Health. It’s the way to enjoy your life. Our experts offer nine ways to take care of yourself and partner up with your doctor.
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Eat like a champion
For good health, avoid saturated fats, cholesterol, refined carbs and sugars and trans fats. These foods can cause chronic inflammation — a normal bodily process gone awry that can contribute to heart disease, diabetes and even cancer. Also, choose good cooking oils and read food labels carefully. Even so-called “diet foods” can be bad for you.
Get your cholesterol checked
A little-known fact: diet isn’t the most important factor in determining your cholesterol level. Only 20 percent of your body’s cholesterol comes from your diet, while the other 80 percent is made by your liver. That’s why it is so hard to lower cholesterol through diet alone and why you need to get it checked. It should be 200 mg/DL or lower. Learn how cholesterol works.
Watch your blood pressure
Do you have high blood pressure? Even if you don’t think so, keep reading. One out of three American adults has high blood pressure, diagnosed with a reading above 140/90. However, experts say if you are consistently over 120/80, you also have high blood pressure. Help your heart by keeping your weight and salt intake down and your activity level up.
Pursue an ideal body mass
Dare to be different from the average American, who is more likely to be obese than adults in any other developed nation. To see if you are at a good weight for your height, calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) and check out this BMI calculator from the BBC to see how your BMI stacks up against people from around the world. Need to lose?
Keep safe blood sugar levels
For good preventive health, cut back on soda, candy and sugary desserts, which can cause blood sugar to rise. If you have diabetes, this can damage your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves over time. Managing blood sugar is one of seven metrics for heart health, according to the American Heart Association. These same metrics make it less likely to be diagnosed with cancer.
Exercise doesn’t have to be in a gym or structured environment. Experts say frequency (how often), intensity (how hard) and time (how long) are what matter. Find just 30 minutes, which don’t have to be consecutive minutes. You could take short and brisk walks two to three times a day. Or do three 10-minute spurts (or two 15-minute spurts) of activity that make your heart happy.
If you smoke, there is probably no other single choice you can make to help your health more than quitting. While a recent study found that smokers lose at least 10 years of life expectancy compared with people who never smoked, it also found that people who quit by age 40 reduce their risk of smoking-related death by 90 percent. See what happens to your body when you quit.
Sleep restores us and has a huge effect on how we feel. Have trouble sleeping? Your diet may be a culprit. Food relates directly to serotonin, a key hormone that — along with Vitamin B6, B12, and folic acid — promotes healthy sleep. For more restful sleep, focus your diet on the “big three”: complex carbohydrates, lean proteins and unsaturated fats. Exercise like yoga, can also help. Find other sleep tips.
Keep pace with health screenings
It’s no exaggeration: health screenings can save your life. They are designed to catch cancers and serious problems early for more successful treatment. There are screening recommendations for adults and women specifically, and varied screenings depending on your family history. Some screening recommendations have changed, so talk to your doctor. Find more on women’s screenings.