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 »

Abdominal obesity and your health

Excess body fat has serious consequences for health. It' associated with high levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol and triglycerides and low levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol. It impairs the body's responsiveness to insulin, raising blood sugar and insulin levels. Excess body fat contributes to major causes of death and disability, including heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, osteoarthritis, fatty liver, and depression. Faced with these risks, it's no wonder that you want to know how much you should weigh. But this common and important question is actually the wrong question. For health, the issue is not how much you weigh, but how much abdominal fat you have. Methods have changed over the years. But when scientists recognized that what matters is not body weight but body fat, standards began to change. The body mass index (BMI), remains enshrined as the standard way to diagnose overweight and obesity. More »

Atrophic vaginitis can cause itching, burning, and sexual discomfort but treatments are available

Inflamed vaginal tissue may not be something most women want to talk about, but it can be painful and life altering for those who have it. Atrophic vaginitis, the medical term for this condition, occurs as a result of deterioration of the vaginal tissue. It's a common condition in postmenopausal women because as estrogen levels drop, the tissue that lines the vagina becomes thinner and more easily damaged. The top layer of cells is often lost entirely, exposing the layer below, which is more vulnerable to inflammation or infection. Vaginal secretions also decline, which can make intercourse painful. Women with atrophic vaginitis may also experience vaginal itching, burning, frequent urination, or vaginal discharge. Women can treat this condition topically with estrogen creams, tablets (Vagifem), or an estrogen-releasing ring placed in the vagina (Estring). Oral estrogen, available with a doctor's prescription, will also restore vaginal tissue. Vaginal lubricants offer an alternative for women wary of using estrogen. Moisturizers such as Replens, Astroglide, and Lubrin can reduce symptoms and make sexual intercourse more comfortable. They are available over the counter. Sexual activity may also help preserve the vaginal epithelium, presumably by increasing blood flow to the area. A study of 52 postmenopausal women found significantly less vaginal atrophy among those who had intercourse more than 3 times a week than among those who had intercourse less than 10 times per year. Sexual activity also helps maintain an acidic vaginal climate, which offers some protection against infection. 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 »

What to do about excessive sweating?

Sweating that exceeds the needs of the body—medically termed hyperhidrosis—is fairly common, affecting 1%–3% of the population. Hyperhidrosis may be generalized but most often it involves the palms, underarms, feet, and groin; it can take a social toll, making handshaking unpleasant and some handwork impossible. We need sweating to control body temperature; water evaporating from the skin cools the body. Sweating is under the control of the sympathetic nervous system, which orchestrates the body's reaction to stressful situations and emergencies. The sympathetic nervous system activates the sweat glands through the chemical messenger acetylcholine. People with hyperhidrosis produce several times more sweat than normal because they are particularly sensitive to this signal. Hyperhidrosis seems to run in families, but we don't know much more about what causes it. Generalized sweating could be a sign of a hormonal condition, infection, cancer, or anxiety disorder that requires treatment. To be sure, you should see your clinician. Most of the time, though, excessive sweating is not dangerous but simply embarrassing and inconvenient. 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 »