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

Calcium and Vitamin D: Necessary for Bone Health?

Recently, news stories reported that studies found that daily calcium and vitamin D supplements may not help older women protect their bones or prevent colon cancer — at least not as much as we thought they would. Researchers for the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) looked at more than 36,000 healthy women ages 50–79. Half of the women took 1,000 mg of elemental calcium and 400 IU of vitamin D each day. The other half took a sugar pill (placebo). After seven years, the women taking the supplements showed slightly better bone density in their hips. They also had fewer hip fractures, but the results could have occurred by chance: Protection against hip fractures, a key goal of improving bone density, was not proven. So, should women ditch their TUMS, calcium chews, and vitamin-D–fortified dairy foods? More »

Microwaving food in plastic: Dangerous or not?

Let's cover the original misinformation first: The earliest missives warned that microwaved plastic releases cancer-causing chemicals called dioxins into food. The problem with that warning is that plastics don't contain dioxins. They are created when garbage, plastics, metals, wood, and other materials are burned. As long as you don't burn your food in a microwave, you aren't exposing yourself to dioxins. There's no single substance called "plastic." That term covers many materials made from an array of organic and inorganic compounds. Substances are often added to plastic to help shape or stabilize it. Two of these plasticizers are BPA and phthalates are believed to be "endocrine disrupters." These are substances that mimic human hormones, and not for the good. More »

Emergencies and First Aid - Choking

A person who is choking will instinctively grab at the throat. The person also may panic, gasp for breath, turn blue, or be unconscious. If the person can cough or speak, he or she is getting air. Nothing should be done. Immediate careIf the person cannot cough or speak, begin the Heimlich maneuver immediately to dislodge the object blocking the windpipe. The Heimlich maneuver creates an artificial cough by forcing the diaphragm up toward the lungs. If you are choking and alone, you can perform the Heimlich maneuver on yourself by giving yourself abdominal thrusts. Or position yourself over the back of a chair or against a railing or counter and press forcefully enough into it so that the thrust dislodges the object. More »

Emergencies and First Aid - Emergency Phone Numbers

Write down important telephone numbers and post them where you can refer to them easily, such as near your telephone or on your refrigerator. List the serious medical conditions (such as asthma or diabetes) of each family member on the back of the list. Teach your children how to call 911 and tell them to show the list to emergency medical personnel. The list should include the phone numbers of the police, the nearest fire department, ambulance services, a poison control center, and your doctors and the contact numbers for work, other locations, and a nearby relative or friend. You may also wish to include the phone numbers of the gas and electric companies, your children’s schools, the local pharmacy, or home health aides. More »

Emergencies and First Aid - Medical Identification Tags

A person with a serious medical condition such as diabetes, a drug allergy, or a heart condition should carry information about the condition on a necklace or bracelet, or on a card that can be carried in a pocket or wallet, so that proper care can be given in an emergency. Be sure to check for a medallion or card if you find yourself in the role of rescuer. If you or a member of your family has a life-threatening medical condition, obtain a medical identification tag or medallion from your local pharmacy and wear it at all times. More »

Emergencies and First Aid - Removing a Fishhook

Never remove a fishhook that is embedded in the eye or face; seek medical attention immediately to have it removed. A fishhook embedded in skin should be removed by a doctor. If you are in a remote area and a doctor is not available, remove the fishhook following the directions in the illustration below. If the fishhook is embedded deeply in tissue, follow the instructions below for a multibarbed fishhook. A multibarbed fishhook should ideally be removed by a physician. If this is not possible, cut the eye off the shank of the hook, and then push the shank of the hook through the wound, following the path of the hook until the barbs exit and can be grasped with pliers. Flush the area well with running water, clean it with soap and water, and cover it with a bandage. Wrap the other end of the string several times around the index finger of your other hand (use your thumb to hold the loose end of the string tightly) (2). More »

Emergencies and First Aid - Removing a Speck From the Eye

Occasionally, an eyelash or speck of dirt gets into the eye and causes irritation. If tears that form do not wash out the object, it can sometimes be removed by pulling the upper eyelid down over the lower eyelid. The lashes of the lower eyelid may brush out any foreign object that is caught under the upper lid. If this does not work, try either of the procedures described below. Place a cotton-tipped swab behind the upper eyelid and carefully roll the eyelid back onto it. If you can see the object, remove it with the moistened end of another cotton swab or a facial tissue. More »

Emergencies and First Aid - Removing a Stuck Ring

1 Pass an end of fine string or dental floss under the ring. With the other end, begin tightly wrapping the string around the finger. Ensure that the string is wrapped evenly and smoothly past the lower knuckle. 2 With the end that was passed under the ring, begin unwrapping the string in the same direction. The ring should move over the string as the string is unwrapped. If the ring cannot be removed, unwrap the string and immediately seek urgent care.     More »

Hospital report cards: Making the grade

Will a click of the mouse replace word of mouth when it comes to picking a hospital? These days, hospitals — like students — have to worry about getting a bad report card. Employer groups, health insurers, government agencies, and even newspapers are amassing mountains of data about them, crunching the numbers, and assigning scores and rankings. Several private companies have turned the collecting and assembling of hospital data for public consumption into a nice little business. Patients and their families are increasingly expected to act like savvy shoppers, making smart choices based on all this computerized wisdom. That's the idea, anyway. Reality isn't quite so simple. There's no easy way to summarize quality. You get at it indirectly through what can be measured; but the individual measurements have problems. Mortality rates must be adjusted to take into account how sick patients were to begin with, and adjustment formulas vary. Patient volume is often used to judge quality because it's easy to calculate. Studies have shown an association between volume and better outcomes, but it's not a perfect correlation by any means. Any overall grade is based on assumptions about the relative importance of individual measurements — assumptions that are open to question. More »