Healthy living is about things like more energy and less stress -- and it’s within reach. Investing in your health doesn’t have to be hard. Small changes can make a big difference.
Those changes also can help you lower your chances of health problems like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. And you can start right now.
1: Take stock.
Staying on top of your health is much more than getting care when you don’t feel good. See your doctor for regular checkups. (And don’t forget about your dentist and eye doctor.)
These visits can help find problems early or even before they start. The tests you need depend on things like your age, gender, family history, and whether you smoke or exercise.
Your doctor may want to check for these things, among others:
- Cholesterol levels
- High blood pressure
- Cervical cancer
- Colon cancer
- Breast cancer
- Prostate cancer
2: Kick bad habits to the curb.
Smoking and using tobacco in other ways can cause lung cancer and other serious health problems. The sooner you quit smoking, the better.
Too much alcohol can harm your liver and cause some kinds of cancer. Men shouldn’t have more than two drinks a day; women should have no more than one. If you drink more than that, talk to your doctor about cutting back.
3: Move more, even if it’s just a little bit.
You don’t have to lift heavy weights or train for marathons. You can squeeze exercise into your normal activities. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, or walk down every aisle in the grocery store when you’re shopping.
You can get exercise into your daily routine slowly by walking 5 minutes a day. Add 5 minutes every week, and after 2 months, you’ll log 150 minutes a week (30 minutes a day, 5 days a week) -- the recommended amount of exercise. If walking doesn’t appeal to you, try swimming or cycling.
4: Build a better plate.
The right foods can help you ward off health problems and even help you live longer. Some starting points include:
- Make half your plate veggies and fruit.
- Choose whole grains over white bread and white rice.
- Go for fish, chicken, beans, and nuts instead of red meat.
- Skip sugary drinks and choose water, coffee, or tea instead.
- Eat most of your meals at home so you can control the ingredients and keep track of the amount of salt in your food.
5: Get plenty of shut-eye.
A third of us don’t get enough sleep, and we need it for good health. Most adults should get 7 to 9 hours every night. To get what you need, go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time, even on weekends. Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and at a comfortable temperature.
It may be tempting to check email and watch TV before you go to bed, but that can get in the way of good rest. It’s smarter to keep TVs, phones, and tablets out of the bedroom. And stay away from caffeine, alcohol, and large meals in the hours before you hit the hay.
6: Manage stress.
Between work, family, and everything else on your plate, it’s normal to feel pulled in too many directions. This kind of stress can affect your health, and it’s important to stay on top of it.
Do things that make you happy, whether that’s gardening, doing yoga, playing music, or creating art. Exercise, laughter, and socializing also can help ease stress.
If a work project or balancing your checkbook has you uptight, step away for a few minutes and come back to it with calmer nerves and a clearer head.
7: Make new friends.
Join groups with people you like who share your interests. If you’re an avid reader, join a book club. Love movies? Look for a film club. And volunteering lets you do good things for your community and gives you a chance to meet people of all ages.
8: Challenge your mind.
Things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku, chess, or reading are all good for your brain. Keep learning and trying new things to boost your brainpower. It may help lower your chances of Alzheimer’s disease.