The GOOD Guide to Living Better, Part Four: Living
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There are so many different ways to make your life more healthy. Here are just a few more—from making the most of your doctors visits to exercising right to spending time with your loved ones—that could make easily improve your life.
What's Up, Doc?
According to recent estimates, Americans spend between $100-150 billion annually on treating preventable illnesses, and a total of $1.5 trillion on all heath-care costs, more than any other country in the world. With rates of obesity not to mention adult-onset diabetes and preventable cancers skyrocketing, it’s up to every American to take their health into their own hands. And what better way than with regular checkups.
Annual physicals can be an early line of defense for numerous health problems that can cost you time and money later. Here’s how to make the most of your visits.
Know your medical history: Share it with your doctor, whether or not they ask. Also, if you take any medications, over-the-counter drugs, or supplements, fill them in.
Record your symptoms: Keep a detailed log. When recalling from memory, most of us play down discomfort or, worse, forget it entirely.
Ask questions up front: Tell your doctor at the beginning of your appointment that you have questions about your health, and don’t get intimidated if they seem impatient.
Consider lifestyle issues: Smoking-cessation programs, exercise regimens, and nutritional advice are solid steps for optimal health. Ask your doctor for suggestions.
Don’t ignore minor changes: Mood changes, headaches, or changes in your bowel movements could be signs of more problematic underlying issues.
Give blood: Request a complete blood-work panel, and get a copy for yourself. You are your own best advocate, and maintaining your medical records is crucial to charting how your health changes over time.
A MORSEL FROM HEALTHYMAGINATION
Use a coupon, buy the store brand or forgo your second coffee to save some money today.
Find some small way to save money today. Discover how good it feels to spend less than
you have to. See if you can make it a pattern, and watch the savings add up.
Don't Train in Vain
Exercise is one of the best things we can do for our bodies and minds—so why are only half of Americans doing it regularly?
Physical activity will give you energy and boost your mood, possibly thanks to increased production of a chemical in the body called phenylethylamine. Consistent exercise also plays a key role in weight management, especially as we age; a study of premenopausal women revealed that walking and biking significantly lowered their risk of weight gain in later years.
Exercise also reduces the chance of developing an array of chronic diseases like osteoporosis, heart disease, high blood pressure, and even cancer. It will improve your sleep life—and your sex life—and it’s the ultimate stress-buster. Here’s how to ensure you do it more often:
Make it convenient: No matter how nice that gym across town is, you’re not going to go daily unless it’s easy. Find one within walking distance, use the park across the street, or buy a yoga DVD.
Do it with a friend: The buddy system—where each party feels responsible to the other to show—really works. It’s also more fun, whether hitting the racquetball courts for one-on-one competition or offering moral support in a belly-dancing class.
Don’t mix it up too much: If you go for an hour-long walk everyday, you will begin to crave that walk. Stick with a regimen for at least a month before switching to something more challenging.
Do it in the morning: It’s much easier to motivate yourself first thing—maybe after some coffee, which is shown to boost stamina—than at the end of the day. Late-night exercise can also disrupt sleep.
Get a trainer: When all else fails, pay someone to make you exercise. Once you get into the routine it will be easier to stay motivated on your own.
The Pleasure Principle
In a society so focused on consumption, deprivation can look like the height of glamour (just open any fashion magazine); but pampering ourselves is as vital to health as what we eat and how much we sleep. So next time you want to indulge, try one of these pleasures on for size:
Eat chocolate: Previously thought of as a vice, serotonin-releasing chocolate—the darker the better—has emerged as a boon to health. Thanks to its powerful antioxidants, regular consumption of dark chocolate may reduce your chance of stroke, help prevent sun damage, and generally put you in a better mood.
Sip a glass of wine: But not 10. In a study of 150,000 French people, those who drank moderately were thinner, more relaxed, and healthier overall. They also had higher good cholesterol levels and lived longer than both their teetotaling and heavy drinking counterparts.
Enjoy physical affection: Of course sex gets top billing in this department, releasing a cocktail of stress-reducing, joy-inducing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins. But even cuddling or quality time with your pet will boost your levels of oxytocin—the hormone that helps us trust and connect with others. Studies on rats have demonstrated an increased capacity for wound healing when oxytocin was administered, so simply spending extra time with your loved ones may make you healthier.
Go shopping: It's a sad statement about our culture of consumption (and perhaps not the most helpful advice in this economy), but hitting the market offers a variety of health perks: from elevating your mood to boosting your immune system, also meeting social needs and keeping your brain agile.
A MORSEL FROM HEALTHYMAGINATION
Lie on your back, heels down, knees up. Bring your left hand towards your left foot andreturn.
This exercise works your oblique (waist) muscles. Exhale as you reach, and concentrate
on using your waist—not your shoulder—to do the work. Do 10 on each side.