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Top 4 Tips for Healthy Living

Want to get down to basics? Here are four fundamental tips that can substantially decrease your risk of disease and illness, and greatly improve your quality of life - for the rest of your life. Make the following part of your healthy lifestyle:

  1. Watch your weight. Carrying extra body weight increases the risk of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, postmenopausal breast cancer and cancer of the uterus, colon, kidney, and esophagus. You can help lose those extra pounds by eating a healthful diet and getting regular physical exercise.
  2. Eat a healthful diet. Fad diets are more popular than ever, but don’t buy into the hype. A healthy diet can be achieved simply by avoiding processed foods and instead focusing on a wide variety of whole, fresh foods, with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables. Use my Anti-Inflammatory Diet Pyramid as a guide - it is not a quick fix diet, but rather an eating plan for life.
  3. Don't smoke. Tobacco addiction is the single greatest preventable cause of illness, and tobacco smoke is the most obvious environmental cause of cancer. Exposure to tobacco smoke increases the odds of developing many kinds of cancer, and raises the risks of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
  4. Be cognizant of your well-being. Disregard for your health and maintaining unhealthy lifestyle habits can markedly increase the risk of chronic problems in later life. If you like adrenalin highs, whether it’s running a marathon or cliff diving, be careful about how you get them - know the hazards of the activities you choose and how to contain them. By evaluating the short- and long-term risks involved in your behavior, you can help your body to keep working well as you age.

And don't forget to get moving. Advice on keeping your New Year's fitness resolutions.


Biting Your Nails?

Nail biting is one of the most common symptoms of stress. Some people will eventually stop of their own accord, but there are many among us who haven't been able to break the habit. While it can be embarrassing, and thus a source of anxiety as well as a response to it, there are some ways to minimize biting the nails.

  1. Try hypnotherapy as well as relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, biofeedback or yoga to help reduce underlying stress.
  2. Use a tooth guard. This removable, molded device fits either the upper or lower teeth, is barely visible and makes it impossible to bite the nails.
  3. Paint on “no-bite” nail polish. The off-putting taste of this clear coating is a form of aversion therapy.
  4. Use a rubber band. Place a loose rubber band around your wrist - not tight enough to stop circulation, not loose enough to fall off - and snap it hard enough to make it sting when you feel the urge to bite your nails.

More on dealing with stress.


Worried about Prehypertension?

Prehypertension - also called "high-normal" blood pressure - affects an estimated 25 percent of American adults, about the same number as those diagnosed with high blood pressure. Prehypertension is systolic pressure between 120 and 139 mmHg over diastolic pressure of 80 to 89 mmHg (hypertension is 140/90 mmHg or higher). To prevent or reduce the risk of prehypertension - which can double the risk of heart disease and stroke - try the following:

  • Maintain a healthy weight through exercise and diet.
  • Follow a diet rich in produce and low-fat dairy products, and low in sodium and saturated fats.
  • Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke.
  • Practice relaxing mind-body techniques such as meditation and breath work.
  • Get regular checkups, and follow your physician's advice about any health concerns.

Exercise May Help Prevent Colds

If you didn't already know that exercise is good for you, the findings from a new study may persuade you to give it a try to fend off winter colds. Researchers at Appalachian State University found that individuals who reported exercising at least five days a week spent 43 percent fewer days suffering with a cold than those who exercised no more than once a week. The investigators wrote that each bout of aerobic exercise causes a transient increase in the activity of cells involved in immune system defenses. They noted that the immune system returns to pre-exercise levels within a few hours after a workout but said that each session may improve overall immune defenses against the bugs that cause colds. The investigators followed 1,002 adults up to age 85 during two 12-week periods in 2008. Results showed that in addition to reducing the number of days spent with colds, the severity and symptoms of the colds that were contracted dropped by 32 to 41 percent among those who exercised most. The study was published online on November 1st in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Not sure where to start? My Exercise & Fitness library is full of helpful tips and information to get you moving.


