December 30, 2003 11:00 pm

As the clock ticks steadily toward 2004, it's time to put together the list of new year's resolutions. People should not develop such a long list of promises that they, their friends and family know they will never be able to keep them. How about a package of simple resolutions that relate to your health?

Much ado was made earlier this month about the shortage of flu vaccine in America. Panic set in among some people when they realized they could not immediately get the protection a flu shot can offer.

Drs. Greg Nigh and Greg Eckel, writing recently in The Oregonian, suggested a vaccination is not the only way to reduce the risk of catching the flu. A shot can be effective, but a "strong immune system combined with a healthier lifestyle and well-managed levels of stress also lower the risk of infection," they wrote.

Here are some resolutions that will help in the quest to avoid the flu:

• Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated is essential for normal function and for flushing the system.

• Get sufficient rest. The one exception might be tonight, when people stay up beyond midnight to ring in the new year. Remember, however, that some of the best football bowl games do not start until mid-morning or later. Sleep in as long as you can.

• Exercise. A brisk walk around the neighborhood is one of the best ways to stay active. "Oh sure," you say, "look at the snow on the ground. Who wants to walk on that?" Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or a stationary bicycle are good alternatives when a walk on the sidewalk might lead to slipping and falling.

• Reduce stress. Relax a little more and try to identify those things that are sure to cause stress. If the key stresser is a person, ask him or her to cool their heels a little more in 2004.

• Don't overeat. Nigh and Eckel suggest that succumbing to the temptation to gorge will take a toll on overall immunity. Eating sensibly can bring the added benefit of shedding a few pounds in coming months.

Keeping resolutions like these can lead to a healthier and happier life in the new year.


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