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

Parenting in a pandemic

Watch our timely "Parenting in a Pandemic" Zoomcast. Claire McCarthy, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and senior faculty editor at Harvard Health Publishing, discusses parenting children and teens when the outlook is cloudy for many favorite summer pastimes and jobs. She also offers pointers for staying safe as state restrictions lift, takes a look toward return-to-school in the fall, and explains what is and isn't known about a rare complication of COVID-19 called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C).   More »

LASIK Surgery: What to expect

LASIK is an acronym for laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis—a type of laser eye surgery that permanently reshapes the cornea to correct refractive errors. Normally, the cornea—the clear layer in the front of the eye—focuses light directly on the retina in the back of the eye. When the cornea is irregularly shaped, light doesn't focus precisely on the retina, which results in these refractive errors: More »

Boost your ability to lift and carry heavy loads

It’s easier to lift and carry heavy items if one maintains the muscles that help do the job, such as the thigh, gluteal, abdominal, shoulder, and arm muscles. In addition, it helps to follow the rules of safe lifting and carrying. To lift: one should get close to the object and bend the knees slightly, wrap one’s arms around the object, push down with the legs, and stand up straight. To carry: one should hug the object close to the chest to boost stability. (Locked) More »

Crucial ways you can support a healthy immune system

There’s no evidence that maintaining a healthy lifestyle will suddenly boost the immune system. However, it’s clear that healthy lifestyle habits contribute to overall health, supporting the body’s ability to fight infections instead of creating new problems. Healthy habits that help maintain a robust immune system include getting seven to nine hours of sleep per night, exercising, reducing stress, eating a healthy diet, not smoking, drinking alcohol only in moderation, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting underlying conditions under control. (Locked) More »

Give yourself a lift

Research shows that weight lifting is good medicine for active older adults. While there are many weight-lifting exercises, one move to include in a workout is the deadlift. The short, quick movement is a highly functional exercise that can increase lower-body strength and power, which improves mobility, balance, and stability. (Locked) More »

Shore up your core

Your core muscles, which are those in your torso and pelvis, help you maintain your balance, and allow you to bend, twist and reach. Strengthening them is essential, especially after age 30 when you may start to lose muscle mass. The average 50-year-old who hasn’t done strength-building exercises may have already lost as much as 10% of her muscle mass. More »

The latest thinking on colonoscopy prep

The approach to taking laxative solutions to prepare for a colonoscopy is getting a little easier. Now, instead of about 4 liters of solution, the amount is closer to 2 liters. Also, instead of a single large dose, the medicine can be taken in two doses about six to 10 hours apart, starting on the day before a colonoscopy. In some cases, a person can drink all the solution on the same day as the colonoscopy. When drinking the solution, it helps to use a straw to avoid tasting it. (Locked) More »