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2. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Easier said than done, according to findings from a new analysis of data from state health departments.

Over the past five years, obesity rates climbed in nearly all states. Indeed, not a single state in the U.S. saw a decline. 

Losing weight and keeping it off is difficult. Yet studies show that losing weight just a few pounds if you’re overweight will improve your health. If your weight is normal, work to keep it there by reining in calories and exercising frequently. A healthy diet includes abundant fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. A good diet limits refined sugars and saturated fats. One easy way to shed calories from your diet: drink water instead of sugary beverages. They account for more and more calories in the American diet. 

3. Get Screened and Get Your Shots

This year, with flu in the headlines, no one needs to be reminded that flu shots can dramatically reduce the risk of getting this seasonal bug and its potentially life-threatening complications. Yet only 42% of people 50 to 64 get yearly flu shots. Keeping up to date on all recommended vaccinations can prevent many deadly and debilitating illnesses.

Routine health screens are also lifesavers. Knowing and managing your cholesterol levels and blood pressure is crucial to reducing your risk of heart disease. Cancer screening tests have been shown to catch some forms of the disease early enough to eliminate them.

For the latest recommendations on what tests to get when, check out the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations at www.ahrq.gov.

4. Don’t Smoke: Quitting Saves Lives

A no-brainer. But lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death -- and between 80% and 90% of cases are directly caused by smoking, according to the National Cancer Institute. 

The good news: smoking rates are falling in the U.S. And thanks to a variety of new nicotine replacement therapies -- from patches to nasal sprays -- quitting is easier than ever. One recent analysis of studies found that nicotine replacements can almost double the odds that smokers will successfully quit. New medications to help smokers kick the habit are also available. Talk to your doctor about the best strategies for success.

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