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January 3, 2017

Resolutions That Really Pay Off

by Amanda MacMillan

Looking for a New Year’s resolution that’s worth making? We pored over health and medical research from the past year to put together this list of small changes that can make a big difference to your risk of disease (and your wallet).

No matter where you are on your health journey, these are smart moves to make or keep making. Check them out, and have a happy, healthy new year!

Quit smoking. A study published in October found that 28.6 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States, or about 167,000 deaths a year, are attributable to cigarette smoking. Even though public health efforts have slashed the smoking rate over the past few decades, 40 million American adults still smoke, the authors point out. If you’re one of them, quitting just may be the single best thing you could do for your health.

Eat more healthy fats. If we all added more polyunsaturated fats to our diets (like those found in olive oil, nuts, and fish), and swapped out some of the saturated fat and refined carbohydrates we eat, it could help prevent more than 1 million deaths from heart disease worldwide, according to a study published last January. Refined carbs are found in not-so-healthy products like sugary beverages, white bread and snackables like chips and crackers.

Ditch your soda habit. Swapping out a daily cola for an unsweetened beverage could cut your risk for type 2 diabetes. In a study published in November, people who drank an average of six sugar-sweetened sodas or juices a week had a 46 percent higher risk of developing prediabetes -- which is often a precursor to the dangerous disease -- than those who drank none. The best replacement? Water is the healthiest choice, say the researchers. 

Stay active. Sure, you know that exercise is good for your health – but here’s some extra motivation. Getting at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week saved heart-disease patients about $2,500 a year on drugs and medical bills, according to a September study. Healthy people who exercised regularly saved money, too -- about $500 a year, compared to those who didn’t get the recommended amount.

Already exercise? Pick up the pace. In a study published in March, people who got regular moderate to high-intensity exercise (like running, calisthenics or aerobics) had a smaller decline in memory over time, and a smaller increase in thinking problems, than those who only got light or no exercise. More research is needed to nail down the effect, but these initial results are striking. The difference in the groups was equal to 10 years of aging!