How to Stay Healthy—Period, According to Doctors Who Live By These Rules
How to Head Off a Headache
Start double-fisting beverages the minute the throbbing begins. "I'll have a bottle of water in one hand and a coffee in the other," says Jennifer Ashton, M.D., chief medical correspondent for ABC News and author of The Self-Care Solution. That's because many headaches are caused by dehydration, while caffeine is known to curb them. If the drinks don't alleviate the pounding in an hour, try this simple health doctor advice: Pop some ibuprofen. (BTW, here’s how to tell the difference between a headache and a migraine.)
Take a Time Out
"As soon as I feel an illness coming on, I go to sleep for at least nine hours," says Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., clinical professor of ob-gyn at Columbia University Medical Center. "I also lie on the floor with my legs elevated and propped against the wall and breathe deeply for five minutes." This strange-but-effective doctor advice helps lower stress, which weakens the immune system. (Try these 10 relaxing yoga poses to wind down before bed.)
Soothe Sore Muscles
Even TV-star docs don't get daily massages, so Travis Stork, M.D., board-certified emergency medicine doctor and co-host of The Doctors, does the next best thing: He uses a foam roller after his workouts to break up scar tissue and help his muscles recover. Some of the most neglected parts of the body are the glutes. (Related: This $6 Amazon Purchase Is the Single Best Recovery Tool I Own)
"These are the big muscles that shape your buttocks and run posteriorly from the back of the hip bone to the top of the thigh bone, and they play a major role in helping you to maintain your posture," says Dr. Stork. To give your glutes some TLC post-workout, sit on a roller and tilt your body to the right until you feel a deep massage in your right glute/butt check; slowly move back and forth for a few minutes and then switch sides. The roller can also be effective for your IT band (the thick tissue that runs down the side of your leg from your hip to your knee) as well as all of the muscles in your lower extremities.
Get serious about leisure time, says Robynne Chutkan, M.D., founder of the Digestive Center for Women in Chevy Chase, Maryland and author of The Bloat Cure. Dr. Chutkan doesn't work on Fridays, and her best stay-healthy advice is to fill your day off with your favorite relaxation strategies—meditation, yoga, massage, or browsing in a bookstore.
"The rest of my week is pretty hectic, so having a Friday schedule with plenty of 'me' time really keeps me balanced," she says. "I see quite a few medical problems from too much work and not enough leisure, and I encourage my patients to strive for balance in their lives." Carve out a small portion of each day—or set aside several hours—to do something you enjoy. (Discover how to make time for self-care when it feels like you have none.)
Eat Extra Veggies
Instead of having a garden-variety green salad, Margaret McKenzie, M.D., assistant professor of surgery at the Cleveland Clinic, tosses napa cabbage, radicchio, edamame, and carrots with ginger-soy dressing. "It gives me a lot of vitamins, antioxidants, and protein and makes me feel full," she says. (Related: 5 Genius Ways to Totally Overhaul Your Salad Game)
"I make it a point to meditate pretty much daily," says Sanjay Gupta, M.D., CNN chief medical correspondent and a neurosurgeon in Atlanta. Try this advice in a quiet room—without music and with natural light—for a few minutes each day. "I silently focus on a word in my mind. The one I usually use is gentle, but you can pick any word that doesn't evoke a strong emotion," says Dr. Gupta.
Resting your mind regularly equips you to better handle stressful moments when they pop up, he says. (If you need more convincing, check out 17 powerful benefits of meditation.)
An app a day keeps brain farts away. Gary Small, M.D., professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, and author of The Alzheimer's Prevention Program, plays Scrabble and Words With Friends on his phone most days.
These word games are perfect brain boosters, because they build not only verbal and math skills but also spatial abilities as you position letters to create words. "Combining several mental tasks strengthens multiple neural circuits," Dr. Small says. "It's like cross-training for your brain." (Related: Can NyQuil Cause Memory Loss?)
Kick-Start Your Mojo
Mark Moyad, M.D., the director of preventive and alternative medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, regularly changes up his workout partners to keep from getting bored and stay motivated. Once a week he takes a spin class with his wife. Another day he meets up with buddies for a run. "If one of us slacks off, the other person can pressure him or her to step it up," says Dr. Moyad. (Related: Grab Your BFF for This Ultimate At-Home Partner Workout)
Mehmet Oz, M.D., the director of integrative medicine at Columbia Surgery in New York City and the host of The Dr. Oz Show, eats raw walnuts (about one ounce) a few times a day for their hunger-quashing protein and heart-healthy fat.
"The rap against nuts is that they're high in calories, but research is showing that our bodies may not actually absorb all the fat they contain," says Dr. Oz. "So we probably end up taking in fewer calories than what's listed on the package." (This health doctor advice is a solid reason to stock up on our 10 healthiest nuts and seeds!)
Make your bedroom spa-like: Dim the lights at least an hour before you go to bed; ban cell phones, laptops, and the TV; ask your partner for a foot rub. "I do deep breathing exercises," says Dr. Hutcherson. "Sometimes I play relaxing music softly." (Related: 5 Things I Learned When I Stopped Bringing My Cell Phone to Bed)
Prevent Skin Cancer
In addition to getting annual skin checks from your dermatologist, recruit your hairstylist to scope out your scalp each time you visit, says Mona Gohara, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.
Scalp cancers often occur because people neglect to protect their heads, especially the part in their hair, with sunscreen or hats. This health doctor advice is vital because many scalp cancers go undetected because they're hard to spot. "Tell your hairdresser to look for any sores that are bleeding or crusting or don't seem to be healing," says Dr. Gohara. (Study up on what skin cancer really looks like.)
Fuel Up for the Day
It's true: The most important meal is breakfast, according to David Katz, M.D., director and founder of Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center in Derby, Connecticut. Katz is such a firm believer of this stay-healthy advice that he often has two breakfasts, divvying up his morning meal so that he eats half before his workout and the other half after. "It helps with portion control, and it establishes a daily eating pattern," says Dr. Katz. Plan your breakfast at night to start the next day on a healthy note.
Satisfy a Sweet Tooth
James Beckerman, M.D., a cardiologist at the Providence Heart and Vascular Institute in Portland, Oregon, and author of The Flex Diet, eats a handful of semisweet chocolate chips when he gets a sugar craving. Research from the European Heart Journal found that people who consumed the most chocolate reduced their risk for cardiovascular disease and strokes compared with non-chocoholics.
"I'm a firm believer that if you like something, don't try to make a substitution that you won't enjoy as much," says Dr. Beckerman. "You can have a small portion as long as 90 percent of what you eat otherwise is healthy." (Get your fix with these 18 oh-so-good chocolate dessert recipes.)
Try this move Dr. Oz swears by: Stand upright, bend over, and lean forward as if you're touching your toes. Let your head and arms hang down and relax your lower back and hips. Hold for a minute or two. "It forces the back, hips, and neck to loosen up, which helps you instantly de-stress so you can get back to focusing on the task at hand," he says.
"I get pretty bad cramps, and the last thing I want to do is move, but I always feel a thousand times better after I exercise," says Dr. Ashton. Regular aerobic exercise can help reduce PMS (as can these foods, BTW). Her personal prescription: 45 minutes of moderate cardio, like jogging, to work up a good sweat and slash symptoms.