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

Abdominal fat and what to do about it

Though the term might sound dated, "middle-age spread" is a greater concern than ever. As people go through their middle years, their proportion of fat to body weight tends to increase — more so in women than men. Extra pounds tend to park themselves around the midsection. At one time, we might have accepted these changes as an inevitable fact of aging. But we've now been put on notice that as our waistlines grow, so do our health risks. Abdominal, or visceral, fat is of particular concern because it's a key player in a variety of health problems — much more so than subcutaneous fat, the kind you can grasp with your hand. Visceral fat, on the other hand, lies out of reach, deep within the abdominal cavity, where it pads the spaces between our abdominal organs. Visceral fat has been linked to metabolic disturbances and increased risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. In women, it is also associated with breast cancer and the need for gallbladder surgery. More »

Emergencies and First Aid - Recovery Position

This position helps a semiconscious or unconscious person breathe and permits fluids to drain from the nose and throat so they are not breathed in. If the person is unconscious or semiconscious after you have done everything on the Emergency Checklist, move the person into the recovery position while waiting for help to arrive. Do not use the recovery position if the person has a major injury, such as a back or neck injury More »

Specialists

As medical knowledge has become greater, doctors have formed various specialties. In addition, other health professional fields have been created. Here is some information about physician specialists, and other specialists, and what they do. Physicians that choose to train for a specialty complete additional training. After (typically) 4 years of medical school, they go on to internship and residency, which can take anywhere from 1-5 years (depending on the kind of residency training). Then, they go on for still more training in a specialty, which adds several more years. After completing training in a specialty, physicians take examinations to become "board-certified" in their specialty. Many of these subspecialties have formal certification requirements. Those who have certificates in subspecialties (such as cardiology) were first certified in a specialty (such as internal medicine).  More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Rash

How long have you had the rash? Where did it start? Has it spread? Is the rash only on parts of your skin that have been exposed to the sun? Does it itch or hurt? Is the rash red, pink, or purple? Is the rash smooth or bumpy? Have you had sores in your mouth, eyes, or other mucous membranes? Have you had blisters on your skin? Have you had trouble breathing? Have you had a fever? Have you symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection (for example, a cold)? Have you had vomiting or diarrhea? Are you taking any prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, herbs, or supplements? Did you start any of them in the past two months? Have you had any new exposures to foods or chemicals? Any exposure to insects? Have you had any recent sun exposure? Temperature Examination of your skin, mouth, eyes, mucous membranes, lymph nodes, liver, and spleen Skin scrapings for microscopic analysis or culture (if the rash looks infectious) Complete blood cell count or other blood tests (if you appear sick or have a fever) Skin biopsy   More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections

With each of the bladder or urinary tract infections that you have you had, as far back as you can remember: What were the dates of each? Was a urine culture done to prove you had an infection? What treatment was given, and how quickly did you get better? Did you have a fever, pain in your back, or nausea and vomiting? Have you ever been told that you have abnormalities in the way your kidneys or bladder, or the tubes connecting them, are built? Do you frequently develop bladder or urinary tract infections after sexual intercourse? Do you have any chronic medical problems (for example, diabetes or neurological disease)? Are you on any antibiotics to prevent recurrent bladder or urinary tract infections? If so, which one? If you are a woman, what type of contraception do you use (for example, a diaphragm, spermicide)? Abdominal exam Genital exam Back exam for the presence of tenderness in the area of the kidneys Clean-catch urine specimen for urinalysis and culture Ultrasound of the bladder Full pelvic/renal ultrasound Abdominal CT scan Cystourethrogram   More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Sarcoidosis

