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

In with the good, out with the bad

Our bodies need protein, carbohydrates, and fat, but some kinds are better for us than others. It's important to eat the right kinds and quantities of these components in order to receive the most benefit from them. More »

Time to fatten up our diets

Doctors and nutritionists have long warned of the dangers of saturated and trans fats. But unsaturated fats are beneficial, particularly if eaten in place of carbohydrates. More »

Repaying your sleep debt

Besides the effets of fatigue and irritability, a sustained sleep defecit can lead to a greater risk of other health problems such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. More »

What the latest diet trial really means

The Atkins diet helped women lose weight more quickly compared to other diets, but long-term eating strategies that match food intake to calories burned are the most effective way to maintain a healthy weight. More »

9 tips for your health and the planet's

A selection of health advice that is also good for the environment, including biking or walking to work, using less energy by going to bed earlier, setting the thermostat a little higher, and buying locally grown produce when possible. More »

New view of heart disease in women

A landmark study found that women are susceptible to a different type of heart disease called microvascular dysfunction. It affects both larger and smaller blood vessels, but is not detected by the standard cardiac tests. More »

Lung cancer: Not just for smokers

A small but significant percentage of lung cancer deaths occur in nonsmokers. Research suggests that they may get a different form of the disease than do smokers, one that may respond better to certain medications. More »

Why not flaxseed oil?

While flaxseed oil may seem like a good way to get beneficial omega-3 fats, its healthful effects are not as powerful as they appear. Eating fish is still the best way to get omega-3s. More »