Prioritizing Your Health Practically
View All Section Pages
Your health is your responsibility but making healthy lifestyle changes to improve the quality and quantity of life can be overwhelming at times. Taking small steps every day to improve your health and wellness can make a profound impact on your life, leading to the successful accomplishment of your health goals.
Cooper Clinic Platinum Preventive Medicine Physician Riva Rahl, MD, understands the challenge of balancing work, family and social obligations while maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle. She shares a list of healthy habits that take little time and help incrementally improve overall health, despite a full schedule.
- Apply sunscreen – Cooper Clinic Dermatology recommends wearing SPF 30+ daily for best protection against the sun’s harmful rays.
- Take the stairs – Taking the stairs is a great way to stay active while traveling or at work and can elevate your heart rate.
- Drink water – Proper hydration is important for overall health and flushes toxins from the body, lubricates joints and helps muscles contract properly. Dr. Rahl says, “Drink water routinely with meals and when you’re thirsty. When your urine is clear or pale yellow, you know you’ve had enough.”
- Walk to your coworker’s desk instead of sending them an email – any movement is good movement.
- Take a deep breath (or two!) – Practicing breathing techniques can reduce stress and inflammation, which helps prevent disease.
- Get up and stretch every hour – Stretching can help improve posture and reduce pain.
- Take a vitamin D supplement – Since the most natural way to get vitamin D—through exposure to sunlight—isn’t always optimal and only a few foods contain vitamin D, many individuals do not receive an adequate amount through these avenues alone. Talk with your physician to see if a vitamin D supplement may be right for you.
- Eat something for breakfast – Breakfast is the most important meal of the day! Getting into the habit of eating breakfast helps improve overall health.
- Smile/laugh – When smiling or laughing, you use facial muscles which promote the production of serotonin and dopamine—hormones that make you happy!
- Self-breast exam/self-testicular exam – Completing a self-exam once a month can help detect abnormalities and health issues early on. Dr. Rahl says, “I’ve found it’s helpful to tell patients to relate this to their birthday. For example, if your birthday is on the 14th, do your self-exam each month on the 14th.”
- Schedule a cholesterol check – A lipid check tests your cholesterol levels and can help determine if you’re at risk of heart disease or stroke—two leading causes of death. If you know what your cholesterol levels are, you can identify risks and take steps to reduce them if needed. Adults should have a cholesterol check annually.
- Check your blood pressure – First, use an arm blood pressure monitor. These are most accurate compared to wrist monitors because the arteries in your wrist are narrower, resulting in a less volatile blood pressure reading. A normal blood pressure is typically 120/80 or less. Frequency of checking will depend on the individual. If you’re someone who typically has a “normal” blood pressure, you won’t need to check it as frequently. If your numbers fluctuate, you can check it more frequently and manage high blood pressure through diet, exercise, lifestyle or medication. When checking blood pressure, sit in a quiet, relaxing environment and keep your legs uncrossed.
- Floss – Dental hygiene counts toward your overall health and wellness, too!
- Put your seat belt on – In the event of a car accident, a seatbelt will keep you safe.
- Grab a handful of nuts for a snack – Nuts are an excellent source of monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, protein and fiber, as well as numerous vitamins and minerals.
- Do a good deed – Just like laughing and smiling, performing a good deed makes the list because it promotes the production of your happy hormones—serotonin and dopamine.
- Eat a piece of fruit – Fruits (and vegetables) provide numerous vitamins and minerals as well as fiber.
- Do a downward dog – Yoga is a great tool for relaxation.
- Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes when outside – Eye health goes beyond being able to see clearly, so keep an eye on your eye health by wearing sunglasses when you’re outdoors.
Where to start
Taking charge of your health starts with small changes—it’s not all or nothing. Dr. Rahl says, “You don’t necessarily want to start with the habit that will give you the most bang for your buck. Instead, choose one with the lowest barrier to accomplish. Start with an item on the list that is the least overwhelming.” Successfully making an “easier,” less daunting lifestyle change can help you build confidence and propel you forward to tackle another habit from the list.
Reframe your mindset to be, “I’m going to try and do more today than I did yesterday,” says Dr. Rahl. Talk with your physician to see what long-term health and wellness goals you should set based on your individual needs. Then, determine what your biggest risks are and pinpoint things you can do to mitigate those.
It is never too late to make positive changes in your health and wellness routine. Remember to set small, everyday goals that are attainable and lead into larger, harder-to-reach goals that may take more time to accomplish. Small adjustments can lead to vast improvements when it comes to your health, so have the courage to take your first step today.
For more information about Cooper Clinic preventive exams and other services, visit cooper-clinic.com or call 972.560.2667.