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

Barium Swallow (Upper Gastrointestinal Series or Upper GI Series)

A barium swallow, or upper GI series, is an x-ray test used to examine the upper digestive tract (the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine). Because these organs are normally not visible on x-rays, you need to swallow barium, a liquid that does show up on x-rays. The barium temporarily coats the lining of the esophagus, stomach, and intestine, making the outline of these organs visible on the x-ray pictures. This test is useful for diagnosing cancers, ulcers, problems that cause narrowing of the esophagus, some causes of inflammation in the intestine, and some swallowing problems. Tell your doctor and the x-ray technicians if there is any chance you could be pregnant. If you have diabetes and take insulin, discuss this with your doctor before the test. Stop eating and drinking the night before your test. This is important because food in your stomach or intestine could prevent the doctors from seeing a clear outline of these structures on the x-rays. Usually it isn't a problem for you to take your regular pills, but you should check with your doctor. (Locked) More »

7 strategies to fight winter breathing problems

Even in healthy people, cold, dry air can irritate the airways and lungs. It causes the upper airways to constrict, or narrow, and it can also disrupt the moisture layer that lines the lower airways in the lungs. This effect may be more exaggerated in people with respiratory problems such as asthma, bronchitis, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Ways to avoid cold air problems include covering the nose and mouth with a scarf when outside, keeping indoor air temperatures from falling below 64° F, and using a humidifier to keep the air from becoming too dry. (Locked) More »

Get fit to function

People spend a lot of time each day bending, reaching, lifting, twisting, turning, and squatting. The ability to do these ordinary movements is called functional fitness. Keeping functional fitness at an optimal level can help older adults stay active, healthy, and independent. (Locked) More »

Is it too late to save your posture?

It’s usually not too late to improve posture, even with rounded shoulders or healed compression fractures. The key is strengthening and stretching the upper back, chest, and core muscles. Shoulder strengtheners include scapula squeezes and rows. Core strengtheners include modified planks or simply tightening the abdominal muscles, pulling the navel in toward the spine. It’s also important to cut down on activities that have led to poor posture, such as sitting slouched for long periods in front of a computer or TV. (Locked) More »

Too much vitamin D may harm bones, not help

A new study found that high doses of vitamin D don’t benefit bone health. Bone density didn’t improve any more in people who took 4,000 IU or 10,000 IU of vitamin D daily for three years when compared to people who took a low dose of 400 IU. In fact, study authors said they found that very high amounts may have actually been detrimental to bone health. More »

Top tools to make bathing safer and simpler

Many tools in a wide range of prices can make bathing safer and simpler. Low-cost tools include long-handled scrubbers, a small stationary shower bench or chair, and nonslip floor treads or a rubber mat. More expensive tools include waterproof alert buttons, shower transfer benches, or walk-in shower kits. People who aren’t sure which tools they need can talk to an occupational therapist for an in-home assessment, which is sometimes covered by Medicare. (Locked) More »