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Get Healthy, Stay Healthy in the New Year

So, it's a New Year, which traditionally means it's time for a fresh start. This year, why not make a resolution to improve your health? It's time to start the self-improvement plans we've been putting off for so long. Following these ten tips will increase your chances of living longer and more fully, and greatly reduce your risk of developing many chronic and infectious diseases.

1. QUIT SMOKING/CHEWING.

Everyone knows that smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. However, smoking not only increases the risk of not only lung cancer, but also adult leukemia, pancreatic cancer, hearing loss, rheumatoid arthritis, cataracts, cervical cancers, infertility, heart disease, diabetes, and several other disorders. Chewing tobacco can cause oral cancers and dental loss.

2. DRINK IN MODERATION . . . OR NOT AT ALL.

Evidence is mixed as to whether it is better to drink small amounts of alcohol or abstain completely. But more than moderate intake is associated with liver and heart disease, cancers, pancreatitis, alcohol-related birth defects, interpersonal problems and driving accidents.

3. MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT.

According to the NIH, obesity is associated with hypertension, lipid disorders, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea and respiratory problems, and certain cancers. Low body weight can predispose to osteoporosis.

4. IMPROVE YOUR DIET.

Most Americans eat too few fruits and vegetables and too much fat and salt. Try slowly changing to a organic/whole food diet that includes more fruits and vegetables. The DASH diet, which emphasizes fruits and vegetables, low-fat meats and dairy and whole grains, has been shown to reduce high blood pressure. When combined with a reduction in salt intake, the results were even more dramatic.

5. EXERCISE.

Lack of regular exercise increases the risk of dying prematurely and developing several chronic illnesses. Yet, statistics reveal that more than 60 percent of American adults are not regularly active, and 25 percent of the adult population is not active at all. Exercising moderately daily (like walking more) and/or exercising more intensively 3-4 times a week has been proven to reduce these risks.

6. SET REALISTIC BUDGET AND GOALS.

Keep monthly records of your spending and living expenses so you'll spot places where you can save. Do you want to own a home? Save for retirement? Start a college fund for your kids? Write down your goals and create a plan to achieve them. Living within your means can reduce financial stress, especially after the holiday season.

7. CONTROL BLOOD PRESSURE AND CHOLESTEROL.

Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States. Know what your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers are and keep them under control, by following the above suggestions and by taking medications if prescribed.

8. PERFORM RECOMMENDED MONTHLY SCREENINGS.

Ladies, this means performing monthly breast self exams. Gentlemen, perform monthly testicular exams. Both exams have been shown to uncover early cancers. Cancers are more curable when discovered early.

9. GET A GRIP ON STRESS.

Chronic stress is known to reduce immune response. Practice stress management techniques, get enough sleep . . . and remember to laugh a little. Conversely, while not conclusively proven, laughter seems to stimulate the immune system. It also appears to release endorphins, reducing pain. It's free, easy, and fun!

10. CONNECT WITH PEOPLE.

The more relationships and love in your life, the healthier, happier and longer you will live.

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