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

When You Visit Your Doctor - Macular Degeneration

Have you noticed a change in vision in one eye or both? Do you have trouble reading, even with reading glasses? Do you have difficulty seeing fine details? Do you see a gray patch in the middle of the words when you read? Do straight vertical lines appear "wiggly" when you look at them? Is your side or peripheral vision affected? Do you have diabetes? Do you smoke? Do you have a family history of macular degeneration? The inside of your eye, using an ophthalmoscope (see p. 417) Referral to an ophthalmologist (eye specialist) who will do a complete eye exam with drops to dilate your pupils.   More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Mitral Valve Prolapse

Have you had an echocardiogram? What did it show? Does your mitral valve leak? Do you get chest pain? What brings it on? How long does it last? What relieves it? Do you ever get a rapid or pounding heartbeat (palpitations) for no reason? How long does it last? Do you feel faint or develop chest pain or shortness of breath? Have you ever fainted? Do you get short of breath when you lie down or exert yourself? Have you ever taken any medications for your heart? Did you develop any side effects from these medications? Heart rate, blood pressure, and weight Heart (sometimes while you are standing, squatting, or performing other maneuvers) Lungs Electrocardiogram Echocardiogram Holter monitor or event monitor   More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Multiple Myeloma

Have you had any recent infections? Do you know when to call your doctor with symptoms of infection? Do you have pain in any of your bones? If so, is it constant, or does it occur only when you move? Have you had any recent fractures? Do you have pain in your spine? Does it radiate to another part of your body? Have you noticed a decrease in sensation or strength in your hands or feet? Have you had loss of bladder or bowel control? Do you know when to seek medical attention for back pain? Have you been fatigued? Have you been lightheaded? Have you been short of breath with minimal exertion? Do your gums bleed when you brush your teeth? Do you bruise easily, or get nosebleeds? Have you been weak, nauseated, constipated, or confused? Have you had a headache or a change in your vision? Can you feel any lumps or masses under your skin? Are you aware of the possible complications that can develop from multiple myeloma? Do you know which symptoms should cause you to call your doctor? Skin Heart Lungs Arms and legs Spine Neurology examination (to check for strength and sensation in your hands and feet) Lymph nodes (neck, axilla, and groin) Blood tests for complete blood count, electrolytes, kidney function, uric acid, calcium, and beta-2 microglobulin Serum protein electrophoresis or SPEP Urine protein electrophoresis or UPEP Quantitative immunoglobulin levels in the urine and blood Immunoelectrophoresis 24-hour urine collection for protein Bone marrow biopsy Skeletal radiographs CT scan MRI scan   More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Multiple Sclerosis

Do you have cloudy or double vision? Do you ever have eye pain or involuntary jumping of your vision? Do you have problems with clumsiness or poor coordination? Have you ever had numbness or tingling in your arms or legs? Tremors? Do you ever have hearing loss or vertigo? Do you have difficulty concentrating or problems with memory loss? Do you have any problems with bladder or bowel control? Do you have constipation? Do you have any family history of multiple sclerosis? Are you taking any medications? Complete neurological exam focusing on reflexes, strength, gait, sensation, and vision Lumbar puncture for removal and analysis of cerebrospinal fluid Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)   More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Osteoarthritis

How long have you had painful joints? Which joints are involved and which are most painful? Is the pain worse or better after walking or other exercise? Does the pain wake you at night? Does it occur at rest? Do you have swelling or deformities in any joints? What activities can you no longer do because of the arthritis? How long ago did you stop doing them? How far can you walk? Do you have difficulty opening jars or grasping objects? Do you have any other conditions, such as heart or lung disease, that also limit your ability to function? What have you done to treat your osteoarthritis? What therapies help the most? Do you use a cane (for osteoarthritis of the knee or hip)? What medications do you take (over-the-counter and prescription) to treat the pain? How effective are they? Do you know the side effects of each medication? Joint examination Muscles Gait Blood tests if your symptoms are atypical for osteoarthritis X-rays of the involved joints CT scans of the involved joints MRI scans of the involved joints   More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Parkinson's Disease

Do you have a tremor of the hands at rest? Have you noticed a slowing of your movements? Do you have a stooped posture or a slow, shuffling gait? Are you becoming more unsteady? Are your muscles becoming more rigid? Have you noticed your handwriting is getting smaller? Do you have any problems with speech? Are you depressed? Do you have problems with memory, concentration, or problem-solving? Do you have a family history of Parkinson'’s disease? Are you taking any medications? Complete neurological exam focusing on gait, muscle tone, strength, and vision Mini Mental Status Exam (to test memory and concentration) The diagnosis is made based on medical history and physical exam SPECT (Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography) Response to drug treatment, such as a trial of levodopa   More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Peptic Ulcer Disease

