Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

10 ways to take charge of your health

You know you shouldn't eat too much, drink too much or smoke at all. But the holiday season is a tough time to undertake a major health overhaul. • So why not start small? Just washing your hands for 15 to 20 seconds can reap big rewards, especially during peak party (and flu) season. • Here are 10 ways to start taking charge of your health:


Take a walk.

Humans are designed to be on the move, said Dr. William Meller, an internist and author who specializes in evolutionary medicine. "Walking triggers all of our bodily systems: digestion, stress relief, thinking and preparation for sleep." It's simple, free and easy on the joints. Walk every day and get a pedometer to track your steps, working up to at least 10,000.


Keep a journal.

Writing down everything you eat can double your weight loss, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. "The more food records people kept, the more weight they lost," said lead author Jack Hollis, a researcher at Kaiser Permanente's Center for Health Research. Scribble on a notepad, use an online food journal or send yourself text messages.


Skip the soda.

Soda and other caloric, sugar-sweetened beverages have contributed to skyrocketing rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes. But there's also evidence that drinking diet soda leads to weight gain. Researchers suspect that tricking the brain — getting sweetness without the calories — makes you crave more sugar than ever.


Build your muscles.

If you want to keep your muscles from weakening as you age, try strength training. Personal trainer Jim Karas suggests starting with pushups for the upper body and lunges and squats for the lower body. "Move slowly, and think about the muscles you are engaging. One slow set of 10 is all you need, but make sure to fail," which means you can't perform another repetition.


Chill out.

Stressed-out people are more vulnerable to colds and other viruses, they take longer to recover from illness, and they gain more weight than their relaxed counterparts, research has shown. Exercise, deep-breathing, meditation, tai chi and yoga all are proven stress relievers.


Eat out less.

"Nutrition and calories aren't intuitive," obesity specialist Dr. Yoni Freedhoff said. "When restaurant salads can have more calories and fat than a Big Mac, you know you're putting your health at risk. You'll save more than your money by eating meals in. You might even save your life."


Be a social butterfly.

Research has shown that joining a club or sports team, belonging to a church group or keeping in contact with friends creates a sense of social identity that can help significantly reduce your risk of having a stroke, dementia and even the common cold. According to the MacArthur Foundation Study of Aging in America: "Loneliness breeds both illness and early death."


Get your zzzzzzzz.

Sleeping well is the single most overlooked factor critical to good health, especially during the flu season, said sleep specialist Dr. Rubin Naiman of the University of Arizona's Center for Integrative Medicine. His easy tip: Try watching comedy on television before bed. "Laughter is good medicine — and good sleep medicine. I recommend it over sleeping pills."


Eat whole foods.

Fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs and whole grains that are unprocessed and unrefined typically don't have added sugar, salt or fat. They often have a low glycemic index, which means they don't raise blood sugar and insulin levels as quickly as processed foods. Eat whole wheat bread instead of white bread, or start the day with oatmeal, rather than a sugary cereal.


Find your passion.

Do things that bring meaning to your days, said Patricia Boyle, a neuropsychologist in the Alzheimer's Disease Center at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, whose research has shown that having a higher purpose can reduce the risk of death among older adults. "Purpose is cognitively stimulating," said Dr. Thomas Perls, director of the New England Centenarian study.

10 ways to take charge of your health 12/09/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 9, 2009 6:29pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Chicago Tribune.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review: Arcade Fire open hearts, play with passion at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa


    Gloves off, hearts open and disco balls glittering, Arcade Fire scaled the stage for the first time ever in Tampa, pouncing and flailing and performing with all the passion that’s made them one of the world’s most celebrated rock bands this century.

    Arcade Fire performed at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa on Sept. 22, 2017.
  2. Lightning's Steven Stamkos looks close to top form in first game since November

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The wait felt like forever for Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, having gone 10 months without playing in a game.

    A scramble in front of the Lightning goal has Matthew Peca, far left, and Erik Cernak, middle, helping out goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy during the third period of a 3-1 win against the Predators. Vasilevskiy, who made 29 saves, was “exceptional,” coach Jon Cooper says.
  3. Rays journal: Alex Cobb may have pitched last game in Rays uniform (w/video)

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — RHP Alex Cobb pitched well enough to lead the Rays to an 8-3 win over the Orioles on Friday.

    Wilson Ramos gives thanks after hitting a grand slam during the second inning, putting the Rays up 4-0.
  4. Steven Souza Jr. vindicating big trade for Rays

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — There was a time when the three-team, 11-player transaction the Rays orchestrated to get Steven Souza Jr. from the Nationals looked liked a bad deal.

    The Rays’ Steven Souza Jr. has 30 home runs this season while improving his defense and baserunning but wants to improve on his .236 batting average.
  5. Fennelly: Lightning's Manon Rheaume made history 25 years ago Saturday

    Lightning Strikes

    The name is part of Lightning history, hockey history, sports history.

    Lightning goalie Manon Rheaume became the first woman to play in an NHL game 25 years ago today.