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

An older adult's guide to exercising in cold weather

Exercising in cold weather has benefits, but poses numerous risks for older adults. Exposure to cold weather for long periods increases the risk for hypothermia or frostbite. Also, cold weather causes blood vessels to narrow, increasing the risk for heart and muscle strain. To avoid the risks, older adults should wear layers of warm clothing (preferably athletic clothing that wicks away moisture and retains heat), including a hat, gloves, and socks; use sunscreen and lip balm; do an exercise warm-up; and stay hydrated. More »

Cafeteria strategies that may improve your diet

Two strategies appear to help people in cafeterias make better food choices. One is labeling foods with traffic-light stickers to indicate if a food is healthy. The other is placing unhealthy foods in less accessible locations. More »

Comfort food without the guilt

To reduce dietary risks of comfort foods, it’s best to swap out unhealthy ingredients with healthier alternatives. For example, one could ditch full-fat dairy products like cream and butter, and instead use nonfat Greek yogurt or skim milk; ditch red meat in favor of poultry, fish, or legumes; ditch salt and use herbs and spices, such as oregano, rosemary, or basil; or ditch refined-grain noodles and use noodles made of whole wheat, black beans, lentils, or zucchini. (Locked) More »

Don't be afraid of statins

While statin therapy helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, many people may still resist them because they fear side effects and do not understand how the drugs work. Yet, for many people, statins are the best way to protect against heart attack and stroke, and may provide additional benefits like reducing the risk of blood clots and protecting against Alzheimer’s. (Locked) More »

Is your lunch lacking?

Many Americans are in search of a healthier lunch, according to a study. People reported that it can be difficult to make good choices because they’re not always convenient, tasty, or readily available. More »

Problems with bloating? Watch your sodium intake

Data from the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension–Sodium trial (DASH-Sodium) showed an association between high sodium intake and a higher risk of bloating. People who suffer from regular bloating after eating may want to watch their salt intake. More »

Should I get my vitamin D levels checked?

Adequate levels of vitamin D can help maintain strong bones, but unless people have a gastrointestinal disease or thin bones, are malnourished, or take certain drugs that interfere with vitamin D activity, they do not need regular blood tests to check their levels. More »

The right way to "do lunch"

More than half of employed Americans who usually eat lunch on the job find it hard to eat a healthy lunch. One cafeteria-based study found that labeling foods with “traffic light” symbols that reflect their health value helped customers make better choices. They were less likely to choose “red light” foods, which were higher in fat and calories, and more likely to choose “green light” foods, which featured fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, or low-fat dairy as the main ingredient. Such healthy options for lunch may include garden (veggie) burgers and premade salads. (Locked) More »

The trouble with excess salt

There’s been some disagreement in the scientific community about how much salt in the diet is too much. But most long-term studies show that excess sodium can raise blood pressure in many people and people’s hearts are typically healthier when they eat less sodium. Ideally, people should stick to less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. (Locked) More »