Have you had difficulty breathing? For how long? How far can you walk without feeling winded? Do you ever have chest pain or tightness? If yes, is it related to activity? Have you had a persistent cough? If yes, is your cough dry or do you produce sputum? Do you suffer from fatigue or malaise? Have you had any fevers? Have you recently lost weight? If so, how much? Do you have pain in your joints, bones, or muscles? Have you noticed any lumps in your neck, armpits, or groin? Have you noticed any rashes or changes in your skin? Have you had blurry vision or watery eyes? Have you ever had red or painful eyes or a past diagnosis of uveitis? Do you smoke cigarettes? Have you had an abnormal chest x-ray in the past? Do you have a family history of sarcoidosis? Are you taking any medications? Have you ever been on steroids or any other treatment for you sarcoidosis? Temperature, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, blood pressure, heart rate Heart and lung exam Joint exam Skin exam Lymph node exam Plain chest x-ray Chest CT scan Pulmonary function tests Bronchoscopy with lung biopsy Blood tests Formal eye exam   More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Shingles

Do you have a history of chicken pox? Does your skin hurt, itch, or feel numb? Is the pain sharp, dull, or piercing? How long have you had it? Do you have a rash? If so, for how long? Is the rash in more than one place on your skin? Is the rash on one side of your body only? Has the rash at any time looked like small blisters? Do you still have pain even if the rash is gone? What triggers the pain (for example, a light touch)? Do your symptoms interfere with your ability to sleep or perform activities of daily living? Are you taking any medications? Skin exam almost always confirms the diagnosis Skin scraping to examine under the microscope, or for viral culture, immunofluorescence, or polymerase chain reaction testing (rarely needed)   More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Spinal Stenosis

Where is the pain in your back? Does it radiate to your legs? Is it worse when you walk? Does the pain from walking occur suddenly or gradually? Is it relieved by standing? Is it relieved by sitting or lying down? What bothers you more, the pain in your back or the pain in your legs? Does the pain worsen when you cough or sneeze? Do you have numbness or decreased sensation in your legs? Have you had problems with your balance? Have you had any changes or difficulty in your ability to urinate? How long have you had the pain? Is it getting worse? How much does it limit your usual activities? How is your quality of life affected by the pain? Have you ever had spinal surgery? Have you ever injured your back? Have you ever had hip surgery? Do you have diabetes? Do you have poor circulation, such as peripheral artery disease? Do you have foot ulcers? Have you ever had vascular surgery? Do you have any sort of neuropathy (nerve damage)? What are you doing to treat the pain? Have you seen a physical therapist? Are you interested in an injection of a cortisone-like medication into your back? Do you know anything about this procedure? Spine Hip Pulses in the feet, behind the knee and in the groin Neurologic exam X-rays of the spine CT scans of the spine MRI scans of the spine   More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Thrombocytopenia

What medications do you take (including over-the-counter drugs and herbal remedies)? Have you been ill recently? What other medical problems do you have? Could you be pregnant? Have you ever been tested for HIV? Have you had fever? Have you had rashes? Have you had diarrhea? Have you had abdominal pain? Have you had headache? Have you had neurologic symptoms? Have you been lightheaded? Have you been short of breath with minimal exertion? Have you had chest pain or pressure? Have you had a cough? Do you have any bruises or nosebleeds? Do your gums bleed when you brush your teeth? If you are a woman, have you had unusually heavy menstrual periods? How long have you had symptoms? Does anyone else in your family have low platelets? How many alcoholic beverages do you drink in an average week? Eyes Mouth Heart Lungs Abdomen Skin Blood tests, which might include complete blood count with microscopic evaluation, kidney function tests, liver function tests, antinuclear antibody, an HIV test Bone marrow biopsy   More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Vaginitis

How long have you had this vaginal discomfort? Does it itch or burn? Do you have vaginal discharge? Does it have a bad odor? What is the consistency? Are you pregnant? Are you sexually active? Is sexual intercourse painful? Do you have pain or burning with urination? Are you urinating more frequently? Do you have urinary incontinence? Are you post-menopausal? Do you have vaginal dryness? Do you have diabetes? Have you recently taken antibiotics or corticosteroids? Is your immune system suppressed in any way? Do you take birth-control pills? Do you wear tight pants or synthetic fabrics (nylon)? (These are all predisposing factors for yeast infections). Have you or your partner ever had a sexually transmitted disease? Do you have fevers, chills, abdominal pain, joint pain, or a rash? Abdominal examination Pelvic examination Sample of the vaginal discharge to examine under a microscope (wet smear) Cultures of the vaginal discharge   More »