Healthy habits are the best way to avoid disease, prolong life, and live more happily. Take these simple steps toward a longer, healthier life.
Eat Natural Foods
Packaged and processed foods are often full of sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, and calories. Avoid the fake stuff, and opt for the good stuff:
- fresh fruits and vegetables
- whole grains
- fiber-rich foods (beans and leafy greens)
- fresh fish
- lean cuts of meat and poultry
Here's a grocery-shopping tip: Shop the perimeter of the store. This is where you will find the fresh foods. Try to avoid the inside aisles, where most of the boxed and processed foods reside.
Eat Your Vitamins
You can get your vitamins with a daily multivitamin, but eating vitamin-rich foods serves up extra benefits—plenty of healthy fiber and minerals. So do both. Pack your meals with vitamin-rich foods, but keep taking the multivitamin.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in American women. Exercise is the best way to prevent heart disease and keep your ticker strong. Aim for 30 minutes of movement, at least four days a week. Aerobic exercise—including walking, jogging, dancing, and swimming—is best.
Avoid Health Sins
Don't smoke. And steer clear of those who do. Second-hand smoke is almost as dangerous as smoking. Nearly 3,000 nonsmoking Americans die every year from lung cancer. Other health sins involve drugs and alcohol. Don't use recreational drugs, and consume alcohol—including wine—only in moderation. For women, that means 12 ounces of beer, four ounces of wine, or one ounce of spirits each day. (One four-ounce glass of wine a day cuts heart disease risk, but more than that increases your risk of cancer and other problems.) Also, some women should not drink at all, including those who are pregnant or those who are on a prescription medication that interacts with alcohol.
Know Your Breasts
Conflicting advice on breast cancer screenings may be confusing, but many doctors and experts still recommend self-exams on a monthly basis starting at age 20 and yearly mammograms starting at age 40 (earlier if you have a family history of breast cancer).
Baby Your Skin
The skin sins of your 20s (tanning beds and long days at the pool) will rear their ugly heads in your 40s, 50s, and beyond. To protect against wrinkles, age spots, and even cancer, slather on sunscreen with a skin protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Better yet, wear protective clothing and sunglasses, and make sure to avoid the sun entirely in the middle of the day. If you spot any changes in freckles or new or unusual spots, see your dermatologist. The American Academy of Dermatology has a great recommendation: "Check your birthday suit on your birthday!"
Put on Your Best Smile
Good dental and oral health goes beyond a blindingly white set of chompers. Daily brushing and flossing keep away cavities, gum disease, and even the doctor, as having healthy teeth and gums can actually reduce your risk of heart disease.
Deal with Stress
Career. Kids. Family. Friends. Volunteer work. Many women are swimming in stress and responsibilities, which can manifest more than just gray hairs. Excessive stress can translate to high blood pressure, upset stomach, back pain, relationship conflicts, and eating disorders, to name a few. Manage stress with therapy, relaxation techniques, prayer, meditation, exercise, or a combination of these.
Visit the Doctor
Other than breast exams and gynecological visits, you should make sure to visit your family doctor or internist regularly for checkups and screening exams. For example, the American Heart Association recommends having your blood pressure checked every one to two years. Tests like these can nip potential issues in the bud.