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

How important are whole grains in my diet?

Whole grains are equally important as fruits and vegetables for a balanced healthy diet. People who want to choose food products with whole grains should look for the word "whole" or "whole-grain" before the grain’s name as the first ingredient. (Locked) More »

How to build a better core

People looking for new ways to strengthen their core can try walk-and-carry exercises, also known as "loaded carries," where they hold weights like dumbbells or kettlebells while walking. This type of movement teaches how to brace the core, which engages much of the entire core musculature, including your shoulders, back, and hips. (Locked) More »

It’s not too late to get in better shape

Only an estimated 40% of American adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week, the low end of what the government recommends. Only 20% of adults perform the recommended strength training twice a week. This lack of movement makes older adults less fit than they could be for their age. But the good news is that people can build strength and improve their fitness at any age using a gradual, progressive approach that focuses on building strength, cardiovascular fitness, and flexibility and balance. More »

Should you crank up your early allergy strategies this year?

Even if one is isolating because of the pandemic and mostly staying indoors, it will still be helpful to take allergy medications early in order to ward off spring symptoms. Doctors recommend using two drugs about three or four weeks before symptoms typically occur. One is a steroid nasal spray to fight inflammation, such as fluticasone propionate (Flonase). The other is an antihistamine to counteract histamine, a body chemical involved in allergic reactions, such as cetirizine (Zyrtec) or fexofenadine (Allegra). Once allergy season is under way, it may help to add nasal saline rinses and antihistamine eye drops to the regimen. (Locked) More »

What to look for in an online exercise video for older adults

A good workout video for older adults will be tailored to their health needs. It should have a warm-up, workout, cool-down, some stretching, an inspiring tone, tips to maintain the proper form, and the ability to make modifications. Types of workouts for older adults include low-impact cardio, tai chi, yoga, seated yoga, marching in place, resistance band exercises, and body weight workouts. Online exercise classes from Harvard Health Publishing are designed specifically for older adults. (Locked) More »