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5 Natural Ways to Help Your Health

Want to improve the nation’s health care? Stay healthy.

3. Get Screened and Get Your Shots

This year, with flu in the headlines, no one needs to be reminded that flu shots can dramatically reduce the risk of getting this seasonal bug and its potentially life-threatening complications. Yet only 42% of people 50 to 64 get yearly flu shots. Keeping up to date on all recommended vaccinations can prevent many deadly and debilitating illnesses.

Routine health screens are also lifesavers. Knowing and managing your cholesterol levels and blood pressure is crucial to reducing your risk of heart disease. Cancer screening tests have been shown to catch some forms of the disease early enough to eliminate them.

For the latest recommendations on what tests to get when, check out the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations at www.ahrq.gov.

4. Don’t Smoke: Quitting Saves Lives

A no-brainer. But lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death -- and between 80% and 90% of cases are directly caused by smoking, according to the National Cancer Institute. 

The good news: smoking rates are falling in the U.S. And thanks to a variety of new nicotine replacement therapies -- from patches to nasal sprays -- quitting is easier than ever. One recent analysis of studies found that nicotine replacements can almost double the odds that smokers will successfully quit. New medications to help smokers kick the habit are also available. Talk to your doctor about the best strategies for success.

5. Find Joy From Family and Friends

Enjoying life and maintaining a circle of supportive friends is a big part of good health. Indeed, having friendships may be second only to not smoking for preventing heart attacks. People with extensive social networks, according to research at the Uniformed Services University, are less likely to have calcification in their arteries, a sign of heart disease risk.

One way to increase your happiness is to foster cheerful friends. “Happiness turns out to spread through social networks,” says James D. Fowler, PhD, an associate professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego. His research, which tracked the spread of happiness among friends and even friends of friends, found that a person is 15% more likely to be happy if a close contact is happy.

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Reviewed on September 02, 2009

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