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10 Ways to be a Health Hero

By Michele Taylor
WebMD Feature

Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman -- want to add your name to the ranks of heroes? Here are 10 healthy ways to save the day.

1. Help a senior. There’s most likely an older adult in your life who could use an extra hand. In 2013, more than 15 million caregivers helped aging friends and family, the Alzheimer’s Association says. Volunteer to pick up groceries, mow the lawn, or do a small household repair.

2. Make a drink. Next time, instead of pouring up a cocktail for friends, make them a healthy smoothie or juice. Americans eat fruit only about once a day and vegetables about one and a half times each day, the CDC reports. Eating a diet chock full of fruits and veggies can help prevent some types of cancer and many chronic diseases, so bottoms up!

3. Lend your body. Sign up to be an organ donor or donate blood or bone marrow. Every day, the Red Cross needs 15,000 blood donations to help 2,700 people, says Daphne Mathew, communications director at the Oregon Trail chapter of the Red Cross.

More than 50 diseases, including many cancers, are treated with a bone marrow transplant. The American Bone Marrow registry reports that chances are 1 in 20,000 of finding a match who is not a close family member. Those odds are smaller for minorities. Raise the odds by being a donor.

4. Join a run/walk. Combine working out and being a health do-gooder by signing up to support a cause dear to you. Many nonprofits such as the American Cancer Society, March of Dimes, and Autism Speaks host these annual fundraisers.

5. Learn CPR. According to the American Heart Association, 70% of people in the U.S. feel helpless in an emergency because they don’t know CPR or first aid. Sign up to learn -- or relearn -- these life-saving tips. Organizations like the American Heart Association and the Red Cross offer classes, or check your local hospital.

6. Shop for a cause. If you’re going to shop, why not do some good while you’re at it? Many companies offer proceeds of their sales to nonprofits. For example, Amazon’s Smile program donates 0.5% of some purchases to a charity of your choice.

7. Get your pet involved. Children’s hospitals, long-term care centers, and shelters often use pets to help their patients heal and find joy. If your pet is generally calm and well-behaved, it might be able to help you bring a smile to someone. Pet Partners trains volunteers and their pets to help in programs in hospitals, nursing homes, rehab centers, and other facilities.

8. Go global. Don’t let a few thousand miles stop you from being someone’s health hero. If you have medical skills, sign up for Doctors Without Borders on any number of international medical missions that allow you to help those who don’t have good care nearby. Not a doctor? Not a problem. At least half of International Medical Relief’s volunteers have no medical background and help with setting up clinics, checking in patients, and other tasks.

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