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

Is it ok to use medications past their expiration dates?

My wife and I have this argument (she calls it a "discussion") several times a year.  I discover some perfectly good food of uncertain age in the refrigerator.  She wants to throw it away – better safe than sorry!   I say if the color looks right, it smells like food, and tastes alright, we should eat it.   And with that another perfectly good pasta dish (or was that chicken?) is tossed out. We have similar discussions about expired medications.  I'd heard medications were often safe and effective well past their expiration date; she's ready to throw them out if they're even close to the date on the bottle. The U.S. Air Force started a study in 1985 (described here) and later extended it to other military services in the early 1990s.  The military had gathered a stockpile of medications worth more than a billion dollars that were close to or past their expiration dates.  No one wanted to throw away expensive medications that might still be safe and effective. So the drugs were extensively tested with oversight by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  More »

Treatments for post-nasal drip

You thought it would never end:  that tickle in the back of your throat that made you cough or have to clear your throat.  It's been going on for months.  And now you know why:  post-nasal drip.  It's a common diagnosis.  It can happen for a number of reasons:  allergies, viral infections (including the common cold), sinus infections, irritants in the air (such as fumes or dust).  Less common causes include something stuck inside the nose (common in small children), pregnancy, and certain medications.  Temporary – and normal – causes of post-nasal drip includes certain weather conditions (especially cold, dry air) and spicy foods. Whatever the cause, the problem is a steady trickle of mucous from the back of the sinuses that irritates the throat and nagging cough or other symptoms. More »

Understanding the results of your colonoscopy

Colon cancer is among the most common – and preventable – cancers:  nearly 140,000 people are diagnosed with colon cancer each year in the US and more than 50,000 people die of the disease annually.  This makes it the 2nd leading cause of cancer-related death in the US. So, you should be familiar with colonoscopy (if you aren't already).  That's the test during which a doctor places a flexible tube through the rectum into the colon to look for polyps, tumors or other problems.  As awful as it may sound, it's usually well-tolerated:  you're sedated for the procedure and often people don't even remember having it.  We're lucky to have such a good screening test for colon cancer - colonoscopy can not only detect tumors while they're curable, but it can identify precancerous polyps which can be removed before they become cancerous. More »

Whooping cough

Whooping cough is an infectious disease caused by bacteria called "Bordetalla pertussis."  Because these bacteria release chemicals that cause inflammation and swelling of the upper respiratory system, severe cough is a hallmark of the condition. Whooping cough is highly contagious and spreads from person to person by coughing or sneezing among people in close quarters.  To make matters worse, an infected (and contagious) person can spread the disease without knowing they have it. More »

Can this DNA test help predict your longevity?

Telomeres are strands of expendable DNA that form protective caps on the ends of chromosomes. Telomeres protect chromosomes from shortening when a cell divides. Telomeres are damaged each time a cell divides and tend to shorten as a person ages. Commercial telomere tests promise to reveal a person’s telomere length and uncover a person’s true biological age. But it’s unclear if the tests are accurate and what a person’s telomere length actually means for health or longevity. (Locked) More »

How does my health compare with President Trump’s?

Men the same age as President Trump should not use the results of his recent physical as a guideline for their health, since his 10-year risk of a heart attack, stroke, or cardiac death was 16%, which is much higher than the standard 7.5% to 10% for the average, healthy 70-year-old man. (Locked) More »

Over-the-counter cautions

Taking over-the-counter medications improperly can be dangerous. People should carefully follow instructions for nonprescription products and ensure that the medications they take, won’t cause harmful drug interactions. (Locked) More »

The truth about metabolism

Metabolism speed is often used to explain whether people have an easy or difficult time losing and maintaining weight. While metabolism plays a small role in weight management, people can increase their metabolism speed to a degree by following a proper diet and exercise. (Locked) More »

Why am I losing weight?

Unexplained weight loss should be investigated. It may be caused by an overactive thyroid, cancer, or a chronic infection. More »