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

Cystourethrogram

By filling your bladder with a liquid dye that shows up on x-rays, your doctor can watch the motion of your bladder as it fills and empties and can see if your urine splashes backwards toward your kidneys as the bladder muscle squeezes. This kind of test can help your doctor to better understand problems with repeated urinary tract infections or problems involving damage to the kidneys. It can also be useful for evaluating urine leakage problems. Tell your doctor before the test if you have ever had an allergic reaction to x-ray dye (IV contrast dye). Also let your doctor know if there is any chance you are pregnant. You wear a hospital gown and lie on a table in the x-ray department. A part of your genital area is cleaned with soap on a cotton swab. Then a soft, bendable rubber tube called a urinary catheter is inserted into your bladder, usually by a nurse. The tube is first coated with a slippery jelly and then pushed gently through the opening of the urethra (at the end of the penis for men and near the opening of the vagina for women). (Locked) More »

Oxygen Saturation Test

Your red blood cells carry oxygen through your arteries to all of your internal organs. They must carry enough oxygen to keep you alive. Normally, when red blood cells pass through the lungs, 95%-100% of them are loaded, or "saturated," with oxygen. If you have lung disease or other types of medical conditions, fewer of your red blood cells may be carrying their usual load of oxygen, and your oxygen saturation might be lower than 95%.  If your blood oxygen saturation is too low, you may need to be given oxygen to breathe. There is no preparation necessary. An estimate of your oxygen saturation can be made easily and painlessly with a clip that fits on your finger. This clip shines a light through one side of your finger; a detector measures the light that comes through the other side. This machine can make a good estimate of your oxygen saturation because blood cells that are saturated with oxygen absorb and reflect light differently than those that are not. Blood cells are a bright red when they are loaded with oxygen, and they change to a bluish color when they are no longer carrying a full load of oxygen. The finger clip machine cannot give a perfect measurement of your oxygen saturation; it can give only a rough estimate, and its measurement can be affected by things as simple as red nail polish on your finger. (Locked) More »

Percutaneous Transhepatic Cholangiography (PTCA)

Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography is an x-ray test that can help show whether there is a blockage in the liver or the bile ducts that drain it. Since the liver and its drainage system do not normally show up on x-rays, the doctor doing the x-ray needs to inject a special dye directly into the drainage system of the liver. This dye, which is visible on x-rays, should then spread out to fill the whole drainage system. If it does not, that means there is a blockage. This type of blockage might result from a gallstone or a cancer in the liver. Tell your doctor if you have ever had an allergic reaction to lidocaine or the numbing medicine used at the dentist's office, or to x-ray dye. Also tell your doctor if you could be pregnant, since x-rays can harm the developing baby. If you have diabetes and take insulin, discuss this with your doctor before the test. Most people need to have a blood test done some time before the procedure, to make sure they are not at high risk for bleeding complications. If you take aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, vitamin E or other medicines that affect blood clotting, talk with your doctor. It may be necessary to stop or adjust the dose of these medicines before your test. (Locked) More »

Snellen Test for Visual Acuity

A Snellen test uses a chart with different sizes of letters or forms to evaluate your visual acuity-that is, the sharpness of your vision. The test shows how accurately you can see from a distance. No preparation is necessary. You stand or sit at a specific distance from the eye chart. Usually you are told to cover one eye with a cardboard piece or with your hand while you read letters with the other eye and say them out loud for the doctor. (Locked) More »

Tonometry

Tonometry is a test to measure pressure in your eyeball. High pressure inside the eye is caused by a disease called glaucoma, which can damage your vision if it is not treated. Remove any contact lenses. Tell your doctor if you have an eye infection or other type of eye problem. The pressure inside your eye is always measured from the outside. In most cases, if you are at an eye clinic, the pressure can even be measured without anything actually touching your eye. The eye doctor has you look up close at an instrument that blows a small puff of air onto your eye. It then uses a special sensor (like a tiny radar detector) to detect the amount of indentation that the air puff causes on the surface of the eye. This indentation is normal and lasts for only a fraction of a second. (Locked) More »

X-Rays

X-rays are waves of electromagnetic radiation that are used to create images of organs and other structures inside the body. X-rays have a very short wavelength. As they penetrate the body, they are absorbed in different amounts by different body tissues. For example, bones are dense and absorb X-rays very well, but soft tissues (skin, fat, muscle) allow more X-rays to pass through. The result is an X-ray shadow on a film or fluorescent screen, where images of bones appear white, while shadows of soft tissues appear as various shades of gray. In some forms of X-rays, a chemical called contrast medium is given to the patient to help outline a specific body area on X-ray film. This chemical can be swallowed, given as an enema or injected into a vein. The contrast medium appears white on the X-ray film, and can produce a sharp outline of structures such as the digestive tract and the paths of blood vessels. (Locked) More »

Bit by bit, Americans are eating healthier

Americans appear to be eating higher amounts of high-quality carbohydrates, plant protein, and unsaturated fats. However, much of the American diet still seems to be coming from low-quality carbohydrates. More »

Do vitamin D supplements reduce risk of early death?

While many studies have found that people with very low blood levels of vitamin D have higher rates of early death, there’s no guarantee that raising blood levels of vitamin D can help. A 2019 study in The BMJ found that vitamin D supplements did not reduce early death from all causes, nor from heart and other cardiovascular diseases. However, vitamin D supplements did appear to reduce the risk of early death from cancer by 16%. And there may be other possible benefits from vitamin D supplements. Many studies of this are under way. (Locked) More »

Is it safe to go vegan in older age?

The health benefits of all vegetarian diets are well documented: lower rates of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer. But it’s unclear if a vegan diet, which excludes all animal products, has even greater health benefits than a less restrictive meatless diet, such as a diet that allows fish or eggs. Few studies compare vegetarian diets. However, it’s clear that the vegan diet carries risks for nutrient deficiency and is so restrictive that it can be difficult to maintain over the long term. More »

What to do about the heartburn medication recall

Due to medication recalls, people who take heartburn medication that contains ranitidine are advised to talk to their doctors about whether to keep taking it. One alternative: switching to a similar drug in the same class. More »