Fifteen Common Sense Health Tips from the
Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research (BRIMR.ORG)
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Health tips 1-3 are aimed at keeping you alive for the next few hours or days; the remainder are aimed to keep you alive and healthy for the next 8-88+ years. Perhaps the most unhealthy habit in the second group is to smoke cigarettes, which is followed by being overweight. 
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1. Drive carefully and defensively and wear a seat belt.
2. Don't text or use a cell phone while driving.
3. Don't drive after drinking alcoholic beverages. 
4. Avoid all tobacco products (cigars, cigarettes, pipes, chewing tobacco).
5. Eat a healthy diet and maintain an ideal weight.
6. Exercise regularly.
7. Have a regular health checkup.
8. Maintain a healthy serum cholesterol level.
9. Get an adequate amount of sleep.
10. Avoid performance-enhancing drugs and psychotropic drugs (those that act on the mind).
11. Avoid excessive alcohol usage.
12. Avoid excessive sunlight.
13. Brush your teeth at least twice daily and floss your teeth regularly.
14. Wash your hands often.
15. Avoid loud noises and loud music.
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There’s no secret about it, really. You just don’t die, and you get to be 100. – Hazel Miller of Charlotte, NC, on getting to 100 years of age, from the New York Times (10/19/2010).

 1. Drive carefully and defensively and wear a seat belt. Obey the speed limit, and leave plenty of space between your car and the vehicle in front of you. Because 2/3rds of injuries occur at intersections, approach them with caution. Always use your turn signal when planning to turn. Come to a complete stop at stop signs, and enter traffic carefully. A little patience can save time in the long run while reducing the possibility of injury. Keep infants and toddlers in car seats. Keep your auto in good condition, especially the brakes and tires. Statistics show that wearing seatbelts keeps you safe and therefore allows you to live longer. To keep yourself safe and healthy, it is critical that you buckle up every time you get into any car. Do not be fooled into thinking that going the few blocks to the corner store is not big deal. Most accidents happen close to home so whether you are traveling one block or across the country, buckle up. To see a web site for additional information on defensive driving: click hereBack to the top

2. Don't text or use a cell phone while driving. Anything that takes your eyes off the road or your hands off the steering wheel can lead to a car crash. Accidents occur when drivers are distracted from their driving for three seconds or more.  Recent data indicates that driving while using a cell phone is equivalent to driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% (which is legally drunk). Even worse than using a cell phone, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute's recent studies of truck drivers suggest that texting while driving increases the likelihood of having an accident 23 fold. For more information on impaired driving from a National Institutes of Health web site, click here. Back to the top

3. Don't drive after drinking alcoholic beverages. There are about 17,000 alcohol-related traffic fatalities per year in the United States, an average of about 1 every half hour. Alcohol is present in the blood of about one-fourth of all drivers involved in fatal accidents. The highest percentages of drivers in fatal crashes who had elevated blood alcohol levels were for drivers of ages 25-44 years followed by drivers of ages 16-24 years.  To access a National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism web site for additional statistics: click here.   Back to the top

The great and ultimate healer is always nature itself and the drug, the physician, and the patient can do no more than assist nature, by providing the very best conditions for the body to defend and heal itself. Hans A. Krebs

4. Avoid all tobacco products (cigars, cigarettes, pipes, chewing tobacco). Tobacco is the number one preventable cause of death in the US - killing more Americans annually than alcohol, auto accidents, fires, drug overdoses, murders, suicides, and AIDS combined. Besides the danger of developing lung cancer, chronic tobacco usage can lead to obstructive lung disease (emphysema). Cigarette smoking causes 87% of lung cancer deaths and is responsible for most cancers of the larynx, mouth and oral cavity, pharynx, esophagus, and bladder. Long-term cigarette smoking also promotes wrinkles and causes premature skin aging. If you are a young woman and smoke, and you want to minimize wrinkles in the future, quit smoking. Moreover, cigarette smoking is positively correlated with the incidence of erectile dysfunction in men. If you are 21 years of age and if you smoke, stopping now might add several years to your sex life. Now that's an incentive. To find additional information on tobacco-related diseases from (a) the National Cancer Institute web site (click here) or (b) the Center for Disease Control and Prevention web site (click here). For additional information from the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research on lung cancer and its treatments: click hereBack to the top

5. Eat a healthy diet and maintain an ideal weight. For advice on healthy eating habits, click hereSee http://www.mypyramid.gov for additional advice on obtaining a balanced diet. The following file, which is the result of research by the Griffen Prevention Research Center, provides an overall nutritional quality index. Note that soda, bacon, and apple pie rate poorly and broccoli, blueberries, and oranges rate highly. Check this information by clicking here. The Body Mass Index, or BMI, provides an indication of ideal weight. A BMI greater than 25 is to be avoided. To calculate your BMI, go to http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/; this site will also provide ranges for underweight, normal weight, overweight, obesity, and links to sites that provide information on controlling weight. If you eat a healthy diet, it is probably unnecessary to take vitamin supplements. However, taking recommended amounts of vitamins is not harmful and may be helpful. Back to the top

