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USA Weekend: New Year's Resolutions
USA Weekend: New Year's Resolutions: The Doctors has an exciting partnership with USA Weekend magazine as the exclusive medical contributors to its weekly HealthSmart column. Latest: New Year's resolutions.
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3 more fast, easy tips:

To help fight some cancers ... drink green tea.

To boost memory ... take a nap.

To eat better ... choose whole grains over refined flour.

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Exercise every day! Lose 20 pounds! Stop eating sweets! How many times have you made these kinds of ambitious, get-healthy promises to yourself at the start of a new year, only to break them two weeks in (three if you’re extra-motivated)? Goals are good, but to achieve them, it’s best to break them down into smaller steps — you’re more likely to stick to your plan and stay on track all year. Here are seven healthy resolutions and simple strategies to help get you started.

To lose weight ... can the sugary soda.

A trio of studies in the New England Journal of Medicine all point to the same finding: Drinking sugary beverages probably will pack on the pounds. Scientists at Boston Children’s Hospital showed that teens who eliminated sugar-sweetened drinks for a year gained an average 4 fewer pounds than those who didn’t. Another paper showed that children who had one artificially sweetened drink a day gained less body fat and weight than kids who drank a sugary version. The third study of more than 33,000 Americans found that for people with genes that predispose them to obesity, drinking sugar is likely to amplify their weight-gain risk. Think of it this way: One 12-ounce can of cola has about 10 teaspoons of sugar. Drink coffee or tea (without too many fixings) or drink plain or sparkling water with a splash of juice (or add slices of citrus).

To get fit ... walk.

Yes, you’ve heard this a million times, and for good reason: Walking is low-impact and safe for most people, and it requires nothing more than a pair of supportive shoes. Walking strengthens your body, helps manage your weight, protects your heart and boosts your mood. Do it regularly and you’re more apt to live longer, without dementia, research shows. Begin with a stroll for a few minutes a day; gradually build to the recommended 150 weekly minutes at a moderate intensity. It’s OK to break it into smaller chunks — take 10-minute brisk walks, three times a day, five days a week.

To quit smoking ... sign up for text support.

Smokers are more likely to stay away from cigarettes over a six-month period if they get motivational messages and videos sent to their cellphones, according to a recent research review. A previous British study said smokers were twice as likely to quit when they got texts urging them to stick with it. The National Cancer Institute offers the service: To sign up, text QUIT to 47848. For more information and tips, visit smokefree.gov or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

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To be happy ... volunteer (and eat Lots of fruits and vegetables).

The upside of volunteering is well-documented; the produce-aisle effect is based on preliminary research. Both have been shown to boost mental (and physical) well-being. When people contribute to their community or an organization they are passionate about, they lead happier lives, have lower rates of depression and may even live a little longer than those who do not volunteer, according to a research review of more than 50 studies. And you already know that getting greens (and reds and yellows) in your diet provides essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients to keep you healthy and reduce your risk of disease. But get this: People who ate seven daily servings of fruits and veggies were found to have the highest levels of happiness and mental health, a new study showed. More research is needed, but consider these findings another reason to increase your produce intake in 2013.

To cut down on alcohol ... keep a drink diary.

You know that tracking what you eat in a food journal can help control calorie intake; tracking alcohol works, too. One drink a day for women, and two for men, may help protect your heart. But heavy drinking — defined for women as more than three drinks on any day or more than seven a week, and for men, more than four on any day or more than 14 a week — can hurt your heart and liver and increase your risk of depression and cancer. New research suggests that alcohol dependence shortens life more than smoking, especially for women. To slow consumption, write down each drink — before you drink it — on a card in your wallet, in a note on your smartphone, on a kitchen calendar, wherever works.

To sleep soundly ... turn your tablet off.

Almost 40% of Americans report having a computer in their bedroom, and 3% say they leave it on all night, according to the latest National Sleep Foundation poll. Bad idea if you want a good night’s rest. Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute looked at the effects of light from tablets (which make it easy to Web-surf from bed). They found that two hours of exposure at night significantly lowered levels of the hormone melatonin, which regulates our internal clocks and plays a role in the sleep cycle. To help you sleep well, your bedroom should be quiet, dark and free of distractions.

To prevent heart disease ... check your blood pressure.

Taking your blood pressure may not rank near the top of your to-do list, but research shows it should: At age 45, the estimated lifetime risk for cardiovascular disease was more than 60% for men and about 55% for women, reveals new research in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Even more sobering: People in good health without major risk factors were still found to have a 30% chance of developing the condition.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the U.S., and high blood pressure is a major risk factor. One in three Americans have it, yet about 20% don’t know it. Adults should have their blood pressure screened at least every two years. If it’s high, you can take steps to manage it, such as cutting salt, working out or taking medication.

Each week, USA WEEKEND brings you fresh advice from The Doctors, an Emmy-winning daytime TV show with pediatrician Jim Sears, OB-GYN Lisa Masterson, ER physician Travis Stork and plastic surgeon Andrew Ordon. Check local listings.

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