(BlackDoctor.org) — You already know you should exercise more, sleep more, and see the doctor more often for those important check-ups.
But what if you want to improve your health a little more right now?
Well, guess what? Instant health boosters DO exist. Simple things, such as sitting up straighter or even having a quickie, can have very real benefits, says Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, the Maui, Hawaii-based medical director for the Nutritional Magnesium Association and author of Future Health Now Encyclopedia.
So, in addition to adopting a healthier lifestyle, if you want a dose of instant health, do any and all of the following in the next 60 seconds:
Take a Vitamin D Supplement. This super-vitamin comes from the sun and in the form of supplements — and it could help you become super healthy. Vitamin D has been shown to help reduce deaths from a number of diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes (three diseases that account for up to 70 percent of deaths for people age 50 and older). While the research on vitamin D has produced conflicting results (not all studies have shown a benefit), what is clear is that many people are D-deficient. For a simple health fix-up that takes mere seconds, take 1,000 international units of vitamin D3 a day, Dr. Dean advises.
Straighten Up. When you slump forward at your computer or in front of the TV, you’re putting a lot of pressure on your vertebrae, Dean says. In a review of 25 studies, researchers found that sitting for more than half of the workday in an awkward position or while being exposed to vibration (such as driving) increased your risk for lower back pain or sciatica. That’s why you should take your mom’s advice on this one: Be sure to stand or sit up straight, with your shoulders back. An added bonus? Practicing good posture can also make a big difference in your mood, says Dean.
Check Your Breasts. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, almost 70 percent of breast cancer cases are discovered during self-exams. Another statistic you should know? When breast cancer is found early, the five-year survival rate is a resounding 98 percent. Once a month, set aside a minute of your morning routine to perform a breast self-exam — raise your right arm above your head, and use the three middle fingers of your left hand to feel all over your right breast, beginning at the armpit. Repeat with your other breast.
Stretch. If you’re parked at a desk for several hours every day, all that sitting can stress your entire body — and wear away at your emotional health. And if you look at a computer monitor for long periods of time, you could be wrecking your shoulders and neck. In a recent study of 775 people who worked in an Italian call center, 45 percent said they had neck, shoulder, hand-wrist, or elbow pain during the previous month. Your solution? Take 60-second breaks — frequently. All that’s required is you standing up from your desk, walking around (go say “Hi” to your friend in Accounting), and stretching.
Chew More. According to the American Dental Association, chomping on sugar-free gum for 20 minutes after a meal can help you avoid tooth decay. How? Chewing gum promotes production of saliva in your mouth, which neutralizes acids from your food and washes them away. Look for packages containing Xylitol, which is a sugarless natural sweetener added to gum. Just be sure to chew with your mouth closed — your coworkers will thank you.
Drink Up. Next time you’re feeling ravenous before a meal, try this quick trick: down a tall glass of H20 first. In a recent study of 48 overweight or obese adults, those who drank water before their main meals lost 44 percent more weight than those who didn’t drink water. If nothing else, drinking water will keep you hydrated and can help flush toxins from your body.
Say Yes To Some Chocolate. Who can say no to chocolate? Research has found that flavanols, the primary type of flavonoid in cocoa and chocolate, act as antioxidants, protecting your cells from damage by free radicals — a health booster that’ll tickle your taste buds, too. Studies have also shown that flavanols may help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. The key? Choose dark chocolate made with minimally processed cocoa, and avoid add-ins such as caramel, marshmallow, and nuts that add extra calories and fat.
Get Busy. Okay, it might take more than 60 seconds — but you’ll probably want to spend some extra time on this one. Research shows that having sex with a monogamous partner comes with a number of health benefits: lower rates of depression, less stress, better sleep, and even a reduced risk for heart disease. In one study of 1,165 men, guys who had sex once a month or less had a higher risk of cardiovascular disease than men who had sex twice a week or more. What are you waiting for? Get busy!
Laugh & Laugh Some More. Laughing is good for both your body and mind. In a recent study of more than 53,000 people in Norway, researchers evaluated participants’ senses of humor and their overall health. The results? People with a solid sense of humor had a better chance of making it into their retirement years. In another study, researchers found that frequent chuckling offered protection from heart disease. Whether you watch a side-splitting clip on YouTube or spend some time with your funniest friend, taking a minute to laugh could just add years to your life.