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10 Down-to-Earth Ways to Live Healthier Today

Posted October 7, 2014

Do what you can, when you can, is an excellent motto for improving your health habits, especially as you get older.For example, if you've lived a sedentary lifestyle for years, suddenly beginning a rigorous exercise routine is not realistic and could even be dangerous. Instead, make smaller changes that you'll be able to stick with. Here are ten easy-to-implement suggestions that will get you started … today!

1. Eat and drink moderately. Ambitious fantasies of going on a restrictive diet often end in failure, which only makes you feel worse about yourself. Set yourself up for success with down-to-earth plans -- for instance, taking only a single helping at supper or cutting down to two cups of coffee a day instead of three. When possible, substitute complex carbohydrates such as brown rice or wholegrain pasta for refined versions. In addition to satiating you more effectively, the extra fiber contributes to digestive health, lowered cholesterol, and decreased risk of heart disease.

2. Take care of your mouth. Brush at least twice a day, floss daily, and clean your tongue for better oral hygiene. This will not only improve the health of your teeth and gums, but also help to guard against loss of memory and other cognitive functions, not to mention lowering your risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and rheumatoid arthritis. Away from home at mealtime? Rinse with a bactericidal mouthwash after eating.

3. Exercise. Get your body moving in some way, however small. Climb a flight of stairs instead of taking the elevator, park two blocks from your destination and walk, dance to your favorite tune -- even five or ten minutes of physical activity is good for you. The ideal is a minimum of 2 hours moderate aerobic activity per week (subject to medical approval), but as the philosopher Lao-tzu stated, " A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

5. Buy yourself a good sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, as well as UVA-blocking ingredients like zinc oxide -- and use it. Besides protecting your skin from the aging effects of the sun, it reduces exposure to cancer-causing UV rays. Apply sunscreen to your face and other exposed skin, both summer and winter.

6. Turn off the TV at least a half hour earlier than usual. A 2009 study by Australian Professor David Dunstan found adults who watched more than four hours of television per day had a risk of death 46 percent higher than those who indulged fewer than two hours daily. While you're at it, you might want to try disconnecting all electronics for a limited period. Enjoy the quiet when nothing's blipping or beeping for your attention.

7. Indulge in healthy relaxation. Have a massage (Tui Na works to relax the body and the mind equally), meditate, practice yoga or Chi Gong, or use visualization techniques. Accompany these activities with soothing music or white noise, if desired. Consciously letting go of your worries and focusing on tranquility for 20 or 30 minutes at a time enhances your ability to relax, even when faced with intense stress.

8. Get in touch with friends or family. These days, with readily available long distance communication such as Skype, calling loved ones anywhere in the world is no longer reserved for special occasions. Even better, make a date to get together. Isolation has been shown to decrease blood flow through your arteries, ultimately leading to hypertension. Reaching out and staying in touch acts as an "antidote."

9. Do something a little differently. Stimulate your brain via mini changes in your daily routine, even something as seemingly minor as taking a different route to the supermarket once in a while. On a larger scale, take a course in an unfamiliar subject. The topic could be anything from the practical (mastering New York handyman skills so you can make repairs in your urban apartment) to the purely intellectual (appreciation of traditional Japanese haiku).

10. Make time for fun. Want to reduce your level of stress hormones and strengthen your immune system? Visit a comedy club, share amusing anecdotes with your colleagues, or read a lighthearted novel.

Laura Firszt writes for

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