12 Easy Ways to Improve Your Health on 12-12-12

Today marks a once-in-a-century occasion. 12-12-12 is a day some Oklahomans will honor with special plans. Whether the century’s last repeating date makes the perfect wedding anniversary or gives Green Bay Packers fans another reason to honor Aaron Rodgers (#12) with his own day, many of us will pay more attention to today’s date than we will tomorrow or another other date outside birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. What if today is the perfect day to focus on your health and make every other date just as significant? Here are the 12 easiest ways to improve your health today.

Get Good Sleep – When we go to sleep another part of us wakes up and gets to work. From improving immunity, to growing new brain cells, balancing metabolism, and regulating our blood sugar, sleep is a powerful tool to improving our overall health. One of the best ways we can improve our sleep is by setting and sticking to a regular sleep schedule. Regardless of the day of the week, try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep if possible.

Exercise - Do you remember what you felt like after your last workout? You probably felt a lot better than you thought you would when you started. Exercise can boost our mood, help maintain a healthy bodyweight, improve our energy, promote better sleep, and combat disease and illness. When schedules are especially tight, even walking 30 minutes a day can improve your heart health. Still not convinced? The American Heart Association says for every hour you walk, you can increase your life expectancy by two hours.

Eat Right – This one is easier said than done for many of us. However, eating the right foods most of the time can have a dramatic impact on our health, while complimenting and supporting our other efforts to improve our overall health. A balanced diet promotes a healthy weight, gives us energy, supports a health immune system, and decreases our risk of developing disease and illness. Getting started doesn’t have to be complicated. Take a look at your plate. If you see most of the colors of the rainbow represented, you’re off to a pretty good start.

Laugh – When was the last time you had a really good laugh? Whether it was a recent conversation with a good friend or watching a movie, laughter can improve our health in several ways. Laughter helps lower blood pressure, reduces pain, reduces blood sugar levels, and helps off-set stress. Researchers have also found laughter can help prevent a heart attack.

Mend Relationships – Having a network of good friends can help you fight off illness faster, improve your heart health, help you laugh, and help ward off mental illness. If you have relationships that have been broken with good friends, now is the time to mend those relationships and strengthen your friend network. It could help you all live longer.

Get to Know Your Doctor – According to the CDC, only 70 percent of women and less than 50 percent of men visit their doctor at least once a year. Preventative medicine is the best medicine for detecting and fighting disease and illness early. If you are not seeing your doctor on a regular basis, you might be missing important warning signs. Schedule an annual appointment with your primary care physician to make sure you both are aware of your blood pressure, cholesterol, any changes in weight, and other indicators of your health.

Strike a Balance – This is another one that is easier said than done for most Americans. With increasing pressure at work and longer hours, many of us struggle to find that balance between our work life and our home life. However, when we have balance, we have time to focus on the other aspects that improve our health: time to exercise, cook healthy meals, stick to a regular sleep schedule, and enjoy the company of friends and family. Without balance we are more likely to build stress, which can lead to a number of health problems.

Know Your Numbers – The saying goes, “that which is measure can be improved.” Can you say the same of your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels? When you visit with your doctor, be sure to ask what your numbers are and write them down. Know if you are in the normal range or above normal and what you can do to improve your numbers.

Wash Your Hands – This is one of the easiest ways to help prevent getting sick all year round and especially during cold and flu season. Make sure you wash your hands with warm water and soap at least 20 seconds as often as you can. Clean under your nails, and don’t forget your wrists! Regular hand-washing can help prevent the spread of germs and keep your immune system strong.

Limit the Sugar – When we consume foods and drinks high in sugar, we are hitting our bodies with a one-two punch. Added sugar not only suppresses our immune system, it also increases our risk for developing heart disease and diabetes. Sugar has been getting a lot of attention in the media in recent years, as members of the medical community educate the public on the dangers of sugar. You don’t need to cut all sugar from your diet, just make sure you are eating a balanced diet that is not sabotaged by sugary drinks and snacks.

Eat Slower  - Researchers have long known of the benefit of eating our meals at a slower pace, giving our stomachs time to feel full and signal us to stop eating. One study finds doing this can reduce our caloric intake by as much as 10 percent. However, researchers also believe the brain, not just the stomach needs to be convinced it is time to stop. When we eat at a slower pace, we give our brain the time to receive hormonal signals from our digestive system, communicating the long-range need for food and nourishment. By eating too fast, we can interrupt this communication and bypass the signals to stop eating.

Be Thankful – Being thankful for what we have in life leads to greater happiness. For your health, recent studies have found a strong connection between happiness and our overall health. Positive emotions can help us fight colds better than emotions of anger, depression and anxiety. Being thankful also leads to greater overall satisfaction, which has shown in studies to have a direct impact on our health. Finally, a thankful outlook can boost our immune systems and help prevent illness and disease, leading to a longer life.