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

Can you outrun an early death?

People who run—even in small amounts—are less likely to die during a given period, according to an analysis published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The benefit was seen even among people who ran for less than 50 minutes once a week at speeds below 6 mph. More »

Genetic test kits don’t have all the answers

A report from British researchers, published in The BMJ on Oct. 16, 2019, warns that direct-to-consumer genetic test kits that predict the risk for developing certain diseases commonly produce misleading results. More »

Tips to minimize the risks of anesthesia

Getting anesthesia as an older person has some risk, but less so than the risk from underlying health conditions, the surgical procedure itself, and the care that’s received after surgery. To cope with risks, one can ask a doctor if a delirium risk evaluation would be helpful before surgery; ask if delirium prevention approaches can be put into place after surgery; have family member or friend monitor recovery and watch for mental changes (and report them); and ask if the risks of anesthesia may outweigh the benefits of a procedure. (Locked) More »

What has the most impact on longevity?

Studies suggest that genes and lifestyle affect longevity. Harvard researchers found that injecting certain genes into mice protected them from becoming obese and from developing type 2 diabetes, heart failure, and a particular kind of kidney failure. A recent study of worms found that when worms exercise regularly (but not too much) early in life, their metabolism improves, their muscles and guts function better throughout life, they live longer, and they are protected against the worm version of Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists must now learn if the findings translate to humans. (Locked) More »

What’s the beef with red meat?

A recent study concluded that the quality of existing evidence that red and processed meats are harmful is “low” and advised that people should not change their red meat habits for health reasons. Yet the science community has rebutted this, and international health organizations continue to suggest that lowering red meat consumption can reduce a person’s risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and premature death. More »

5 common medications that can have serious side effects

Many medications have the potential for dangerous side effects. For example, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors may cause an allergic-type reaction called angioedema; large daily doses of the over-the-counter painkiller acetaminophen can damage the liver and lead to liver failure; and NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen even when taken as directed can still cause ulcers, stomach bleeding and kidney damage. When taking any medication, be sure to watch for side effects and report new symptoms to the doctor. (Locked) More »

Can supplements help boost your immune system?

There’s no evidence that products that claim to boost or support immune function actually do so. In fact, a wholesale boost to the immune system could lead to autoimmune or autoinflammatory conditions. To protect health, adopt good health habits such as cleaning your hands frequently, reducing stress, getting vaccinated when possible, and maintaining a healthy diet. More »

The act of balancing

As people age, their sense of balance can sharply decline, which can raise the risk of injuries and even death from falls. Changes in flexibility, muscle strength and power, body sensation, reflexes, and even mental function all contribute to declining balance. Adding balance exercises and multifaceted movements can help. More »