What are the most important health-related resolutions we can make for 2010 and the years after, as well?
On "The Early Show" Thursday, CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton advocated several that people should focus on.
Noting that little things add up to big difference-makers over time, Ashton said her advice would benefit everything from the immune systems to the emotional well-being of anyone following it.
Get enough sleep
"It is one of the most neglected aspects of our health in terms of preventative health," Ashton told co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez. "Few people get the recommended seven-to-nine hours of sleep, and we know that lack of sleep has been linked to a deficient immune system, increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, even certain types of cancers. We see higher cancers on nurses and people who work graveyard shifts and don't get that recommended seven-to-nine hours. This is very important."
What's the best way to keep this resolution? A sleep schedule: "Go to bed and get up at about the same time every day. It will help keep your body on track and help you fall asleep more easily at night. You have to be strict, you have to be very rigid about it.
"In my case," Ashton conceded, "it's at the expense of a social life, but I make sure I get that eight-to-nine hours a night!"
Quit smoking, once and for all
"This is clearly the single most important thing someone can do for their health. If you smoke, stop in 2010. The American Cancer Society has a great program called Quit-For-Life. "You can have help with it. The most important thing, make a plan, set the date about two weeks ahead of time. Have things in place so that, when those obstacles come up, so you know how to deal with them. Get a support group. Even ask your doctor to help you, but it is the most important thing you can do for your health."
Don't set unrealistic diet goals
"This is so easy," Ashton observed. "Don't drink your calories. Obesity and weight is a huge issue in this country. We hear it again and again and again. It is the easiest thing to do to just remove the excess calories from your diet in the form of beverages. So, don't drink anything with calories. While I don't love to advocate diet soda, any way you can cut calories from your beverages, the better. I had a patient who was able to cut 35 pounds in one year just by reducing the amount of calories she was taking in her coffee."
Along with a healthy diet -- exercise, exercise, exercise
"I'm a big advocate of weightlifting," Ashton says. "I think it's great, especially for women, but we can't forget about the cardiovascular exercise. Don't forget about your heart. Do aerobic exercise: I am very BAD at this one! I do a lot of exercise, but it is only weightlifting and, while that's great for bones and for shape, and metabolism, it does nothing for my heart. I am going to try to do cardio twice a week!"