Here are 10 tips, backed by scientific research that offer delightful and sometimes surprising ways to improve your health.
1. Socialize: friends, family, neighbors and colleagues can help you live longer and better. People with consistant, active social lives are less likely to experience a decline in the ability to reason and remember.
2. Get a pet: whether feathered or furry, pets are good for your health. People who own pets have healthier hearts and make fewer visits to the doctor. Pets can help to lower blood pressure in stressful situations. Pet owners are more physically fit and tend to be less lonely than people without pets.
3. Choose chocolate: got to love this one. Dark chocolate is rich in plant compounds called flavonoids, natural antioxidants that help the body's cells resist damage that may contribute to cancer and other maladies. Don't over do it. Limit yourself to about one ounce per day.
4. Savor your coffee: coffee-regular or decaf-appears to lower the risk of dying from chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and pneumonia. Other research concludes that caffeinated coffee may protect against skin cancer, liver damage, type 2 diabetes and Parkinson's. So if coffee doesn't keep you awake at night, enjoy that cup of joe, just go easy on the cream and sugar.
5. Raise a glass of wine or beer: a glass of wine, either red or white, is hearthealthy. Beer is good too. Although scientist still don't know whether the protective effects come from the alcohol itself or from some nonalcoholic component, they agree that both beverages also protect against diabetes and certain types of cancer. Go easy though...one glass of wine or beer for women a day and two for men. More than that can cause problems.
6. Have sex: yep, sex causes the brain to release endorphins, the feel-good chemicals that act as painkillers and reduce anxiety. Sex also prompts the release of substances that bolster the immune system. What's more, sexual activity is associated with lower levels of depression in both men and women.
7. Listen to music: music profoundly affects health. Emotions that are aroused by joyful music cause tissue in the inner lining of blood vessels to expand, increasing blood flow. Music also brings on sound sleep, boosts mood and reduces anxiety. Finally, studies show that patients feel less pain and need less pain medication after surgery if they listen to music while recuperating.
8. Take a nap: a midafternoon nap can help improve mood, memory, alertness and learning and it won't interfere with your nighttime zzz's. Research shows that a 90-minute siesta clears the brain's short-term memory storage center and makes room for new information. Snoozing for 20 minutes improves alertness and performance without leaving you feeling groggy.
9. Get outside: staying in touch with nature is essential for good health. Greener environments cut the time it takes to recover from surgery, improve the way the immune system works and help diabetics achieve healthier blood glucose levels. Surprisingly, as little as 5 minutes a day of walking in a city park, cycling, gardening, fishing, boating and other outdoor activities can boost your mood and sense of well-being.
10. Toss your soap: stop using the high octane soaps and household cleaners that contain the antibacterial agent triclosan. Plain-jane soaps work just as those that tout themselves as "antibacterial". What's more, triclosan may contribute to the rise of dangerous, disease-causing bacteria resistant to antibiotics.
FInally, live joyfully. At least once a week, buy yourself the present of spending time doing exactly what you want!
Re-print of an article by Nissa Simon for AARP Bulletin.
Quote of the Day
"You are always only one choice away from changing your life."