Protecting Your Health: What You Can Do

Looking for ways to take control of your health? Check out these suggestions and tips to feel good and keep the doctor away.

Never before in history has the average person known so much about the human body's workings or how to keep it running effectively. Whereas previously, medical practice remained pretty much in the hands of a competent physician, nowadays the typical lay person can access a tremendous amount of health-related information on television or the Internet. Education and the publishing industry provide supplemental materials to teach people how to care for themselves and prevent as well as treat illness.

Obviously, if you experience serious symptoms such as fever, unexpected weight loss or gain, weakness, fatigue, or an unexplained bruise or lump, you should see the doctor immediately to check for an underlying condition. But assuming that you are in general good health, follow suggestions like these to continue feeling well:

1. Eat sensibly. Several health agencies like the American Cancer Association or the American Heart Association, along with the American Diabetes Association recommend using a food pyramid plan. Consume a daily ratio of food groups that limit red meat and fat. Pursue the "five a day" plan for fruits and veggies--two fruits and three vegetables daily, or more, up to as many as nine a day. Strive for a balanced diet and avoid junk food. Don't forget to drink eight glasses of water each day.

2. Exercise regularly. Get your doctor's approval to begin an exercise routine that will keep your circulation and limbs moving. Healthy activity carries oxygen and nutrients to all parts of your body via the blood's network of capillaries, veins, and arteries. Toning your muscles helps to keep them limber and you flexible, ensuring able-bodied activity for years to come. Just don't overdo it; build up to 30 minutes or more of activity several days a week.

3. Expand your mind. Research shows that people who exercise their brains through stimulating mental activity like crossword puzzles or learning a new skill can preserve and even enhance mental function. Take a language class or read a book by a new author to get your brain moving.

4. Make social connections. A study showed that people with four to six social connections with whom they kept in touch on a monthly basis were healthier than those who lacked a social support system. Family members, neighbors, coworkers, and community contacts with whom you share personal information and enjoy a laugh can serve as a social support. Exchanging greetings, news, or personal information on a casual basis helps us feel connected to a larger social framework. Those who remain disconnected tend to become ill more often, have a negative outlook on life, and become unhappier over time.

5. Write about it. Keeping a diary, or journal, is an excellent way to get in touch with deep emotions or innermost thoughts, especially those that you may be reluctant to express to another person. A study showed that people who journaled three times a week, twenty minutes each time, about negative events in their lives, such as health problems, relationship issues, or job conflicts, often produced more T-cells in their body, which enhanced their immune system function.

You also may want to subscribe to a health publication or watch television programming about health issues. Set goals to improve bodily functions, such as exercise more regularly or eat less commercially prepared food, and chart your progress. Celebrate positive results with special treats like a trip to the movies or a relaxing bubble bath. Keep in mind that the better care you give your body, the more likely it is to take care of you!

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