Some of these tips to improve your health and wellness may repeat what you already know you should be doing. But, if you are like me, you may not be doing them consistently, and repetition never hurts. I invariably learn something new, and the reinforcement encourages me to take action. Hopefully, you’ll find some new tidbits below as well.
1. Talk to Your Doctor
Women in their prime go through a number of physical changes, and it’s time to be proactive about their health. Make sure you keep up with heart health tests like blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol testing. Early detection will help keep you active and healthy. If you are having trouble exercising or losing weight, talk to your doctor – they can help. If it’s hot flashes and other menopause miseries you suffer, findings show that cognitive behavior therapy – or relaxation techniques and sleep strategies – can reduce hot flash severity and night sweats. Clinical hypnosis has had good results, as well.
2. Stay Hydrated
Everyone knows to drink plenty of water. That even includes times when you are bloated, because water relieves dehydration that can cause your body to puff up as it clings to the little water your body has.
Plenty for you may not be plenty for me. Conventional wisdom had us drinking eight 8-ounce servings of water per day. But based on body size, activity level, and other factors, this ideal amount may vary from person to person. It also is possible to drink too much water (water intoxication), which throws off the body’s electrolyte balance. Most of us have the opposite problem of not getting enough.
Think of water as the foundation for all good things in the body – skin health, circulation, digestion, immune system, and many others. So figure out your ideal amount of daily water and make sure you get it.
3. Find a Purpose
Those in retirement or facing other age-related challenges can lose their sense of purpose. Purpose is what drives our ability to be positive and have a sense of well-being. Find a hobby or activity that is important to you and can fill that need – like gardening, volunteering, joining a civic group, or taking classes at a local college. A study published in Psychological Science found a lower risk of mortality during the study’s 14-year follow-up among participants who had a sense of purpose in life and maintained good social relationships.
According to a study at Rush University, having a purpose later in life has been shown to slow cognitive decline by about 30 percent as well as reduce the risk of heart failure and Alzheimer’s disease.
4. Stay Active
We all know physical activity is essential to improve your health and wellness. It is also energizing, according to a recent study that showed that fatigue and mood improved after just 30 minutes of moderate exercise.
There are many different ways to stay active, from a serious workout like running or a spin class to doing housework, a lighter workout. Each of us is at our own fitness level, and each of us has our own desired level, so your activities will be highly determined by where you are and where you want to be. For myself, I’m pretty satisfied with my level of activity, and I like to:
- Walk the dog 1 mile twice daily.
- Workout daily, alternating aerobic activity and strength training
- Golf 9 holes weekly
- Hike 3 miles weekly
- Do 1 ½ hours of yoga weekly
Occasionally I’ll think maybe I should train to run a marathon like the rest of my siblings, but then sanity prevails, and I decide I’m not willing to devote any more time to my workouts, nor do I want to give up the variety.
Not everyone can take this much time each day for physical activity (though having a dog is a great incentive). Still, I would urge you to make time for at least 30 minutes to go for at least a walk, which is free and can be done virtually anytime, anywhere.
5. Get Enough Sleep
Here again, each of us needs our own amount of sleep to be at our best health. I operate best on 8 hours of sleep per night. When I get less sleep over several days, I find I ‘space out’ occasionally during the day. My husband probably needs about 7 hours but gets even less because he can’t seem to sleep much past 5 am. As a result, when we get a chance to catch up on our DVR-ed or Netflix shows, he’s asleep by 8 pm. A sure sign he needs more sleep.
To improve your health and wellness, do your best to establish a regular sleep routine, turning off electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime, keeping to the same bedtime and waketime, and keeping the bedroom comfortable, both the bed itself and the room temperature (slightly lower than during the day).
And, if you can get sleep by napping, an interesting new Japanese study shows that people who consume caffeine (about one or two cups of coffee) then napped for 20 minutes felt more alert and performed better on computer tests than those who only took a nap. According to Allen Towfigh, MD, medical director of New York Neurology & Sleep Medicine, this happens because the nap ends just as the caffeine kicks in and clears the brain of adenosine which tends to cause fatigue.
6. Pay Attention to Gum and Teeth Health
The link between our oral health and overall health, especially the heart, was not known until recently, but now we know there is a clear correlation.
I have unfortunately inherited bad gums, so as I’ve gotten older, I’ve had to migrate to using a water pic, electronic toothbrush, and special floss. But these steps are a small price to pay for keeping my teeth and my health intact.
For teeth health, Howard R. Gamble, immediate past president of the Academy of General Dentistry, says that you should not brush your teeth immediately after acidic meals or drinks (citrus fruits, tomatoes, soda, etc.). These can soften the tooth enamel, so brushing speeds up the acidic effect and erodes the layer under the enamel. He suggests waiting 30-60 minutes before brushing. See this article for more on teeth health.
7. Eat Right
Duh! But this means paying attention to the ever-changing information about what’s really healthy to eat. A long time ago, we didn’t question how much red meat we ate. Then, eggs became the villain, and now, gluten is the enemy for many.
Again, diet is a personal thing. Each of us needs different sustenance from our food. I have been mostly a vegetarian (I still love bacon – who doesn’t?) for almost 30 years. This diet works well for me, and I still have plenty of energy, but I am careful to get protein from eggs, yogurt, beans, and nuts. Others I know really need meat-based protein to have sufficient energy. And, of course, an intolerance to something such as gluten should change your diet if you want to improve your health and wellness.
But what we eat is the fuel for our body, so make sure you stay aware of how you feel and follow the current food pyramid to be at your best.
Mid-year is a great time for some course corrections if you’re not following the seven suggestions above to improve your health and wellness. Salud … to your health!