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Healthy Living What You Can Do to Keep Your Health

Does what I do really affect my health?
Very much so. All of the major causes of death--cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease and injury--can be prevented by things you do.

Don't smoke or use tobacco.
Using tobacco is one of the most dangerous things you can do. One out of every 6 deaths in the United States can be blamed on smoking. More preventable illnesses are caused by tobacco than by anything else.

Limit how much alcohol you drink.
This means no more than 2 drinks a day for men, and 1 drink a day for women. One drink is a can of beer (12 ounces), a 4-ounce glass of wine or a jigger (1 ounce) of liquor.

Too much alcohol can damage the liver and contribute to some cancers, such as throat and liver cancer. Alcohol also contributes to deaths from car wrecks, murders and suicides.

Eat right.
See the boxes below for tips on eating healthy. Heart disease, some cancers, stroke, diabetes and damage to your arteries can be linked to what you eat. Fiber, fruits and vegetables can help reduce your risk of some cancers. Calcium helps build strong bones.

What to eat

  • 2 to 4 servings of fruits and 3 to 5 servings of vegetables a day
  • 6 to 11 servings of bread, cereal, rice and pasta a day
  • 2 to 3 servings of low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese a day
  • 2 to 3 servings of meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, egg whites or nuts a day
  • Lots of fiber (found in whole-grain breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables)

    What not to eat
  • Saturated fat. Saturated fats include animal fats, hydrogenated vegetable fats and tropical fats (coconut and palm oil). A high-fat diet increases your risk of heart disease, breast and colon cancer, and gallbladder disease.
  • Sodium. Sodium, found in table salt and some foods, increases blood pressure in some people. Don't cook with salt, avoid prepared foods that are high in sodium and add salt sparingly, if at all, when you're eating.

    What's a serving?
    1 medium piece of fresh fruit
    1/2 cup chopped or canned fruit
    3/4 cup fruit juice
    1/4 cup dried fruit

    1 cup raw, leafy vegetables
    1/2 cup other vegetables, cooked or raw
    3/4 cup vegetable juice

    1 slice of bread or a small roll
    1/2 bagel or English muffin
    1 oz. cold cereal
    1/2 cup cooked cereal, rice or pasta
    3 or 4 small or 2 large crackers

    1 cup milk or yogurt
    1 1/2 oz. natural cheese
    2 oz. processed cheese

    2 to 3 oz. cooked lean meat, poultry or fish; 1/2 cup cooked dried beans, 1 eggwhite or 2 tablespoons peanut butter equal 1 oz. meat

Lose weight if you're overweight.
Many Americans are overweight. Carrying too much weight increases your risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, some cancers, gallbladder disease and arthritis in the weight-bearing joints (like the spine, hips or knees). A high-fiber, low-fat diet and regular exercise can help you lose weight gradually and help you keep it off.

Exercise can help prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, depression and, possibly, colon cancer, stroke and back injury. You'll also feel better and keep your weight under control if you exercise regularly. Try to exercise for 30 to 60 minutes, 4 to 6 times a week, but any amount is better than none.

Don't sunbathe or use tanning booths.
Sun exposure is linked to skin cancer, which is the most common type of cancer. So it's best to stay out of the sun altogether or to wear protective clothing and hats. Sunscreen may help protect your skin somewhat if you can't avoid being exposed to the sun's harmful rays.

Practice safer sex if you're having sex.
The safest sex is between 2 people who are only having sex with each other and who don't have a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or share needles to inject drugs.

If you're at all uncertain about your partner, use latex condoms and a spermicide (sperm-killer). If you're concerned you may be at risk of having an STD, see your doctor about being tested.

Control your cholesterol level.
If your cholesterol level is high, keep your level down by eating right, such as by reducing how much fat you eat, and by exercising.

Control high blood pressure.
High blood pressure increases your risk for heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. To control it, lose weight, exercise, eat less sodium, drink less alcohol, don't smoke and take medicine if your doctor prescribes it.

Keep your shots up to date.
Adults need a tetanus-diphtheria booster every 10 years. People 50 or older and others at risk should get a flu shot. Ask your doctor if you need other shots.

Check your breasts.
Breast cancer is the second most common cause of death for women. Examine your breasts every month beginning about age 20. Talk to your doctor about how to check your breasts. Have your doctor check your breasts every 1 to 2 years beginning when you're 40. After age 50, you should have a mammogram every 1 to 2 years.

Get regular Pap smears.
Cancer of the cervix in women can be detected by regular Pap smears. Start having them when you begin having sex or by age 18. You'll need them once a year at first, until you've had at least 3 normal Pap tests. After this, you should have them at least every 3 years.

Ask your doctor about other cancer screenings.
Adults over age 50 should ask their doctor about being checked for colorectal cancer. Men over age 50 should discuss with their doctor the risks and benefits of being screened for prostate cancer.

Should I have a yearly physical?
Health screenings are replacing the yearly physical. Instead of every person getting the same exams and tests, only the appropriate ones are given. Talk to your family doctor about your risk factors and what tests and exams are right for you.

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