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In 2016, Take Charge of Your Health

Even in a new era of medical technology, you still have to take care of yourself

Health advisory

Ariel Skelley/Getty Images

Find a doctor that you can trust.

En español | Renowned biomedical researcher, oncologist and best-selling author David Agus is not one to shy away from controversy. In fact, his stances on personal responsibility — most notably that the power to prevent many types of cancer lies within us — have earned him a reputation as a straight talker when it comes to health. 

With the publication of his new book, The Lucky Years: How to Thrive in the Brave New World of Health (available January 5), Agus takes his mantra of personal responsibility to the next level while celebrating what he calls "a new era" in medical technology. "We have the ability to harness the immune system to attack cancer," Agus tells AARP. "We can choose which drugs work for which patients. New advances are coming every day." Here, Agus shares with us what you can do to make 2016 your healthiest year ever. 

Prevent and delay disease. Some cures are around the corner, but they're not quite here yet. That's why we have to prevent and delay disease as long as possible. I take a baby aspirin and a statin every day. So does my wife [actress Amy Povich]. The data is overwhelming: Aspirin reduces the risk of death from cancer by 30 percent. Statins can delay and prevent heart disease. At the same time, there's been no study to show a benefit for taking any vitamin or supplement. 

Get real. About 67 percent of Americans are overweight or obese — but only 36 percent admit it. That means the others are either in denial or don't know they're overweight because they've lost perspective. We need to eat real food in moderation. Avoid artificial sweeteners. And stop grazing — our bodies were not designed to eat all day. 

Find a doctor you trust. Most of the time in medicine, there is no black-and-white answer, though there are shades of gray. Great doctors can't always tell you why they want to try one treatment over another, but you have to trust them. 

Move all day long. Our bodies work best when they move. When you sit all day, you negate all the benefits of exercise. In fact, sitting for five hours is the equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes. Reengineer your life so you incorporate movement into your day every hour. 

Take more vacations — but don't retire. The data clearly shows that downtime improves knowledge and memory. We all need time to relax and de-stress. Even so, every year you delay retirement, you reduce your risk of getting Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia by 3 percent. When it comes to your brain, if you don't use it, you'll lose it.

(Video) The AARP 15-Minute Workout: This quick interval routine will get you started on your journey to be fit and healthy.