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By Kate Silver, this article originally published on GetOld.com
Countless articles have been written about health, and at Get Old we’ve contributed our fair share of those stories.
Through years of interviewing health care professionals, experts and authors, we’ve noticed a number of common threads popping up on how to be as healthy as you can be. Here are the seven top preventive health tips we’ve learned along the way.
Take care of your heart. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are a number of steps you can take to lower your risk of heart disease: quit smoking; exercise regularly (The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise, or a combination of the two); and eat a heart-healthy diet, for starters. Also, visit your doctor regularly so that you know your numbers. That means your cholesterol, blood pressure, triglycerides, waist circumference, body mass index and more.
Get a good night’s sleep. Sure, you’re grumpy when you don’t get enough zzzzzs. But did you know that lack of sleep may be bad for your health? There are a number of steps you can take to improve your sleep schedule, including keeping your bedroom cool and quiet, maintaining a routine and keeping a sleep journal to uncover patterns that might be keeping you up at night.
Stay connected. Keeping strong relationships with friends and family is good for your health. Friendships help to ward off loneliness and reduce stress. When you’re connected with loved ones, you may be more likely to feel like you belong and exude confidence. You can rest easier knowing that your friends will be there for you in hard times, and can lend a helping hand when you need one. Plus, even if you’re just running errands or doing chores, being around friends makes things fun, and that feels good.
Manage your stress. When stress sets in, it can feel like you’re getting caught in a whirling, swirling tube of anxiety. Stress can be hard on your body, and it may be just as tough on your emotions. Everyone manages stress differently. Exercise can help, so can making time to do the things that you enjoy. It’s also important to remember that there are some things you can’t control, and it doesn’t help to lose sleep over those things. For advice that may help manage stress, read these tips.
Practice gratitude. Being thankful for what you have sounds simple, doesn’t it? Its impact may be quite complex. Studies have shown that gratitude may help reduce anxiety and depression and could even lower the risk of getting sick. To try your hand at gratitude, start a gratitude journal. Every day, write down three things for which you’re grateful. By committing them to paper, they’ll stay top of mind. Plus, when you’re feeling low, you can look back on all you have and be grateful.
Know your health history. Being proactive is key when it comes to health. But there are some areas over which we have no control. Namely, our DNA. Your family’s health history may influence the future of your health. Certain types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and neurological or mental illness may be hereditary. If you haven’t yet, initiate a conversation and get to know what diseases have impacted your family. Share that information with your family physician so that he or she can be aware and do any necessary screening tests and share advice to keep you as healthy as possible. The Surgeon General created a tool called My Family Health Portrait that can help.
Give your immune system a boost. As we age, our immune systems can sometimes use a little assistance. Talk with your doctor about taking advantage of the vaccines that are available to keep you healthy, including flu, pneumonia and shingles vaccines (the CDC recommends that adults 65 and older get a pneumococcal vaccine and that adults 60 and older get a shingles vaccine).
Remember that taking care of yourself means learning to ask for help. You are your own best advocate, and if you’re concerned about anything with your health — whether it’s mental or physical — talk with your doctor. Help is available, but sometimes you have to ask for it.