Stay healthy from head to toe

Simple preventive care strategies that work

woman stretching

It can be hard to know if you’re doing everything you can to maintain your health. “But staying healthy is really quite simple,” says Erin Martin, DO, MPH, a physician in Hood River, OH. “It is our environment, from the demands of work and parenting to the 24/7 culture of internet and television, that makes it complicated,” she says. Use this cheat sheet to make sure your health priorities are straight:

Care for Your Brain
“Brain health should be a priority at all ages,” Dr. Martin says. What you do now can help ward off concentration and memory problems in the future.

Eat foods that boost your brain’s health. Replace junk food with brain food, which means less bad fat and more good fat. Good fats include omega-3 fatty acids in nuts, avocados, eggs, or flaxseed. Get B vitamins from whole grains, fortified cereals, and fish.

Also, be sure to exercise your brain. “Meditation and journaling, playing brain games such as crossword puzzles, and learning a musical instrument or new language have been shown to help maintain brain health as we age,” Dr. Martin says. But give it a rest, too. Your brain needs 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, which is also good for your whole body.

Bone Up on Exercise
“Bone health is important for women,” Dr. Martin says. You want to do everything you can to avoid osteoporosis. Women achieve peak bone mass by age 25 to 30. “Do regular weight-bearing exercise for strong bones,” Dr. Martin says. Hiking, running, dancing, and tennis are good options. Swimming and cycling, while good for you in many other ways, don’t count.

It’s also smart to avoid smoking, limit alcohol, and eat well. Make sure you get plenty of calcium and vitamin D. Good sources include low-fat dairy, dark leafy greens, and fish.

Protect Your Reproductive Health
Many people take reproductive health for granted, but there are ways to help it. First, practice safe sex, even long before you plan to get pregnant. Sexually transmitted diseases can lead to fertility issues, Dr. Martin says. Also, maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight is associated with many reproductive health problems, from irregular periods to polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Finally, if you’re looking to get pregnant, focus on getting the right nutrients. Eat wholesome foods. Experts also recommend taking a prenatal vitamin with 400 mcg folic acid before and during pregnancy to help prevent birth defects with the baby’s brain and spinal cord.


Your Preventive Care Checklist
To be in your best health, it’s important to stay up to date on preventive screenings and immunizations. Check this list:

• Pap smear
• Clinical breast exam
• Blood pressure test
• Cholesterol test
• Td/Tdap shot
• Flu shot
• HPV vaccine