6. Exercise regularly. Even walking 15 minutes a day can be beneficial. Both walking and jogging are great ways to maintain fitness. Not only do they tone the muscles, relieve stress, create a healthier heart, and improve lung capability, they make you look fit. Bowling, dancing, golf, swimming, and tennis are also excellent ways to get into and stay in shape. In the summer, exercising outdoors can be refreshing but it can also cause problems if you do not follow some simple rules. Make sure you are drinking enough water, about 16 ounces every 30 minutes, before, during, and after exercise. Some sports beverages, such as Gatorade, have water and salts that help prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. See http://familydoctor.org for information on exercise for kids, teens, adults, and seniors.  Back to the top

7. Have a regular health checkup. Have your blood pressure and blood glucose measured. Work with your physician to improve any abnormalities. Have annual dental examinations. For women, have periodic mammograms and pap smears performed and conduct your own regular breast examinations. If you are due for your annual mammogram, have it done. You could possibly be saving your own life. Regular checkups may lead to early diagnosis before a significant illness develops. If you suffer from a serous illness, consult your doctor.  Back to the top

8. Maintain a healthy serum cholesterol level. High cholesterol leads to atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries), which in turn, leads to heart disease. If your cholesterol is higher than 200, ask your physician for ways to reduce it. High cholesterol is also associated with an increased risk of cancer. To access an American Heart Association web site for additional information on cholesterol and managing cholesterol blood levels: click hereBack to the top

9. Get an adequate amount of sleep. What is an adequate amount? It looks like 8 hours is about average for most of us. Sometimes it's a little more, rarely less.  Sleep is necessary for growth, healing, and avoiding anxiety. Adequate sleep prevents and minimizes pain. A regular sleep-wake cycle is preferred. An hour here and 4 hours there is not as effective as a regular sleep-wake cycle. For additional information on getting a good night's sleep: click hereBack to the top

10. Avoid performance-enhancing drugs and psychotropic drugs (those that act on the mind). These drugs can lead to ill effects on both the body and the mind. To access a Mayo Clinic web site describing some dangers arising from the use of  performance enhancing drugs: click hereBack to the top

11. Avoid excessive alcohol usage. If you drink to the point of being drunk, keep in mind that you are causing damage to your liver. See the following Center for Disease Control and Prevention web site for additional information on alcohol, health, and disease: http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/. For another site with information about both long term and short term effects of alcohol, click hereBack to the top

12. Avoid excessive sunlight. While the sun has many benefits, too much sun without proper protection can be harmful. Being sunburned not only hurts, but also damages skin and promotes wrinkles and cancer. If you are going to spend any time in the sun, even 10 minutes, protect your skin from ultraviolet rays with sunscreen. Most people know that sunscreen is important for shoulders, backs, legs, and arms but there are other parts of the body that are often overlooked. When enjoying the sun, be sure to use sunscreen on your ears, lips, and even the tops of your feet as well. To see a National Institutes of Health (NIH) web site with additional information on sunburn and its consequences: click hereBack to the top

13.  Brush your teeth at least twice daily and floss your teeth regularly. Brush your teeth immediately after eating sticky sweets such as candy, lollipops, or raisins. The sugar that sticks to your teeth represents a breeding ground for bacteria that ferment the sugar into acids that etch your teeth and produce dental caries (cavities). The stickier the sweet, the greater is the risk. For the same reason, avoid chewing gum. If you must, chew sugarless gum. Brush your teeth before going to sleep to eliminate foods that bacteria can ferment into acids, a process that is enhanced during periods of diminished saliva production that occurs during sleep. Drink fluoridated water to decrease the incidence of caries. Note, most commercial bottled water lacks flouride. Check the following web sites for additional information: (a) www.adha.org/oralhealth/  and (b) http://www.dailyglow.com/pages/oral-hygiene-tips.html. A surprising medical finding is that dental flossing can add 6.4 years to your life (click here). Note, it's probably not flossing that adds years to one's life. It's that people who floss may tend to take better care of themselves.  Back to the top

14. Wash your hands often. This is something you have probably heard your whole life. Disease is easily spread from touch, whether from person to person or objects to person. When you cough, don't cover your mouth with your hand. Rather cough onto your shoulder or upper arm. This will minimize the spread of disease from your hands. Also practice cleanliness, and bathe regularly. To access an NIH web site with additional information on hand washing, germs, and hygiene: click hereBack to the top

15. Avoid loud noises and loud music. Long term exposure to loud music leads to deafness (as it did to saxophone player William Jefferson Clinton, 42nd president of the United States) and produces physical damage to the components of the ear. To see an NIH web site with additional information on acoustic trauma: click here Back to the top

The following web sites provide additional information and tips on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. These include a comprehensive site maintained by the National Institutes of Health: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/. For men, check out http://www.cdc.gov/men/tips.htm; and for women go to http://www.cdc.gov/women/tips.htm. For a list of cancer's warning signs: click here. For a list of the top fifteen causes of death in the United States: click here. Contact your physician immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • Crushing chest pains the classic symptoms of a possible heart attack (a coronary thrombosis or myocardial infarction). The severity of the pain prompts one to seek immediate medical attention. 

  • Sudden numbness or weakness on one side of the body or trouble speaking which could indicate a stroke. People should seek immediate medical attention despite the absence of pain. 

  • Any major injury, especially one that involves a loss of consciousness.

  • Coughing up or throwing up blood.

  • Sudden severe headaches.

  • Flashing lights in your vision which could be a detached retina.

Avoid fried meats, which angry up the blood. If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts. Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move. Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society; the social ramble ain't restful.  –  Satchel Paige

 

 

Updated 25 October 2010

Visitors since 7 August 2010