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Health & Balance

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Make 2005 New Year's Resolutions a Reality

Here are five baby steps to improve your health, family, and home in the New Year.

New Year's Resolution No 3: Reduce Stress

Try not to obsess over things you have no control over, such as the economy, Iraq, or terrorism, advises David Baron, MD, chairman of psychiatry at Temple University Hospital and School of Medicine in Philadelphia. He also says:

  1. Listen to your body. When it says "enough," it probably is.

  2. Remember, "all things in moderation." Too much of anything is usually not healthy.

  3. Take time for yourself each day, even if it's only a brief time.

  4. Don't lose sight of the big picture. We often get overwhelmed by details that get blown out of proportion, even on a bad day.

  5. Find something to be thankful for. Do at least one fun (healthy) thing a day.

Also, as often as possible, get a good night's sleep, says Baron. Sufficient sleep has a powerful affect on emotional health and well-being.

Do you have trouble sleeping?Take our sleep IQ.

New Year's Resolution No. 4: Work on Health

Regular checkups, exercise, relaxation, healthy eating -- they all factor into good body maintenance. Checkups get especially important as you get older. Here are tips from Sharon Horesh, MD, an internist with the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta:

  1. When you hit your 50s, you need an annual exam with blood tests: blood count (to check for anemia or other blood cell problems), blood sugar levels, calcium, and cholesterol, as well as thyroid, kidney, and liver function.

    There's more: Women need regular mammograms and Pap smears/pelvic exams, and in some women, bone density testing to evaluate for osteoporosis and fracture risk. Men and women who are at average risk should start colon cancer screening at age 50.

  2. Exercise. Getting regular exercise in small increments provides significant heart benefits. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. "People generally envision a gym, but that's not realistic for the majority of people," she tells WebMD. "Get a pedometer, and aim for 2 or 3 miles a day. Exercise improves your mood, controls blood sugar, and is good for heart and bones."

  3. Get more sleep. If stress makes you toss and turn at night -- if you think four or five hours of sleep are enough -- you're fooling yourself. Fatigue on a daily basis takes a toll on your physical and mental health. To de-stress before bedtime: meditate, practice yoga, listen to music, or take a hot bath. This "transition time" allows your body to wind down before your head hits the pillow, says Horesh.

  4. Breathe deeply. Deep breathing from the rib cage area -- while sitting at your computer or sitting in traffic -- will reduce your stress level, so you feel better overall.

  5. Keep healthy snacks handy. With a stash of healthy snacks, you're less likely to raid vending machines, says Horesh. Stock up on favorites, such as power bars, yogurt, fruit, salt-free pretzels, or low-fat popcorn. Also, bottled water helps you feel full and avoids "dehydration headache." Water also helps kidneys do their filtering work to rid your body of toxins.

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