Do you have diffuse or localized abdominal pain? Does the pain ever travel to the back or chest? Do you have nausea associated with the pain? Does eating make the pain better or worse? Do you have black or bloody stools? Do you ever vomit blood or material that looks like coffee grounds? Do you take any medications (for example, pain relievers)? Do you smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol? Do you drink caffeine-containing beverages? Have you ever been tested or treated for a bacteria called H. pylori that can infect the stomach lining? Do you have a family history of peptic ulcer disease? Careful abdominal exam Rectal exam Stool testing for blood Blood or breath test for the presence of H. pylori Upper endoscopy (internal examination of esophagus, stomach, and duodenum) Upper GI series   More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Peripheral Artery Disease

Do you develop pain, cramps, aches, fatigue, or numbness in your leg muscles when you walk? At what distance do you develop symptoms? Do they go away when you stop walking? Do you ever develop these symptoms at rest? Do you have decreased sensation in your feet? If you are a man, do you have erectile dysfunction? Are you doing everything possible to modify the risk factors that can worsen this disease (smoking cessation, treating elevated blood pressure and cholesterol, and controlling diabetes)? Are you exercising regularly and at progressively more strenuous levels? Are you taking an aspirin every day? If you have diabetes, do you practice meticulous foot care (cleaning, applying moisturizing lotions, and wearing well-fitting protective shoes)? Do you know when to seek emergency medical care for peripheral artery disease (if your leg becomes suddenly painful, pale, cold and numb)? Do you get chest pain or pressure with exertion or at rest? If so, you may have coronary artery disease. Do you have sudden brief episodes of blindness (like a shade being pulled over your eyes) or sudden episodes of weakness in an arm or leg, or difficulty speaking? These could be warning symptoms of stroke. Heart rate, blood pressure, and weight Pulses in your feet and groin, and behind your knees Listen with the stethoscope over your carotid arteries in your neck Heart and lungs Neurologic exam (reflexes and sensation in your legs) Muscles (looking for atrophy in leg muscles) Skin, looking for changes related to reduced circulation Blood tests, including glucose and cholesterol levels Ultrasound of your carotid arteries Doppler Ankle-Arm Indices Exercise Stress Test MRI/MRA Angiography   More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Pregnancy: 1st Trimester

Your age and how it will affect your pregnancy. Have you been pregnant before? If so, what was the outcome of each pregnancy. Did you have a full-term pregnancy (your baby was born close to your due date)? Did you give birth via a vaginal delivery or a cesarean section ("C-section") surgery? If you had a C-section, what type of C-section was it? Did any of your pregnancies end in miscarriage, voluntary abortion, or an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy? Does this pregnancy come at a good time for you? When was the first day of your last menstrual period? What is the usual length of your menstrual cycle? Do you have any medical problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, thyroid problems, asthma, tuberculosis, epilepsy, or heart disease? Have you ever had any sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea, herpes, syphilis, or human papilloma virus (HPV)? Do any medical problems tend to run in your family such as sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, Down syndrome, or hemophilia? Are you taking any medications (including over-the-counter medications)? If so, what are they? Do you smoke? If so, how many packs per day? In an average week, how many alcoholic beverages do you consume? Do you use any recreational drugs? Did you have any problems getting pregnant? Do you eat a well-balanced diet? Are you taking any vitamins, including folic acid (folate)? Do you exercise regularly? What is your home situation like? Who do you live with? Is your partner supportive of this pregnancy? If not, has your partner hit or threatened you? Are you having any problems with morning sickness (that is, nausea and vomiting)? Are you having any bleeding from your vagina? Temperature, blood pressure, pulse, weight Chest exam Heart exam Abdominal exam Pelvic exam with Pap smear and cervical cultures Leg exam Confirm pregnancy with blood or urine test Complete blood count and blood type Blood tests for syphilis, rubella antibodies, hepatitis B, HIV Urinalysis Portable Doppler instrument or stethoscope to measure fetal heart sounds Urine culture "Triple screen" (also known as "AFP-3" or "Enhanced AFP" Genetic testing   More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - Pregnancy: 3rd Trimester

Do you have adequate support at home from family or friends? How do you feel? Have you had any problems since your last visit? Have you had any vaginal bleeding or spotting? Have you had any pain or uterine cramping? Have you had any discharge or leakage of fluid from your vagina? Have you noticed swelling of your face or ankles? Have you had any problems with your vision? Are you getting frequent headaches? Have you noticed a change in the frequency or intensity of fetal movement? Are you planning to breast-feed or bottle-feed? Have you selected a pediatrician for your baby? Are you taking classes on labor and delivery? Have you added health insurance coverage for your new baby? Have you purchased a special car seat to hold your baby when riding in your car? Have you decided on whether the baby will have a circumcision, if a boy? Have you talked with your doctor about the length of your stay in the hospital? Do you know the signs of going into labor so that you can call your doctor when labor begins? (These include uterine contractions and rupture of the membranes). Breasts (to see if your nipples are inverted) Abdominal exam, including measurement of the height of your fundus (top of the uterus) Culture of the vagina and rectum for Group B streptococcus bacteria Fetal ultrasound   More »