Like many Americans, you may have started January with a list of resolutions aimed at improving your health. While focusing on a healthy diet, regular exercise, and actions that will keep your stress in check are smart moves, you should also consider a few measures that may seem less obvious. 

Here, from the experts, are five important healthy steps to take this month. They’ll benefit you all year long.

Make Sure Your Docs Take Your Insurance

If you’ve changed insurers, you’ve probably already checked to see whether your regular doctors accept your new coverage.

But in some cases, an insurer’s network of doctors can change somewhat from year to year. So call the billing office of your primary care doctor and any specialists that you see regularly to ensure that they are in your network.

And be specific in your questioning. “It’s not enough to ask if they work with your insurance company; you have to see if they’re on your specific plan, whose networks can change from year to year,” says Orly Avitzur, M.D., Consumer Reports’ medical director.

If you learn that a doctor no longer accepts your plan—particularly for a specialty that’s underrepresented in your insurance network—you might request that your insurer add the physician to its roster. Another option is to ask the physician’s office to discount the price of its non-insured rate. (Get more cost-saving tips from Consumer Reports here.) And if neither of these steps works for you, seek out doctors who are on your plan. You’ll find our expert tips here.

Schedule All Your Annual Screenings

Mammograms, colorectal cancer screenings, adult vaccines. You may think you know when to have these screening tests and vaccinations (based on what you’ve done in the past), but the recommendations can evolve as new evidence emerges.

What’s right for you can also change based on factors such as age and new personal or family health concerns.

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So this month, review what you should be doing, and schedule the screening tests and immunizations you will need throughout the year. When you’re scheduling screening tests, keep in mind that there are some you may not need. For instance, the Choosing Wisely campaign warns against routine prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests for prostate cancer and pap smears for low-risk women older than 65.

You can check Consumer Reports’ health checklists for men and women, which list recommended screening tests and vaccinations based on age. You can also find immunization schedules on the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or search for the screening tests that are appropriate for you on the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force website.

(And if you haven’t gotten your flu shot this year yet, take that healthy step—it’s not too late. Check here to see which flu vaccine is right for you.)  

Go Through Your Medicines

A Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs nationally representative survey of 1,006 American adults found that about one-third of Americans haven’t cleaned out their medicine cabinets in a year or longer.

But holding onto unused prescriptions can be problematic. Some lose potency or become unsafe to take once they expire. Others might tempt a family member or guest—even a child—to take them.

“A prescription is made for you, for a specific condition and taking into account your allergies and other medicines,” says Vandana Bhide, M.D., an internist at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla.

Bhide says she has seen many cases of teenage children or their friends misappropriating leftover opioid pain medications and spouses popping a few leftover antibiotics. Unnecessary antibiotic use can contribute to antibiotic resistance, and taking another person’s opioid painkiller, whether intentionally or accidentally, can even lead to overdose

To dispose of unused medicines properly, you can often simply take them back to the pharmacy (remove labels to protect your privacy). If you’re unsure which pharmacies or other nearby facilities accept medications, check or the Drug Enforcement Administration website (search for “drug disposal”). See additional advice from Consumer Reports on safe drug disposal here.

And take this healthy step: Store current medications properly, keeping them in a cool, dry, secure spot where youngsters can’t access them, such as a high kitchen cabinet away from hot appliances. 

Organize Your Medical Records

Patient portals, which are password-protected websites, allow you to view a portion of your electronic health records. But it’s wise to put together a personal health record (PHR) so that you have all your key medical information in one place, whether that’s in a three-ring binder at home, securely on your personal computer, or in the cloud. 

And the new year is the perfect time for this healthy step, Avitzur says. Include diagnoses, medical test results, surgical and pathology reports, and all medications (with drug names, dosage, how often you take them, and contacts for prescribing doctors). Ask for a copy of your record after each doctor’s visit or procedure. 

Note that it’s easiest to get copies of results shortly after you have medical tests, but you can collect any you’re missing by contacting the lab or imaging center and signing a release. You might have to wait a few days for them to make the records available. 

Online PHR services, including some that are free, are also available. Get more information on these services from, a government site. And before you sign on, read the service’s privacy policies carefully to ensure that you’re comfortable with the way it safeguards your personal information. 

Put Together or Update Legal Documents

Everyone, regardless of age or health status, should draw up, sign, and notarize the legal papers that ensure that their wishes will be carried out if they’re unable to make medical decisions for themselves, Bhide says.

“Too often, we see that decisions can’t be made about someone’s treatment because no one was legally designated to speak for the person, and family members can’t agree,” she notes.

Crucial documents include an advance healthcare directive (also called a living will), which describes what you would want in the event of a life-threatening injury or illness, and a medical power of attorney (the name varies by state). This designates who your decision-maker will be.

Hospitals sometimes distribute these documents free on request, or you can obtain them from a lawyer or an online legal store. It’s important to revisit these periodically to make sure your wishes haven’t changed, Bhide says. And make sure you have key health documents for your young adult children. Otherwise, you may be shut out of decisions about their care in the event of an emergency.