Healthy Habits to Improve Your Life

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We all know we should eat right and exercise to be healthy, but that sounds so broad we think it's tough to do.

That's why the Internet site WebMD boiled it down to a more specific list. They came up with "13 Healthy Habits to Improve Your Life."

Topping the list is to eat breakfast. Cotton-O'Neil Dr. Stacy Weeks says the recommendation comes from studies showing those who eat breakfast are healthier. She says breakfast eaters tend to have lower cholesterol, eat less fat and be at lower risk for diabetes.

Weeks recommends breakfasts include protein and suggests meal replacement bars made from natural ingredients if you think you don't have time.

Next on the list is to add fish to your diet. Two servings a week of salmon or tuna gives you a good dose of Omega 3 fatty acids. Weeks says studies show Omega 3s are good for protecting your heart.

If you don't like fish, Weeks says your body can also get Omega 3s from tofu or soybeans.

The list also contains some good news: snacking is a healthy habit! However, it's only good if you make good choices like fruits, veggies or nuts. Weeks says a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack helps keep your blood sugar at a steady state. Preventing the highs and lows, she says, can prevent stress, headaches or tiredness.

Don't forget the drinks! Taking time for tea is a healthy habit. Tea can provide cancer-fighting antioxidants. But Weeks says to make it decaf. She says caffeine can make you lose fluid and it can make you crave carbohydrates and sweets.

Drinking plenty of water is another healthy habit to have. Weeks calls water the ultimate healthy drink. She says you should get 64 ounces a day. "Water is an essential nutrient," she says. "Every bodily function requires water."

Exercise is a healthy habit most people know about. Experts recommend 30-minutes of at least brisk walking a day. Weeks says you can even divide it into smaller segments. She says the benefits are endless. Exercise gives you energy, it's good for your bones, it's good for your muscles, it's good for your joints and it's good for your heart.

A daily walk is listed as a separate healthy habit. Weeks says that means being more active in general. She says instead of the elevator, take the stairs; park further away; or instead of emailing someone, walk down the hall and talk to them. Weeks says any way you can work in extra activity is a healthy bonus.

Having social connections can also boost your health. Weeks says it's important to have friends and social occasions to help relax. If you keep it all bottled up, it can be very unhealthy, she says.

Having hobbies also helps you relax and they can work out your mind. Weeks says the more you use your mind, the better it is for your brain. She says it can keep you more alert.

Protecting your skin is another health habit on the list. Weeks says wear sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat if you're out in the sun. She says sun not only causes age damage, but you also get serious damage that leads to cancer.

Once your skin's taken care of, take care of your teeth. Good dental hygiene is important because of the high blood supply to your mouth. Bacteria that may form in the mouth and cause infections can get into the blood stream and cause serious, even fatal, problems.

You also need to get enough rest. Weeks says most people need seven to 10 hours of sleep a night. She says sleep allows us to relax our muscles and joints, and refresh our minds.

Finally, take the time to make a plan. Weeks says that might mean things like schedule exercise and make a shopping list. "If you're going to make these changes, you have to be ready and you have to do it for yourself, not for somebody else," she says.

A couple unhealthy habits worth mentioning: Weeks says don't start smoking and if you do smoke, quit.

Also, avoid alcohol. Weeks says studies show it can have benefits, but only in moderation. That's no more than two drinks a day for men, one a day for women.

For more health articles, go to www.webmd.com or www.stormontvail.org.


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