EACH YEAR quitting smoking and losing weight are the most popular resolutions for the new year, but the American Institute for Preventive Medicine says learning to relax is also important in helping more Americans see more years.
The number one item on the institute's seventh annual "Top Ten Healthiest Resolutions" list is stress management.
Stress is responsible for two thirds of all office visits to doctors and plays a role in our two major killers -- heart disease and cancer. It's recommended that people practice a relaxation exercise, such as mental imagery, meditation or yoga for at least 20 minutes every day.
The institute in Southfield, Mich., which conducts wellness programs at companies and hospitals, has determined that adopting all the resolutions on this year's list could add 20 years to the lives of men and 17 years to the lives of women.
Number two and a new item on the list is practicing safe sex. The need for this resolution was underscored by Magic Johnson's contraction of HIV. In 1992, approximately 57,000 Americans will die from AIDS.
Number three is stop smoking, which has appeared on the list every year since its inception. This year, however, there is something new to help smokers kick the habit . . . the nicoderm skin patch to help minimize the craving and withdrawal symptoms associated with smoking cessation.
The fourth resolution, and another new one for the list, is to avoid second-hand smoke. Recent studies show that it can cause lung cancer and heart disease in non-smokers.
Here are the remaining six resolutions.
* Develop a social support network. Studies show that people who
have supportive friends and relatives get sick less often.
* Be active. Devote 20 minutes, three times a week, to an aerobic activity such as walking, jogging, bicycling or swimming.
* Control consumption of cholesterol and saturated fat. The typical American diet is too rich for our blood.
* Limit your intake of red meat, eggs and cheese.
* Moderate alcohol use. Of the 10 leading causes of death in the United States, alcohol is a contributing factor in six of them.
* Have a sense of purpose. People with a sense of purpose in life can live longer. Set both short- and long-term goals.