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 »

The secret to an easier allergy season

Pretreating allergies before the season starts will lead to better control of symptoms and may prevent symptoms from showing up. This is partly because some drugs, such as corticosteroid nasal sprays, take a few weeks to become fully effective. It’s also because the reaction to even a few allergens has a snowball effect. Only certain allergy medications should be used in advance, including corticosteroid nasal sprays and antihistamines. But antihistamines can sometimes cause drowsiness, which can lead to falls, so they are not recommended for older adults. More »

Online hospital ratings: Are they helpful?

Online hospital reviews can provide helpful information. But the information they provide is sometimes incomplete, conflicting, or confusing. People should review several different online sites and recognize that there is no clear definition of what constitutes ideal hospital care. Hospital rating sites may be most useful in unusual situations in which people are unfamiliar with the available options—for example, if they have recently moved, are traveling, or are advising a loved one from afar. Otherwise, a recommendation from a trusted physician should suffice.  (Locked) More »