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

Emergencies and First Aid - Bleeding

While a minor cut will eventually stop bleeding, a severe injury may require elevation and direct pressure on the wound. The goals of first-aid treatment are to control bleeding and prevent infection. If disposable surgical gloves are readily available, use them. Butterfly Bandages How to Stop a Nosebleed More »

Emergencies and First Aid - Heimlich Maneuver on a Child

Stand behind the child. With your arms around his or her waist, form a fist with one hand and place it, thumb side in, between the ribs and waistline. Grab your fist with your other hand. Keeping your arms off the child's rib cage, give four quick inward and upward thrusts. You may have to repeat this several times until the obstructing object is coughed out.     More »

Emergencies and First Aid - Heimlich Maneuver on an Adult

If the person is sitting or standing, stand behind him or her. Form a fist with one hand and place your fist, thumb side in, just below the person'’s rib cage in the front. Grab your fist with your other hand. Keeping your arms off the person’'s rib cage, give four quick inward and upward thrusts. You may have to repeat this several times until the obstructing object is coughed out. If the person is lying down or unconscious, straddle him or her and place the heel of your hand just above the waistline. Place your other hand on top of this hand. Keeping your elbows straight, give four quick upward thrusts. You may have to repeat this procedure several times until the obstructing object is coughed out.     More »

Emergencies and First Aid - Heimlich Maneuver on an Infant

1 Place the infant face down across your forearm (resting your forearm on your leg) and support the infant'’s head with your hand. Give four forceful blows to the back with the heel of your hand. You may have to repeat this several times until the obstructing object is coughed out. 2 If this does not work, turn the baby over. With two fingers one finger width below an imaginary line connecting the nipples, give four forceful thrusts to the chest to a depth of 1 inch. You may have to repeat this several times until the obstructing object is coughed out.     More »

Grapefruit and medication: A cautionary note

Grapefruit and grapefruit juice are healthful, providing enough vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber, and other nutrients to earn the American Heart Association's "heart-check" mark. That's the good news. The bad news is that grapefruit juice can interact with dozens of medications, sometimes dangerously. Doctors are not sure which of the hundreds of chemicals in grapefruit are responsible. The leading candidate is furanocoumarin. It is also found in Seville (sour) oranges and tangelos; although these fruits have not been studied in detail, the guidelines for grapefruit should apply to them as well. Grapefruit's culprit chemical does not interact directly with your pills. Instead, it binds to an enzyme in your intestinal tract known as CYP3A4, which reduces the absorption of certain medications. When grapefruit juice blocks the enzyme, it's easier for the medication to pass from your gut to your bloodstream. Blood levels will rise faster and higher than normal, and in some cases the abnormally high levels can be dangerous. More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - After a Heart Attack

Have you had chest pain or pressure since you were discharged from the hospital? How severe is it? How long does it last? Does it stay in your chest or radiate to other parts of your body? Did you have this pain before your heart attack? What brings it on? How frequently do you get it? What were you doing just prior to the chest pain? Do you ever get chest pain or pressure at rest? What relieves the chest pain? If you take nitroglycerin, how many doses do you usually need to take before the pain goes away? How often do you take nitroglycerin? Do you get short of breath when you lie down or exert yourself? Do you awaken in the middle of the night short of breath? Do your ankles swell? Do you ever feel lightheaded? Have you fainted? Do you get rapid or pounding heartbeat for no reason? Do you know what each of the medications you are taking does? Do you know the side effects of each medication? Are you having any side effects? Are you taking an aspirin every day? Are you doing everything you can to modify the risk factors that can worsen your coronary artery disease (cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes are the most important risk factors)? Are you participating in a supervised exercise program? Are you resuming your normal activities? Are you sexually active? Have you returned to work? Have you been feeling depressed since your heart attack? Have you been able to reduce the stress in your life? Have you been fatigued? Heart rate, blood pressure, and weight Pulses in your wrist, groin, and feet Listen over the major arteries in the neck, groin, and feet (for abnormal noises) Look at the veins in the neck to see if there is extra fluid in your body Heart and lungs Ankles and legs (for swelling) Blood tests for glucose, lipid panel (cholesterol levels) and C-reactive protein (CRP) Electrocardiogram Echocardiogram Exercise stress test   More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Colonic Polyps

Do you have a family history of colonic polyps? Do you have bleeding from the rectum or bloody stools? Do you frequently have rectal pain or the sensation of needing to have a bowel movement? Do you have anemia (low blood count)? Do you have a family history of colon cancer? Abdominal exam Rectal exam Stool testing for blood Complete blood count Sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy, possibly with a biopsy or removal of a polyp (if one is found)   More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Crohn's Disease

Do you have abdominal pain or cramping? Do you have diarrhea, fevers, fatigue, rectal pain, or bloody stools? Have you recently lost weight? Is there a family history of inflammatory bowel disease? How many times a year do you get pain flare-ups? Do you have episodes of joint pain or swelling? Are you taking any medications? Temperature, blood pressure, heart rate Careful abdominal exam Rectal exam Sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy Stool sample to look for the presence of blood, white blood cells, and to culture Complete blood count and other blood tests CT scan or MRI of the abdomen   More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Do you get a burning sensation in your chest or throat after eating? Do you ever have a bitter or sour taste in your mouth? Do you ever have bloating or nausea after you eat? How often do you get these symptoms? What do you do to relieve the symptoms? Are the symptoms related to physical exertion? Are the symptoms worse when you are lying down or sitting up? Have you noticed any black stools? Do you have a persistent cough? Do you have a history of ulcer disease? Are you taking any medications, especially ones that can irritate the esophagus or stomach, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen or tetracycline? Do you drink alcohol or smoke? How soon after you eat at night do you go to bed? Have you tried any over-the-counter medications? If so, do they help? Chest and lung exam Abdominal exam Upper endoscopy (internal examination of the esophagus and stomach) pH probe (to assess the acid level in the esophagus and stomach) Manometry (to measure the pressure of the sphincter between the esophagus and the stomach) Stool testing for blood Complete blood cell count   More »