Staying healthy involves knowing your body shape, reducing stress, eating the right foods and paying attention to warning signs that something may be wrong.
So, are you an apple or a pear? It’s important to know, according to Top Health, a health promotion and wellness newsletter. Apples, those who carry excess fat around the waist, are at greater risk of Type 2 diabetes than pears, who carry most of their excess weight around the hips. Researchers have found that people who carry extra fat around their abdomen also may have an increased risk of heart disease.
A man with a waistline of more than 40 inches or a woman with a waistline of more than 35 inches may be at increased risk for diabetes and heart disease. Whether you’re an apple or a pear, you can lower your risk of developing diabetes by reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. Losing even a little can help. The National Institutes of Health found that losing 5 percent to 7 percent of body weight—as little as 10 pounds for a 200-pound person—can prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes in people at high risk for the disease. Add movement—daily walks, yard work, 30 minutes on the treadmill—and your risk decreases even more.
Stress is a part of our everyday lives. It can actually give us the incentive to be the best we can be. But what if our daily dose of stress has made us feel overwhelmed, discouraged or downright nasty? Here are a few stress busters, from OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Ill., to use throughout the day:
• Deep breathing. Simply take in a slow, breath to the count of four, pause for a second, and then exhale to the count of four again. Feel your belly rise and your chest expand. Focus on the fresh, clean air you are breathing in and delight in the moment. As you exhale, let go of all the tension, worry and waste.
• Laughter. Laughter helps relax our muscles and massage our inner organs. It releases natural chemicals into our bodies that make us feel better. Have you ever noticed how often a child laughs? They can chuckle and find joy in the simplest things. So can you. Don’t take yourself so seriously.
• Music. Do certain sounds or songs put you in a good mood or bring back a pleasant memory? Record those sounds on a “feel good” tape and keep it in your car, office or home. Play it when caught in traffic or hurried to get chores done. Or why not just remember to whistle a happy tune?
• Get up and move. Our body’s natural stress buster is exercise. It burns up the chemicals stress pours into our system. When you feel stressed, take five minutes to get up and away from the situation. Walk down the hall or to the bathroom. If possible, take a longer walk outside. Stretching can also help ease muscle tension.
Eat Your Veggies
Fruits and vegetables are an integral part of a healthy diet. But many people fall short of the daily recommended five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
Not sure how to increase your fruit and veggie intake? Start the day with a glass of 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice. Slice bananas or strawberries on top of your cereal. Have a salad with lunch and an apple for an afternoon snack. Include a vegetable with dinner and you already have about five cups of fruits and vegetables. Here are some recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control:
• Buy ready-to-eat packaged fresh vegetables that are already cleaned. Pre-cut vegetables and salad mixes are a terrific time saver.
• Try tasty additions to your salad. Green or red pepper strips, broccoli florets, carrot slices or cucumbers add crunch to your pasta or potato salad; baby carrots, shredded cabbage or spinach leaves bring color to a green salad; apple chunks, pineapple and raisins perk up coleslaw, chicken or tuna salads; and orange, grapefruit or nectarine slices add extra flavor to any salad.
• Add fresh fruit and vegetables to foods you already eat. Add berries and bananas to yogurt and cereal; vegetables to pasta and pizza; and lettuce, tomato and onion to sandwiches.
• Make a quick smoothie in the blender by pureeing peaches and nectarines, a touch of your favorite fruit juice, crushed ice and a light sprinkling of nutmeg.
• Make homemade salsa with tomatoes, mangoes, avocados, red onions, cilantro and lime juice.
While it can be tough to get adults to eat their fruits and vegetables, it may be even harder to convince kids. These suggestions from the CDC help make eating veggies fun:
• Top a bowl of cereal with a smiling face: sliced banana for eyes, raisins for a nose and an orange slice for a mouth. You can use broccoli florets for trees, carrots and celery for flowers, cauliflower for clouds, and a yellow squash for a sun. When you’re all done, you can eat your healthy masterpiece.
• Make frozen fruit kabobs using pineapple chunks, bananas, grapes
• Take kids to the grocery store or farmers’ market to let them see all the different sizes and colors that fruit and vegetables offer. Let them pick out a new fruit and vegetable to try.
The American Heart Association wants people to understand and be able to recognize the warning signs of a heart attack. Some heart attacks are sudden and intense—where no one doubts what’s happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren’t sure what’s wrong and wait too long before getting help. Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:
• Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
• Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
• Shortness of breath. May occur with or without chest discomfort.
Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness.
As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting and back or jaw pain.
If you or someone you’re with has chest discomfort, especially with one or more of the other signs, don’t wait longer than a few minutes (no more than five) before calling for help. Call 911. Get to a hospital right away. Calling 911 is almost always the fastest way to get life-saving treatment. Emergency medical services staff can begin treatment when they arrive—up to an hour sooner than if someone gets to the hospital by car. The staff are also trained to revive someone whose heart has stopped. Patients with chest pain who arrive by ambulance usually receive faster treatment at the hospital, too.
Eat Fish Often
Consistent with its long-standing objective of reducing cardiovascular disease—the nation’s number-one killer—the American Heart Association issued diet and lifestyle recommendations that call on Americans to make fish, including canned tuna, an essential part of a healthy diet. The AHA’s recommendation that Americans eat at least two servings of fish a week is based on evidence showing a correlation between consumption of fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid and reduced risk of both sudden death and death from coronary heart disease among adults.
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in high quantities in fish, are known to have multiple health benefits, such as aiding in the neurological development of children and lowering the risk of heart disease. They may even help slow the spread of prostate cancer. Omega-3 fatty acids are abundant in most seafood and especially in cold-water varieties such as tuna—one of the most omega-3-rich fish species.
The AHA’s guidelines stress the importance and benefits of fish for all Americans and remind pregnant women and young children to follow the U.S. Food and Drug Administra-tion’s advice—to avoid eating fish with the highest concentrations of methyl mercury and to instead eat fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury, including canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish.