8 Fall Steps for Healthy Living

Give your health a boost this fall with eight tips so simple you'll hardly know they're healthy.

By Kathleen Doheny
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

As the days get shorter and the temperatures drop, change is in the air. That's what makes fall a great time for renewal and fresh starts. It's time to fine-tune your health by making one or two small changes that yield big results.

WebMD asked experts in diet, fitness, vision (and more) for their top tip for healthy living this fall. Here's what they suggested:

1. Let Beans Be a Part of Your Diet

If you do one thing to improve your diet this fall, eat 3 cups of beans each week. Besides being a comfort food, beans add flavor and texture to soups, chili, and casseroles. They're also a great salad topper.

Beans are rich in protein, iron, folic acid, fiber, and potassium. So pick a bean, any bean -- lima, black, garbanzo, pinto, or others -- and enjoy.

2. Defuse Stress With Friendship

Fall is a good time to come back together after the summer scattering of vacations and busy schedules -- a great time to relax with friends.

Soothe away stress by making contact in person or by phone with someone you care about, someone you haven't talked to in awhile because life got in the way. The positive emotions will make you feel good, and when joy and stress meet up, the joy wins out.

3. Be Tender With Your Teeth

If you do one thing to improve your dental health this fall, turn over a new leaf by ditching habits that are hard on your teeth.

That means no more chewing on ice or popcorn kernels. Ice is a crystal and tooth enamel is a crystal - when the two meet, one of them has to give. Sometimes it's the tooth. Popcorn kernels can break teeth or fillings too, and the hull, if lodged in gum tissue, can irritate and cause bacteria buildup.

4. Have Fun With Fitness

Improve your fitness this fall: Try a less-conventional workout to spruce up your regimen.

Break out of your fitness rut by taking a ballroom dance class or a mind-body workout such as yoga, Pilates, or Tai chi. You'll be energized and more likely to stick with it.

5. A Checkup: The Eyes Have It

If you do one thing to improve your vision, take a cue from kids, who often need back-to-school vision exams. Schedule a checkup with your eye doctor.

A comprehensive exam should include an evaluation of how clearly you see, how well your eyes work together, and an assessment of your overall eye health.

6. Heart Health: Know Your Numbers

Give your heart health a boost this fall, capitalize on the seasonal sense of renewal to focus on prevention.

That means scheduling an appointment with your doctor to get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked, and to see if your blood glucose levels are healthy. Knowing your numbers will help you figure out your personal risk for heart disease.

7. Warm Up With Wine

Diversify your alcohol choice with a room temperature glass of table wine. The warmer drink will take the chill off and the wine, especially red, has heart health benefits.

Remember a standard size glass of wine is just 4 ounces. Pregnant women and others with health reasons who should not to drink should abstain.

8. Synchronize Your Sleep

Manage the more demanding fall schedules by synchronizing your internal sleep-wake clock to the outside environment.

In the morning, get outside within 5 minutes of getting up and expose yourself to bright light for 30 minutes. At night, avoid bright light within two to three hours of bedtime because it might delay your sleep onset. This will keep you alert in the morning and make you sleepy at bedtime.

It's time to renew yourself! Try these eight easy health-boosting tips -- they're sure to give you a fresh start this fall.

Published August 15, 2006.


SOURCES: Lona Sandon, RD, assistant professor of nutrition, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas; and spokeswoman, American Dietetic Association. Dan Baker, PhD, medical psychologist and founding director, Life Enhancement Program, Canyon Ranch, Tucson, Ariz.; and author, What Happy People Know. Matthew Messina, DDS, consumer advisor, American Dental Association, Cleveland. Cedric Bryant, PhD, chief science officer, American Council on Exercise, San Diego. Jeffrey L. Weaver, OD, clinical care director, American Optometric Association, St. Louis. Nieca Goldberg, MD, spokeswoman, American Heart Association; author, The Women's Healthy Heart Program. Arthur Klatsky, MD, senior consultant, The Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, Oakland, Calif. Clete Kushida, MD, PhD, director, Stanford University Center for Human Sleep Research, Stanford, Calif.; and member, board of directors, American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

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