Staying Healthy

Maintaining good health doesn't happen by accident. It requires work, smart lifestyle choices, and the occasional checkup and test.

A healthy diet is rich in fiber, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, "good" or unsaturated fats, and omega-3 fatty acids. These dietary components turn down inflammation, which can damage tissue, joints, artery walls, and organs. Going easy on processed foods is another element of healthy eating. Sweets, foods made with highly refined grains, and sugar-sweetened beverages can cause spikes in blood sugar that can lead to early hunger. High blood sugar is linked to the development of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and even dementia.

The Mediterranean diet meets all of the criteria for good health, and there is convincing evidence that it is effective at warding off heart attack, stroke, and premature death. The diet is rich in olive oil, fruits, vegetables, nuts and fish; low in red meats or processed meats; and includes a moderate amount of cheese and wine.

Physical activity is also necessary for good health. It can greatly reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancer, depression, and falls. Physical activity improves sleep, endurance, and even sex. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week, such as brisk walking. Strength training, important for balance, bone health, controlling blood sugar, and mobility, is recommended 2-3 times per week.

Finding ways to reduce stress is another strategy that can help you stay healthy, given the connection between stress and a variety of disorders. There are many ways to bust stress. Try, meditation, mindfulness, yoga, playing on weekends, and taking vacations.

Finally, establish a good relationship with a primary care physician. If something happens to your health, a physician you know —and who knows you — is in the best position to help. He or she will also recommend tests to check for hidden cancer or other conditions.

Staying Healthy Articles

Avoid workout injuries

You might be focused on outcomes when you exercise: stronger muscles, weight loss, or other aspects of better health and wellness. But if you don't focus on the exercise, and what it takes to do it safely, you may set yourself up for workout injuries. Safe exercise requires planning and careful execution. Start by finding the best exercise for your ability. For example, if you have joint pain, you can avoid workout injuries by choosing exercise that relieves joint pressure, such as swimming or cycling. If you have balance problems, a supervised exercise program with a personal trainer might be a safer bet. Discuss the options with your doctor, a personal trainer, or a friend; and get the okay from your doctor before starting a program, especially if you have heart or lung disease. Getting the right equipment also helps ensure safe exercise. If using hand weights, start with a level that matches your current ability. And choose clothes and shoes designed for your type of exercise. For example, wear reflective clothing if you're going to walk, run, or cycle outside, so you'll be visible to drivers. More »

Home remedies for low back pain

As people enter middle age, they are more likely to experience bouts of low back pain. In fact, according to the Harvard Special Health Report Men's Health: Fifty and Forward, back pain affects about four in five Americans at some point in their lives and equally strikes men and women. Age is often the culprit. Over time, the bones and joints in your lower back begin to change. Your discs (the structures that serve as cushions between the bones in the spine) tend to wear out and sometimes become fragmented. These structural alterations sometimes cause pain. More »

How it’s made: Cholesterol production in your body

Cholesterol has a bad reputation, thanks to its well-known role in promoting heart disease. Excess cholesterol in the bloodstream is a key contributor to artery-clogging plaque, which can accumulate and set the stage for a heart attack. But to fully explain cholesterol, you need to realize that it's also vital to your health and well-being. Although we measure cholesterol production in the blood, it's found in every cell in the body. The Harvard Special Health Report Managing Your Cholesterol explains cholesterol as a waxy, whitish-yellow fat and a crucial building block in cell membranes. It's also used to make vitamin D, hormones (including testosterone and estrogen), and fat-dissolving bile acids. In fact, cholesterol production is so important that your liver and intestines make about 80% of the cholesterol you need to stay healthy. Only about 20% comes from the foods you eat. (See illustration.) More »

3 easy ways to boost your brain

Studies have indicted that caring for a dog, creating art, and spending time with a grandchild can boost different aspects of memory and reasoning. (Locked) More »

Any benefits to intermittent fasting diets?

Intermittent fasting diets, which severely limit calories for one or two days a week (usually to about 600 calories a day), can be effective for short-term weight loss, but the long-term risks and benefits are still unknown. (Locked) More »

Are some painkillers safer for your heart than others?

Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) routinely over a long time period can increase the risk of heart disease. Although this danger is greatest in people with heart disease, it’s also present in people without any signs of the disease. A large study suggested that the prescription-only drug celecoxib might be less risky than two other widely used over-the-counter drugs, ibuprofen and naproxen. But limitations in the study created some uncertainty about the findings. People who take any NSAID should always take the lowest possible dose for the shortest possible time.  More »

Should I stand while I read?

Taking an hourly break from reading a book to walk around or listening to audiobooks while walking can provide the health benefits of book reading without incurring the health risks of prolonged sitting. (Locked) More »

The 4 most important types of exercise

Some aspects of exercise and fitness are ignored. But everyone should do aerobics, stretching, strengthening, and balance exercises. Aerobic exercise has many benefits, such as improving endurance and reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancer, depression, and falls. Strength training builds muscle and bone mass. It helps people remain capable of carrying out daily tasks, such as lifting a bag of groceries. Stretching helps maintain flexibility, which is also important for daily activities, such as bending down to tie a shoelace. Balance exercises help prevent falls. More »

What can you do to avoid Alzheimer’s disease?

It is unclear what causes 99% of Alzheimer’s disease cases. However, evidence suggests that healthy lifestyle choices—such as getting more sleep, exercising, and eating a Mediterranean diet—may help delay or prevent the disease. There is promising but conflicting evidence that other lifestyle choices—such as learning new things, connecting socially, and limiting alcohol intake—may also help prevent or delay Alzheimer’s disease. However, all of these healthy lifestyle choices can help prevent other chronic health problems.  More »