Stuffed Potatoes

Want your family to eat more veggies? It can be difficult to coax your loved ones into eating five servings a day of vegetables (as nutritionists recommend). That's why this recipe cleverly incorporates broccoli into a baked potato. Broccoli is an excellent source of fiber and cancer-fighting antioxidants. Potatoes are a universally loved vegetable loaded with vitamins C and B-6, potassium and fiber. And, best of all, this recipe is low in fat. You can make the stuffed potatoes ahead and reheat them when everyone is ready to eat.


3 large baking potatoes
2 large stalks broccoli
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons lowfat milk, rice milk or soy milk
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese


1. Scrub the potatoes and make shallow cuts around their middles to make it easier to cut them in half after baking. Bake the potatoes at 400 degrees until soft, about 1 hour, depending on the size of the potatoes. 

2. Meanwhile, cut the ends from the stalks of broccoli and peel some of the outer skin off to make the stems more edible. Steam the broccoli until crunchy-tender and bright green. Drain and chop fine. 

3. Cut potatoes in half and scoop out the insides into a bowl. Add the salt, olive oil and just enough rice or soy milk to allow you to mash the potatoes into a smooth paste. Add the Parmesan cheese and the chopped broccoli and mix well. 

4. Pile the mixture back into the potato shells, arrange on a baking dish and heat them to desired temperature.


Is Fresh Juice Better?

If you have ever had the good fortune to drink freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice, you undoubtedly have been amazed at how much better it tasted than the concentrated or bottled varieties. The reason is that fresh juice, unlike commercial juice products, has not been heat treated, a process commonly used to kill pathogens that might grow in the interval between extraction and consumption.

Unfortunately, while heat treating can help keep our store-bought juices safe, it also destroys enzymes, lowers vitamin concentrations and alters the taste - juice becomes blandly sweet, rather than featuring a natural symphony of complex and subtle flavors.

In addition to its appealing taste, home-squeezed citrus juice may also offer a bevy of health benefits - studies have linked dietary intake of fruit juice with lower levels of inflammation and decreased risk of heart disease. And home-squeezed juice tends to contain more pulp, a source of healthful dietary fiber.


Wondering How to Use Tea Tree Oil?

Tea tree oil is a powerful disinfectant and useful herbal remedy. Extracted from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia, a native tree of New South Wales, it is a clear liquid, strongly aromatic, with an odor similar to that of eucalyptus. Tea tree oil is a good treatment for fungal infections of the skin (athlete's foot, ringworm, jock itch), toenails or fingernails - conditions notoriously resistant to treatment, even by strong systemic antibiotics. Just paint the oil on affected areas two or three times a day. You can also apply it full strength to boils and other localized infections. A ten percent solution (about one and a half tablespoons to a cup of warm water) can be used as a mouthwash and on skin to rinse and clean infected wounds. This dilution can also be used as an effective vaginal douche for treatment of both yeast and Trichomonas infections (although some women may find it irritating). Tea tree oil is nontoxic and available in most health-food and herb stores - choose products that are 100 percent pure tea tree oil.

More on herbal remedies.


Digestive Upset

The habitual use of laxatives can irritate the bowel, cause cramps and diarrhea, and even lead to laxative dependence. If irregularity is a concern, avoid using commercial remedies and try the following natural alternatives:

  1. Eat more fiber, in the form of fresh vegetables, wheat bran, whole-grain breads and cereals, and fruit.
  2. Drink plenty of water.
  3. Exercise on a daily basis.
  4. Do not use tobacco, caffeine or other stimulant drugs.
  5. Practice relaxation techniques.

If you can't get enough fiber from your diet, consider powdered psyllium. Available at health food stores, it is a quality source of supplemental fiber, but it must be used with adequate water to make it effective. Start with one rounded tablespoon of the powder stirred into a glass of water or diluted juice. Drink it down and follow it with another full glass of water.

Read more about digestive health.