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

Bridging East and West: New Frontiers in Medicine - Longwood Seminar

Mind-body medicine is providing new models for wellness and therapy by combining conventional and complementary approaches to treatment. At this seminar, a panel of Harvard Medical School faculty will discuss this quickly developing approach that may help shape the future of medicine. Each spring, Harvard Medical School's Office of Communications and External Relations organizes a series of four free "mini-med school" classes for the general public in the heart of Boston's Longwood Medical Area. At the end of the seminar series, participants who attend three out of the four sessions receive a certificate of completion. Topics are selected for their appeal to a lay audience and have included the human genome, nutrition, sleep dynamics and health care access. Faculty from Harvard Medical School and its affiliate hospitals volunteer their time to present these lectures to the community. More »

The Art of Aging Well - Longwood Seminar

Is age just a number? How will medical and technology advances redefine biological aging? In this seminar, learn more about research led by scientists at Harvard Medical School about what healthy aging means, and explore discoveries that could help to improve the experience of aging. Each spring, Harvard Medical School's Office of Communications and External Relations organizes a series of four free "mini-med school" classes for the general public in the heart of Boston's Longwood Medical Area. At the end of the seminar series, participants who attend three out of the four sessions receive a certificate of completion. Topics are selected for their appeal to a lay audience and have included the human genome, nutrition, sleep dynamics and health care access. Faculty from Harvard Medical School and its affiliate hospitals volunteer their time to present these lectures to the community. More »

Weighing the Facts of Obesity - Longwood Seminar

Obesity among children and adults dramatically increases the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. What are the contributing factors that lead to being overweight? In this seminar, Harvard Medical School doctors and researchers will address the stigma that surrounds obesity and discuss concrete methods, including changes to sleep and diet, that could help scale back this growing problem. Each spring, Harvard Medical School's Office of Communications and External Relations organizes a series of four free "mini-med school" classes for the general public in the heart of Boston's Longwood Medical Area. At the end of the seminar series, participants who attend three out of the four sessions receive a certificate of completion. Topics are selected for their appeal to a lay audience and have included the human genome, nutrition, sleep dynamics and health care access. Faculty from Harvard Medical School and its affiliate hospitals volunteer their time to present these lectures to the community. More »

Something in the air

Exposure to particulate matter from air pollution has been shown to increase inflammatory markers in the bloodstream and oxidative stress, which are associated with a higher risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. People can protect themselves by avoiding high-pollution areas, restricting their time outside when air quality is poor, and exercising indoors when necessary. (Locked) More »

The smart way to look at carbohydrates

Many people believe a healthy diet means reducing or eliminating carbohydrates, but carbs provide the body’s primary energy source, glucose, which fuels everything from breathing to thinking to running. The Institute of Medicine recommends adults get 45% to 65% of their daily calories from carbs, but they should be from healthier sources like nutrient-rich whole grains, legumes, nuts, fruit, vegetables, and dairy. (Locked) More »

Balancing act

Every year, about one-third of adults older than age 65 experience at least one accidental fall. About 20% of these falls result in a serious injury like broken bones in the wrist, arm, and ankle; hip fractures; and head injuries. Performing balance exercises can help reduce a person’s risk of falling. (Locked) More »

Finding the right serum for your skin

Serums can be a valuable addition to your skin care regimen because they give your skin a concentrated dose of vitamins and antioxidants. However, choosing the right combination of ingredients for the skin problems you are trying to address is important. (Locked) More »

Managing your medications before a medical procedure

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), anticoagulants, and certain herbs and supplements can increase the risk of bleeding with surgery. They may need to be stopped before a procedure. However, some medications, such as those taken to manage blood pressure, Parkinson’s disease, or type 2 diabetes, may need to be taken on the day of surgery. Instructions for stopping or restarting medications and supplements should come from one’s doctor, at least one week before the surgery. (Locked) More »

Skin potions that really work

Serums can be a valuable addition to your skin care regimen because they give your skin a concentrated dose of vitamins and antioxidants. However, choosing the right combination of ingredients for the skin problems you are trying to address is important. (Locked) More »

Ways to dig out of a dietary rut

Sometimes older adults get into a menu rut or stop eating healthy, nutritious foods. This may reflect issues with money, mobility, or loneliness. A dietary rut may lead to a reliance on prepackaged foods, and even malnutrition. Suggestions to break out of a dietary rut include trying new foods; cooking in large quantities, with leftovers that can be eaten throughout the week; signing up for subscription meal kits; inviting friends to dinner; and asking friends to pitch in with a meal, with each person taking turns shopping and cooking. (Locked) More »