and it becomes tougher to regulate blood sugar levels, Osborn warned.
"The combination of these three, among many other factors, accelerates the aging process," he said.
Osborn compared it to "rusting" from the inside out, similar to a car.
"But if you could get an instantaneous snapshot of your body’s inner workings, you could potentially intervene and optimize your biochemistry, and thereby slow the oxidation process," he said.
The best way to do this is by getting routine bloodwork at your primary physician’s office or a third-party laboratory service, Osborn advised.
Here are the markers that have the biggest impact on your overall health, according to the doctor.
HbA1c: This is a long-term measure of blood glucose control. Osborn recommends shooting for levels of less than 5.
Insulin level: In conjunction with low HbA1c, an insulin level below 5 is associated with a fat-burning state.
Lipid profile: This is a measure of your "blood fats" that contribute to plaque formation. The target level for LDL ("bad" cholesterol) is less than 100. The target for HDL ("good" cholesterol") is above 60. Triglycerides (lipid fats, the most common type) should be less than 100.
Apolipoprotein B: High values are bad for this vascular disease risk factor, Osborn said. Shoot for a level of less than 90.
CRP: This is a marker of bodily inflammation. "A high number is bad," the doctor said. "You want this to be as low as possible (less than 0.5), as inflammation is the underpinning of nearly all age-related diseases."
Hormone levels: There are hundreds of hormones in the body. Vitamin D3 is a hormone, which means its level should be checked.
"Optimal levels of testosterone, estradiol, progesterone and thyroid are critical to our well-being and are easily tested," said Osborn.
"Your biochemistry can be easily optimized through clean eating, exercise and, if necessary, hormone replacement therapy (HRT)," the doctor said.
When managed by a board-certified physician, Osborn maintains that hormone replacement can be safe and effective.
Optimal stress management is one of the most important, yet often overlooked, factors of overall health, Osborn noted.
The key is managing the stress hormone cortisol.
"Chronically elevated levels are associated with hypertension, insulin resistance or prediabetes, and low testosterone levels, the last of which impacts energy levels, libido and body composition," the doctor told Fox News Digital.
The first step is to be aware of stress levels throughout the day. Osborn, for example, wears a vibrating wristband that reminds him to take several deep breaths on the hour.
To help reduce stress levels, he recommends seeking out relaxing activities like yoga, meditation, spending time on the beach or having sessions in a red-light sauna.
It’s also important to make it a point to schedule vacation time, Osborn said — "preferably off the grid, away from technology, and make it non-negotiable."
Optimal sleep is also a critical tool in the battle against stress, the doctor noted, as is scheduling social interaction with family members and friends.
"'Blue zone' regions – or places with a disproportionately high number of centenarians – have interwoven socialization into their cultures," he said.
"Why? Because it makes us feel good and lowers stress."