Update: I just read an article called "10 Gifts of Good Health to Give Yourself -- and Your Family" by Dr. Nancy Snyderman in the December issue of Good Housekeeping. I was so impressed with the idea that I would like to use some of her suggestions, with a little of my spin, for today's column. Here goes:

Gift No. 1: Eat more fruits and vegetables. The Food Guide Pyramid suggests from four to six servings of vegetables and three to five servings of fruits each day, and the American Cancer Society suggests at least five servings from these two groups each day (a serving is equivalent to a piece of fruit or about a half cup of veggies).Snyderman suggested slicing up veggies such as carrots, celery and bell peppers for after-school snacks, and keeping fruits such as bananas apples and oranges in a bowl on the kitchen counter where they can be easily seen. Even dried fruits like prunes and apricots can be used for a healthful snack to replace cookies, crackers and chips.

Gift No. 2: Begin or maintain an exercise program. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimate that 250,000 deaths per year in the United States can be attributed to lack of regular physical activity, and many studies show that active and fit people have protection from many of the degenerative diseases such as heart disease, cancer, hypertension, and adult-onset diabetes. The newest guidelines say that every American should accumulate 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity over the course of most days of the week.

Snyderman pointed out that many gymnasiums now cater to families, offering affordable memberships, on-site baby-sitting and even exercise classes for kids. Look for a health club that's close to work or home with hours that fit your schedule, or set up some equipment in your family room or basement and begin working out regularly.

Gift No. 3: Consider taking supplements. Snyderman mentions that most cardiologists she knows take vitamin E. She also suggests that all women of child-bearing age take folic acid to decrease the risk of neural tube defects. She also suggests extra calcium to keep bones strong and healthy. "Feed your family a diet rich in green vegetables (i.e. kale, broccoli, collard greens) and dairy products (low-fat).

Gift No. 4: Avoid harmful sun rays. I have discussed this issue several times in the past; skin cancer is the fastest growing cancer in the country. She suggests that you "slather" sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection (and with an SPF of at least 15) the year around. Consider wearing sunglasses to decrease the risk of cataracts.

Gift No. 5: Check with your doctor. Every adult should have a relationship with a physician, as well as frequent screenings. For women, annual mammograms are the norm after age 40, with regular Pap smears. Both men and women should be screened for colon cancer starting at age 50, and cholesterol screening should be every 5 years. Men should be sure to have the prostate checked regularly. Ask your doctor for other checkups you may need.

Your health is critically important. This is a great time to make some changes.

Garth Fisher is director of the Human Performance Research Center at Brigham Young University.