Fix Five Bad Health Habits — Fast!

Nix Bad Habits!Nix Bad Habits!Almost everyone has at least one not-so-stellar health habit: Maybe you've smoked like a chimney since high school, gotten one too many sunburns in your mid-20s, or sworn off milk since the seventh grade. Now you're ready to clean up your act but don't want to slave away at it.

We've got good news for you: Believe it or not, you can undo much of the damage caused by the most common health slip-ups in just two weeks - and with minimal effort.

Follow our doable fast-fix plan, and you'll be well on your way to reclaiming your health and warding off the scariest diseases out there.

  • HEALTH SLIP-UP #1: Splurging
Fix-it time: Two to four weeks
You've returned from a ten-day vacation sporting some extra pounds. The good news: You can burn off those pounds quickly. Stick to a sensible eating plan, take time to enjoy food (i.e. no eating on the run!) and squeeze in a daily dose of dairy to shed pounds fast.

  • HEALTH SLIP-UP #2: Becoming a couch potato
Fix-it time: Visible results within two weeks
Inactivity is linked to heart disease and certain kinds of cancer, but it doesn't take much to whip your body into shape. Make weight training a part of your routine, schedule in time to workout (actually pencil it into your day planner) and slowly adding exercise into your regimen. After two weeks, you'll gain strength; after six weeks, you'll reap cardiovascular benefits.

  • HEALTH SLIP-UP #3: Smoking
Fix-it time: Recovery begins two weeks after you stop
If you think it's too late to undo the damage from smoking, consider this: Two weeks after that last cigarette, the hairs in your trachea responsible for keeping out viruses and bacteria, which had been killed off by smoking, start to regenerate; within one month your ability to smell and taste is enhanced; and within two weeks your lung function increases by up to 10 percent. After a year your risk of heart attack is cut to half that of a smoker. After 10 years, your risk of dying of lung cancer is half that of a smoker. Inspired? Here's how to wean yourself off nicotine.

  • HEALTH SLIP-UP #4: Sun-fried Skin
Fix-it time: Three to six months
Is there anything you can do to reverse all those sunburns? Yes. "Since most of the damage occurs on the superficial layers of the skin," notes Bruce Katz, M.D., director of the JUVA Skin & Laser Center in New York City and associate clinical professor of dermatology at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, "you can reverse up to 90 percent of all sun-damaged cells." Start following this advice, like slapping on the sunscreen and considering a chemical peel, and you'll see results by the fast - and lower your skin cancer risk.

  • HEALTH SLIP-UP #5: Skimping on calcium
Fix-it time: Immediately
You've dissed dairy since the seventh grade, and now you're convinced that you haven't done enough to protect your bones. No need to panic. There's still plenty that you can do to maintain your bone density, says Bess Dawson-Hughes, M.D., a professor of medicine at Tufts University. Get at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily from calcium-rich foods (like nonfat cheese and skim milk) and calcium-enriched juices and cereals. Supplements are OK, too. For the best absorption, break the pill in half (for two 500 mg. doses) and take one half in the morning and the other at night - and make sure the supplement contains vitamin D.


Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.