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

The "alphabet exercise" for foot and ankle strength

It's easy. Make believe your big toe is a pencil and sketch out the alphabet. These muscle movements will help build foot and ankle strength, which aids balance and helps prevents falls. You can learn more at the Harvard online course Exercises for Bone Strength. More »

The "hip hike" exercise for building hip strength

The hip hike is used to build hip strength if you're about to get into a running or walking program. It's easy, but you can also perform the hip hike by holding a chair to steady yourself. Make sure you're standing on a low, but stable, platform before you begin. More »

4 exercise trends to try

Older adults may find four new exercise trends interesting and fun. The trends include circuit training—doing a series of exercises, each set up at a "station" in various parts of a large exercise room; cognitive workouts, which combine aerobic exercise with basic brain challenges; battle ropes—shaking and whipping large, heavy ropes that are anchored to a wall; and streaming workouts—watching live workout classes via television or smartphone. Before starting a new workout, one should check with a doctor to see if it will be both safe and beneficial. More »

Medical news: Act now, or hold back?

It can be difficult for the consumer to know whether research findings are preliminary or should cause one to change one’s life. Asking the right questions about the results can help consumers tell the difference. Some tips to spot noteworthy studies include looking at how big the study was, how much the results improved measures of health, and whether a well-respected professional organization issued recommendations in response to the study. (Locked) More »

Quick-start guide to an anti‑inflammation diet

There are a number of steps to take when starting an anti-inflammation diet, such as the Mediterranean diet. The steps boil down to some dos and don’ts. For example, don’t eat processed foods such as microwaveable dinners, hot dogs, white bread, dehydrated soups, baked goods, sugary cereals, processed meats, biscuits, and sauces. But do eat a diet of whole, unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans, lentils), fish, poultry, nuts, seeds, a little bit of low-fat dairy, olive oil, spices, and herbs. More »

Staying healthy when you’re raising young grandchildren

Caring full-time for a grandchild can have lots of health risks for older adults, such as muscle tears from lifting children or fractures from brittle bones that can’t support the increasing weight of a child. Such risks are in addition to those of being anyone’s caregiver, such as not eating right or exercising enough. Grandparent caregivers can help protect health by setting a rigid sleep schedule for everyone in the house, exercising with grandchildren as they ride bikes or run around, and serving healthy adult foods. (Locked) More »

Take monitors to heart

A heart rate monitor can be a valuable fitness tool by helping people exercise better, smarter, and safer. Wearing the device can increase motivation, improve exercise benefits by ensuring workouts reach sufficient intensity, and help people with heart issues watch their exertion levels more closely. (Locked) More »