If you haven't had your physical this year, your first step toward better health is to check in with a doctor. Even if you feel well, it's important to keep on top of routine screenings and immunizations.

  • Weigh in - Ask your doctor about your BMI, or Body Mass Index, to see if you have any risk associated with your weight or waistline. Click here to calculate your BMI.
  • Figure out food - Discuss your diet and how to make sure you're getting the proper balance of healthy fats and proteins, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Work it out - Make a plan to get the exercise you need based on your age, health and physical condition. Find out what heart rate your doctor recommends you aim for while exercising.
  • Rate your risk - Talk to your doctor about your risk for serious or chronic health problems like heart disease, cancer and diabetes. If you are at risk, learn what steps you should take to avoid or minimize the problem. Click here for additional health tools like Interactive Health Quizzes and other Interactive Health Tools.

Eating right helps you feel better and offers protection from health problems over time. It's not about dieting, but about getting in the habit of eating a healthy balance of food. Concentrate on getting all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients you need rather than depriving yourself of the foods you crave.

  • Add some color to your plate - Eating fruits and vegetables of different colors gives your body valuable vitamins, minerals and fiber. Try to include a wide variety such as green broccoli, orange sweet potatoes, black beans, yellow squash, purple plums, red strawberries, white cauliflower and so on. You need five to nine servings a day, depending on your size and activity level.
  • Keep it whole - Avoid highly processed refined or enriched grains. Choose whole grains that still have the outer covering containing the grain's fiber and many of its vitamins and minerals. Whole grains are also low in fat and often provide a good source of protein.
  • Chew the fat - Fat has a bad name, but some fats are actually good for you. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and some nuts, have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. But eat them in moderation as they are also high in calories.
  • Just a teaspoon of salt - Excessive salt can contribute to high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. About one teaspoonful, or 6 grams, a day is recommended. Pay attention to labels, especially for processed food, and substitute pepper and other spices to add flavor.
  • H2O on the go - Staying hydrated, especially in hot weather or during exercise is important for your health. Six to eight glasses of water per day is recommended. A simple way to keep track is to keep a large container at your desk or in your fridge. Just make sure you finish it by the end of the day.

Research shows that even small amounts of exercise can make a big difference in preventing heart attacks and other serious health concerns. Experts generally recommend 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on most days. If you can't set aside a half-hour at one time, try sneaking in three 10-minute segments.

  • Lose the car keys - Run your neighborhood errands by foot and leave the car at home. You'll even save gas!
  • Check the tires - Tune up your bicycle and take it for a spin. For a change of pace, try out a new scenic trail.
  • Bend and stretch - Hook up with a friend and brave a new exercise class. Look into kickboxing, yoga, pilates or whatever suits your fancy.
  • Enjoy the great outdoors - Plan active weekend outings like swimming, hiking or skating. Take advantage of your local parks or nature preserves.
  • Workout at work - Devote part of your lunchtime to a walk - even if it's only a few minutes. Bring walking shoes so you can go at a faster pace in comfort.
  • Dear diary... - To keep yourself motivated, start an exercise journal. Write down your goals and make a note every time you work out.

With too much work and not enough sleep, today's fast-paced lifestyle can be very stressful and unhealthy. It's time to slow down, take a deep breath and pay attention to signs from your body when things aren't right. Also, following the tips above for a healthy diet and regular exercise will go a long way towards lowering stress.

  • Pencil it in - If you're overbooked, make it a priority to schedule in the activities you love. Also, spending time with the people you are most comfortable with can be very therapeutic.
  • There's the rub - Treat yourself to a massage or any spa treatment that will revive your spirit.
  • Get your beauty rest - It's important to your health, not to mention your mood, to get a full night's sleep on a regular basis. Some simple rules: turn off the tube, relax near bedtime with tea or the tub, keep bedtime and wake up times consistent and sleep in a cool, quiet, dark room.

Quitting smoking isn't easy but may be the fastest way to lower your risk. You'll feel the benefits immediately and within 10-15 years, an ex-smokers' risk of developing lung cancer is only slightly greater than someone who has never smoked.

  • Give it up - Talk to your doctor about the most effective and safest way to quit.
  • Steer clear - Avoid going places where people will be smoking. Stay away from any of the people and activities that kept you in the habit of smoking-at least until you feel you've kicked the habit for good.
  • Lean on me - Find a support group and get help and comfort from others in the same boat.
Call 877-RES-INFO for Nurse Advice, Doctor Referrals or Class Registration Monday - Friday 8 am to 8 pm • Weekends 8 am to 4pm

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