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Secrets of Super-Healthy People

Some people never seem to get sick. What are they doing that the rest of us aren't to keep illness at bay?

Increase Your Social Ties continued...

For example, extroverts are less likely than introverts to get colds when exposed to a virus. "We actually control for their immunity," he says. "The explanation isn't that extroverts interact with more people, and therefore have immunity to that virus. There's something about being extroverted that seems to protect people."

Having a diverse social network is equally important, says Cohen. Individuals who belong to multiple social groups are less likely to develop colds when exposed to a virus. There's convincing literature in epidemiology that people who have more diverse social networks are also less likely to get heart disease and live longer, he adds.

Accentuate the Positive

Cohen's research suggests that people who have a positive emotional style -- described as happy, enthusiastic, and calm -- are less likely to catch colds.

Cohen and researchers at Carnegie Mellon University interviewed 193 healthy adults daily for two weeks and recorded the positive and negative emotions they experienced each day, and then exposed the volunteers to a cold or flu virus. Those with positive outlooks reported fewer cold symptoms and were more resistant to developing an upper respiratory illness.

"It's a stable characteristic of individuals," he says. "It's not driven by how happy they are on the day they get exposed to the virus."

Wash Your Hands - Over and Over

Hand washing may sound like obvious advice for combating germs, but surveys suggest that most of us are not vigilant about washing our hands after using the restroom.

"In order to prevent illness, it's important to wash your hands frequently," Cass says. "During cold and flu season, wash your hands with soap many times during the day because you're in contact with all kinds of pathogens -- door knobs, stair railings, other people. You really want to have clean hands."

According to the CDC, proper hand washing for 20 seconds is the most effective way to avoid the 1 billion colds that Americans catch each year, not to mention other infectious diseases.

Get Your ZZZs

Sleep is one of the best ways to stay healthy, Northrup says. "People who get a solid eight hours per night absolutely do better."

Sleep efficiency is the key, Cohen says. People who get into bed and fall asleep right away and stay asleep are more protected against colds than those who wake up repeatedly through the night.

A good night's sleep will restore the immune system, Northrup says, because when you get a good night's sleep, melatonin levels rise and that improves immunity.

And best of all, there are no side effects.

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Reviewed on December 05, 2008

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