The Most Important Things to do

While we fret about the most complex and controversial aspects of our health care, don't forget to do these basic things that will definitely help your health. You don't need to go to medical school to be the most important member of your healthcare team - just follow these time-tested ways that really work.

Stop smoking

There is no question that if you smoke, stopping will be the very best thing you will ever do for your health. If you fail this time, keep on trying!

Get some exercise

Even a little is very helpful. You don't have to be an Olympic athlete to gain the benefits of exercise, which can occur at surprisingly low levels. Take a 15 minute walk . . . take the stairs . . . it will do a lot of good.

Eat sensibly.

If you can't be perfect, do as good as you can. Don't just give up on good eating habits because it seems too hard.

Learn to take your own blood pressure.

Write it down. Bring the list to your doctor. This is the best way to avoid too much or too little treatment for this controllable disease.

If you're overweight, trim a little off

At least don't gain weight. Weight loss is hard because it's a lifetime attitude that will accomplish the goal, but the benefits to your health and how well you feel are definitely worth it.

Work on balance

Be involved...without being overly stressed...and leave time for relaxation. This is a big challenge for all of us, but it's really important for people with medical conditions, particularly those involving the heart.

Take an aspirin a day

As long as your physician has not told you to avoid it. It is an easy and inexpensive way to prevent heart attacks and strokes, particularly for middle-aged males.

Find a doctor you like

Don't just take what comes along. Your healthcare depends most on you, but it's your job to find physicians who you can relate to, understand and trust.

Get and maintain health insurance

Let's be realistic - this is an increasingly important part of your healthcare. Always be careful to maintain it.

Be skeptical about information sources

There is a lot of incomplete, inaccurate, or simply wrong information available. This may be from relatives, acquaintances, charlatans, or the news media.

If you're a woman past your menopause, consider replacement hormones

The issues are a bit complex, but hormones can keep your arteries and heart young, and your bones strong.

If you have a question, ask!

There are really no stupid questions. None of us were born knowing the answers. Ask, and you can put your mind at ease and do the right things for your health.

Continue to be positive. You can "beat" these diseases

The advances in medicine, and heart disease in particular, have truly been staggering. Applying what we already know to your healthcare can lead to continued good health... and just wait until the next developments!

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