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UC Davis Health System

UC Davis Health System

It's not too late to make healthy New Year's resolutions for 2010

Posted Jan. 20, 2010

It's 2010 — and many of us are recovering from the holidays, hoping to lose a few pounds and resolving to live healthier lives.

January is a great time to make a list of resolutions for the new year that could provide lifelong health benefits. As you do, keep in mind that seemingly small steps forward can have a big impact. Incorporating some new, healthy habits into your daily life will not only make you look and feel better but, once established, they will serve you well in the years to come.

Family enjoying outdoors walk in countryside © iStockphoto
Make a commitment this year to better health for you and your whole family, including more nutritious meals and plenty of exercise.

So, while you're finalizing your list of New Year's resolutions, consider these:

1. Talk to a health professional about quitting smoking

Just because you have tried to quit and failed before does not mean success is impossible. You'd be surprised to learn about the different treatments and strategies now available to ease the process. The important thing is to carefully establish a plan to stop.

After you quit smoking, your risk of heart disease will be cut in half within a year.

2. Eat your vegetables

Mother was right. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables daily is tied to numerous health benefits, including reduced risks of heart disease and some cancers. While the food pyramid suggests consuming at least two cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables per day for a 2,000-calorie diet, studies suggest that even more servings from this food group are important.

For example, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, which is designed to lower blood pressure, includes four to five servings of fruits and four to five servings of vegetables daily. For a free copy of the diet, visit their Web site at www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/.

3. Take a hike

The Centers for Disease Control recommends that healthy adults exercise aerobically for about 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. Find an exercise that you can incorporate into your daily routine, such as a lunch-hour swim or after-dinner walk. Even a few brisk walks each month have been found to confer health benefits.

Take charge of your health by scheduling an appointment with your health-care provider and following up with all recommended preventive services.

4. Play with your kids

Read to them, listen to them and play ball with them. Have a weekly family game night. One good way to find more time together is to turn off the TV. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children spend no more than one to two hours a day in front of the screen and get sixty minutes of physical activity every day. Kids who watch less and play more do better in school and are less likely to be overweight.

Out with friends © iStockphoto
Studies indicate that having a good social network reduces the risk of depression and helps keep you physically and mentally healthy.

5. Get help for overwhelming emotions

Depression and anxiety are extremely common problems for which many people are embarrassed to seek help. Often insomnia and fatigue are the only indications of underlying depression. If your life is chronically diminished by painful feelings, it is crucial that you talk with a health professional. Excellent medications are available in addition to counseling.

6. Get regular health exams

Most mothers know that babies need frequent well-baby visits. Older kids should also be seen every year or so for a health exam. Teens and young adults probably come in least frequently, but they need periodic check-ups too.

Talk with your health-care provider about the appropriate tests and needed check-ups that will help monitor your health as you get older.

7. Go out more often

A study from Sweden found that those who regularly attended concerts and plays had lower death rates than those who were less culturally inclined. So treat yourself this year, and while you're it, bring a friend along. Studies also indicate that having a good social network reduces the risk of depression and helps keep you physically and mentally healthy.