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Good health is no accident

(This column was written by Betsy Adams for the Demopolis Times.)

 

Maintaining good health doesn’t happen by accident. It requires work, smart lifestyle choices, and regular checkups and tests.

A healthy diet is rich in fiber, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, “good” or unsaturated fats, and omega-3 fatty acids. These dietary components lower inflammation, which can damage tissue, joints, artery walls, and organs. Going easy on processed foods is another element of healthy eating. Sweets, foods made with highly refined grains, and sugar-sweetened beverages can cause spikes in blood sugar that can lead to early hunger. High blood sugar is linked to the development of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and even dementia.

The Mediterranean diet meets all of the requirements for good health, and there is convincing evidence that it is effective at warding off heart attack, stroke, and premature death. This diet is rich in olive oil, fruits, vegetables, nuts and fish; low in red meats or processed meats; and includes a moderate amount of cheese and wine.

Physical activity is also necessary for good health. It can greatly reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancer, depression, and falls. Physical activity improves sleep, endurance, and even sex. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio exercise every week, such as brisk walking. Strength training, important for balance, bone health, controlling blood sugar, and mobility, is recommended 2-3 times per week.

Finding ways to reduce stress is another strategy that can help you stay healthy, given the connection between stress and a variety of disorders. There are many ways to bust stress. Try, meditation, mindfulness, yoga, playing on weekends, and taking vacations.

Finally, establish a good relationship with a primary care physician. If something happens to your health, a physician you know —and who knows you — is in the best position to help. He or she will also recommend tests to check for hidden cancer or other conditions.

Good health is possible to maintain for many, with hard work, dedication, and the will to make the right choices to stay healthy.

— Betsy Adams is the Wellness Center Director at Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital. 

(This column originally appeared in the Wednesday, December 26 issue of the Demopolis Times.)