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Take better care of yourself

Published: Wednesday, April 30, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT

If you are like many people, take pride in the number of responsibilities you manage.

You hold down a job, care for children and/or elderly parents, maintain your home, volunteer for your church and community, and make time for friends. These accomplishments make us feel productive and worthwhile.

While it is important to feel needed, it goes without saying that you cannot accomplish anything if you don’t first take care of your own health.

Many of the illnesses that affect our ability to work and enjoy life are preventable. What can you do to stay healthy and productive? According to the Centers for Disease Control, here are four of the most important behaviors that contribute to a healthier and longer life:

Avoid excessive alcohol consumption: Drink alcohol in moderation (men should have no more than two drinks per day; and women no more than one drink per day).

Avoid tobacco: If you do not smoke, don’t start. If you currently smoke, and want to quit, call 1-800-Quit-Now or 1-800-Quit-Yes. 

Improve nutrition: Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood. Eat fewer foods with sodium (salt), saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, and refined grains.

Engage in physical activity: Try for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (like brisk walking) every week. If you are able to exercise more vigorously (think jogging or running) you can get by with as little as 75 minutes, or you can mix the two for something in between. Add muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

Accidents can also send us to the sidelines. Statistics from the CDC show three quarters of all accidental deaths are due to traffic accidents, poisonings, and falls. While not all accidents can be avoided, you can take steps to reduce your risk of accidental injury or death.  

Make sure your vehicle is in good working order and drive defensively, avoiding distractions like cellphones, eating in the car, grooming, etc.  Most poisoning deaths are drug-related, so manage medications carefully. 

Regular exercise can keep bones strong and improve balance, making falls less likely. For additional fall prevention, make sure that your home is clear of tripping hazards and is well-lighted. Avoid walking on wet floors or icy sidewalks, and wear appropriate footwear.

Take good care of yourself and your health, so that you can take care of everything and everyone else you care for.  

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