The Urbach Letter – September 2007
10 Easy Ways To Stay Healthy
Having great health doesn't require you to
spend half your waking hours at the gym or subsist on weird
tasteless food. Exercise and nutrition *are* very important -- however, even if you
work out regularly and eat right, your health and well-being is
still at risk… unless you follow these simple tips:
(1) Buckle your seat belt. A frighteningly high percentage of car accident fatalities occur because the driver or passengers were not wearing their seat belts. For all the fascination with modern auto-safety features: air bags, side-intrusion beams, anti-lock brakes, stability control, etc., the simple fact remains: seat belts are the single most effective auto safety device ever invented. Using one is your best defense against death and injury on the road. Click your belt before releasing your parking brake. Sadly, the "I'm only going around the block" excuse has killed a lot of people.
(2) Wear sunscreen. The sun doesn't care if you can bench press 280 or if you drank your protein shake this morning. If you spend time outdoors, and aren't protecting yourself with a high SPF sunscreen, you're at risk of developing melanoma or other skin cancers. Skin cancer is the most common form of this deadly disease, and 80% of skin cancers could be prevented by wearing SPF 15+ sunscreen and minimizing direct exposure to midday sun. Make sure you use enough (about one fluid ounce per application – that's more than you think), and let it soak in before you head out; most sunscreens take about a half an hour before the sun protection actually kicks in.
(3) Use dental floss. People think of all kinds of reasons to avoid flossing their teeth. That's too bad. Any dentist will tell you that flossing is one the most effective things you can do for tooth and gum health, yet a small percentage of the adult population flosses every day (I do). But flossing is about much more than clean teeth and fresh breath. Recent studies have shown direct correlation between oral health and overall physical health. One study performed at the University of Michigan revealed that the same bacteria responsible for gum disease also causes platelet clumping in your bloodstream – and greatly raises your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
(4) Protect your hearing. As a teenager, I ignored this advice (after a Jethro Tull concert at the Garden, my ears were ringing for days…) Now, I go around saying "What?" and "Could you repeat that?" a lot. Unfortunately, exposure to excessive noise can permanently damage the exquisitely sensitive structures in your inner ear. The damage is also cumulative. Now I wear earplugs whenever I'm going to be exposed to loud noise in my workshop or at a music event. If I'm caught without them at a club or concert, I have no compunction about tearing off a wad of cocktail napkin or tissue and stuffing it in my ears.
(5) Wear sunglasses. Ultraviolet rays in sunlight can damage your eyes and lead to cataracts. The best way to protect your eyes is by wearing sunglasses. Most sold today, even inexpensive ones, have good UVA and UVB protection. If you spend a hundred dollars on sunglasses, realize you're buying style and brand more than additional protection. (My personal favorite: Ray-Ban Clubmasters).
(6) Use soap. Wash your hands. A lot. It's the single most effective thing you can do to prevent catching and spreading infectious disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, by simply washing your hands, you can avoid most common colds and other contagious diseases (including hepatitis A, meningitis, and infectious diarrhea).
(7) Drink lots of water. A half gallon a day. Minimum. Think that's a lot? It really isn't (I drink half that much before 7 AM every day). A half-gallon is 64 ounces. Just eight small glasses of water a day will make a considerable difference in your overall health. Most people walk around in a near-constant state of dehydration, and don't recognize the symptoms: fatigue, hunger, dry skin, etc. Your urine should be very pale in color; if it's not, you're dehydrated, and your health is impaired. Don't like drinking water? You can substitute other non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic beverages. (However, coffee, caffeinated sodas, and alcoholic drinks will actually cause you to lose hydration... and you'll need to drink even more water to compensate.) Pure water is best. No calories, no artificial anything. It's "nature's champagne." While it's true that bottled drinking water is even more expensive than gasoline, I never mind paying for good water. Doctor bills are expensive; I'd rather pay my money to Poland Spring. (I keep a 2-1/2 gallon dispensing container in the fridge and refill a 32-ounce bottle at least four times a day.)
(8) Up your activity level. Most folks don't get
enough exercise. We're all busy, and sometimes can't fit a trip
to the gym in our schedule. Fortunately, you have lots of
alternative options to become more active throughout your day:
(9) Say no to junk food. Over half the modern American diet is composed of "white food" (potatoes, refined sugar, white flour, white rice, etc.), high-fructose corn syrup, fried foods, and bad fats (animal fat, tropical oils, and trans-fats). These foods are empty calories that sap energy and impair health. You don't need to become a "health food nut," but please be aware much better alternatives exist. Read labels. Substitute whole grains, fresh fruits, brightly-colored vegetables, and lean protein. Avoid fried anything… eat healthy fats found in nuts, seeds, olives and avocadoes instead. Use olive oil instead of butter. In general, the closer a food is to its natural state, the better it is for you. My simple rule: I read labels, and if I can't pronounce it, I don't eat it.
(10) Get enough sleep. Most people don't. Adults need six to eight hours of good quality sleep every night. You can't cheat at this. If you try to get by on less, it will cost you dearly. Without adequate sleep on a regular basis, you will feel physically fatigued and mentally sluggish. Your immune system will be severely impaired, and it will take you longer to heal after injury or to recover from illness. If you're not able to fall asleep within 15 to 30 minutes after getting in bed, or you have a lot of trouble waking up in the morning – you must seek medical help. You have a problem and should consult with your doctor. Don't just accept your condition as, "The way I am." Insomnia is too serious to ignore.
There you have it. Ten simple things that will make a substantial difference in your health and well-being. Stop worrying about things that are out of your direct control and instead make some positive changes in your lifestyle that'll pay you back big time.
(Note: I first wrote and published this article in April of 2003 and thought it was important enough to repost)
(c) Copyright 2002-2010 Victor Urbach
This article may be reprinted with permission and attribution