When it comes to our personal health, the statistics speak for themselves. Every year more of us are diagnosed with health-threatening conditions including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Despite the trend, you can reduce your risks by getting involved in your health, taking charge and making changes. Here are five ways you can get started and take charge.
1. Check in with your doctor. Regular checkups with your doctor are an important part of staying healthy. Make sure to bring a list of all prescribed medications, herbals and supplements as well as over-the-counter medications you take. List your symptoms, allergies, questions and concerns. If it's been awhile, it's a good idea to check with your doctor to see if you are due for a physical exam, vaccines or screening tests, such as a blood drawing for cholesterol, mammogram for breast cancer or colorectal cancer screening.
2. Get moving. Physical activity can help control weight, stress, blood pressure, depression and anxiety. People of all types, shapes, ages, sizes and abilities can benefit from being active. If you are physically inactive or you have a health condition such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, pregnancy or other symptoms, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program or increasing your activity level. He or she can tell you what types and amounts of activities are safe and suitable for you. If it is okay, try to start at a comfortable level and add a little more activity as you go along.
To help get you motivated, choose something you enjoy, such as walking outdoors or dancing. To help make it more fun, ask a friend to join you - and don't forget to protect the time you set aside to "get moving."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends healthy adults ages 18 to 64 get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity and at least two days of resistance training each week (with equipment like weights, dumbbells or rubber tubing). Aerobic activity raises your heart rate and ideally should be performed for at least 10 minutes at a time. Resistance activities boost your muscle strength.
3. Eat smart. Our bodies are our personal engines. How we feed ourselves can help us feel good, increase our energy and improve our health. Winning strategies for eating smart may include:
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
- Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy products.
- Choose whole grains, such as whole-grain bread and brown rice.
- Cut back on foods with solid fats, sugars and salt, such as cookies, ice cream, hot dogs and pizza.
- Drink water or other non-caloric beverages.
4. Watch your stress. Stress has toxic effects that can lead to serious health problems. Thankfully, there are plenty of healthy ways to combat it, including exercise! If you aren't sure how to get started, go online or find a professional instructor in your community. Some commonly practiced techniques include deep breathing exercises, guided imagery, meditation, massage therapy, yoga and tai chi.
5. Sleep well. Those late night comedy shows are lots of fun, but they also cut into your sleep. Most adults need between seven and eight hours a night. You need sleep to learn new things and to remember what you learned. Sleep also helps your mood. Lack of sleep not only makes you crabby and irritable, but over time can increase your risk of depression. If you've been burning the candle at both ends, it's time to slow down and give your body the break it needs. Put yourself on a regular sleep schedule. If you are sensitive to caffeine, limit your caffeine intake. As your sleep habits improve, so may your general outlook and overall state of health.
Created on 07/01/2011
Updated on 06/13/2013
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Family health. Regular check-ups are important.
- United States Department of Agriculture. Choose My Plate. Ten tips.
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Health. Stress. Relaxation techniques for health: An introduction.