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ON GOING LIFESTYLE

Year after year we make resolutions to exercise regularly, eat well, and give up smoking and other bad habits. Following the basics can cut heart disease risk by 80 percent, diabetes risk by 90 percent and cancer risk by 50 percent, according to the Harvard Nurses' Health Study. But most of us fail to keep our promises to ourselves. Here are some practical ways to get and stay healthy:

  • Wear a pedometer. New research suggests that routinely wearing a pedometer encourages people to walk about an extra mile each day, lose weight, and lower their blood pressure. Aim for at least 30 minutes of brisk walking and a total of 10,000 steps per day.
  • Eat at least 2-3 fish meals per week. The evidence is strong that the oils in darker types of fish, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel and herring, are beneficial for the heart and brain and may even lower certain cancers.
  • Drink water. No matter where you are, water should always be the first thing you reach for when you're thirsty. Water truly is a must for good health!
  • Keep the legal evils, sugar and caffeine to a minimum. It's hard to believe, but decreasing sugar actually increases people's energy, by minimizing the highs and lows that sweet foods triggers. Different people react differently to caffeine, but most of us are probably over-stimulated already.
  • Don't focus on dieting. Focus on eating. If you're hungry, you're more likely to overeat, especially in the evening. Instead, of sacrificing all day and gorging later, it's better to eat enough during the day to avoid hunger pangs and uncontrolled eating at night.
  • Eating won't solve emotional problems. Many people eat to make themselves feel better when they're upset. It works in the short run; certain foods can temporarily boost mood. But in the long run, you'll have the same emotional problems, plus the extra weight.
  • Don't drink too many calories. It's easy to drink calories without noticing: that eggnog latte at Starbucks has nearly as many calories as a Big Mac. It's okay to have one as an occasional treat, but consider it a meal, not a drink.
  • Eat at least two fish meals per week. The evidence is strong that the oils in darker types of fish, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel and herring, are beneficial for the heart and brain and may even lower the risk of cancer.
  • Don't forget strength training, involving both the upper and lower body. Too many people neglect resistance exercise, particularly women for whom it's crucial for preventing muscle and bone loss with age. Lift weights for at least 20 minutes, two- to three-times per week
  • Sleep at least 8 hours a night. A number of recent studies have confirmed that you really do need at least 8 hours a night. Among the many benefits: Adequate sleep makes you feel better, decreases risk for cardiovascular disease, boosts memory, keeps you healthy and stabilizes your weight.

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