We are all busy, and even though our health is important to us, we often have many competing activities that cause us to neglect our health care.

There are several obvious actions that can dramatically improve health. Some are easy to do; some are a little more difficult, but the benefits for your health and the health of those around you are worth considering.

First, a most serious habit is tobacco use. If you don’t use it, don’t start. The bad effects of tobacco on health are well known. Most people know also that tobacco use is an addiction that is difficult to break. It is a terrible choice to start this habit and an unfortunate situation once it has been established.

Nevertheless, it is especially important for leaders to urge Soldiers to quit, because the Army has high rates of tobacco use. Kenner Army Health Clinic offers Tobacco Cessation Classes, with new classes starting the first Wednesday of every month. Call (804) 734-9249 or 734-9245 for more information and to sign up for the next available class offering.

Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Current statistics show that 39 percent of Soldiers eat fruit less than three times a week, and 26 percent eat vegetables less than three times a week. To really maximize the benefit of eating fruits and vegetables, concentrate on the yellow, orange and red fruits and the green, leafy vegetables. They will help reduce cancer risks, keep blood pressure down and improve gastrointestinal health, to name just a few of the many health benefits they provide.

Walking or exercising for 30 minutes every day is the third excellent habit to implement. The benefits of regular exercise are well known, and studies that concentrate on walking have shown that walking is linked to reductions in premature death when compared with sedentary people. Walks can be relaxing and help reduce stress. Health promotion experts often say that you should walk your dog once a day whether you have a dog or not.

Last recommendation: drink alcoholic beverages in moderation. Five or more drinks for men and four or more for women on one occasion are considered heavy drinking. Currently, 25 percent of Soldiers self-report as heavy drinkers. A little moderation in the amount of alcohol consumed can have a big impact on your health. Heavy drinking is associated with a wide range of health problems from auto accidents to liver disease.

A recently published study in England demonstrated that individuals aged 45 to 79 who practiced these four health habits lived 14 years longer than those who didn’t have any of the four habits.

The findings were published online in Public Library of Science Medicine, http://medicine.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pmed.0050012.