1. Cheer up with a walk
Daily exercise makes sedentary women more energetic and happier, according to research presented in March 2008. “Small changes—like walking just 10 minutes a day—lead to big changes because motivation follows action,” says the study’s principal investigator, Timothy Church, director of preventive medicine research at Louisiana State University and author of Move Yourself.
And you don’t have to push yourself to the limit: a University of Georgia study confirmed that a regular low-intensity workout, even a leisurely stroll, boosted energy levels by 20 percent and decreased fatigue by 65 percent.
2. Eat for your eyes
Overeating foods that rank high on the glycemic index, such as potatoes and refined grains, may make your eyes more vulnerable to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss in elderly people, according to a Tufts University study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Consider swapping that potato on your plate for broccoli or a sweet potato; a diet rich in antioxidants, such as beta carotene and vitamin C, appears to reduce the risk of AMD.
3. Plan to watch a comedy
Simply anticipating mirthful laughter can increase levels of health-protecting hormones such as endorphins, and decrease potentially harmful stress-related hormones, says Lee S. Berk, a researcher at Loma Linda University. In one of his studies, people who anticipated viewing a funny video experienced a 39 and 70 percent drop, respectively, in the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline.
4. Go easy on energy drinks
When a researcher at the college of dentistry at the University of Tennessee compared five popular beverages (Coca-Cola Classic, Diet Coke, Gatorade, Red Bull and Starbucks Frappuccino coffee), he discovered that the energy and sports drinks had the greatest potential for eroding tooth enamel. Stick with water: Only runners or competitive athletes exercising longer than one hour need sports drinks to replace electrolytes and carbohydrates.
5. Keep your temper
Unmanaged anger is a health problem because it spikes blood pressure and heart rate, and triggers the release of stress hormones, which can lead to heart disease and depression. To keep anger in check, try picturing yourself far from the situation that’s making you mad, suggests Iris Mauss, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Denver.
6. Reduce belly fat
Excess belly fat in your 40s may boost the risk of dementia in your 70s, according to a recent study in Neurology. People with the most abdominal fat—even those of normal weight—were nearly three times more likely to develop dementia than those with the least amount. A large belly in mid-life also increases the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
To trim your middle, reduce calories and increase your intake of whole grains. Nutrition researchers at Pennsylvania State University found that obese adults who did both shed more belly fat than dieters who ate mainly refined grains.
7. Get your cholesterol in check—with help
Worried your cholesterol might be too high? Ask a registered dietitian how you can lower it. University of Michigan researchers determined that some 45 percent of people with high cholesterol had at least a 15 percent reduction in their LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, or met their cholesterol goals, after three or more appointments with a dietitian over an eight-month period.
The study’s lead author, Kathy Rhodes, a cardiovascular nutritionist, suggests eating 10 to 25 grams of soluble fiber daily—from oatmeal, dried beans, fruits and vegetables.
8. Protect your teeth with yogurt
Researchers at two Japanese universities discovered that people who regularly eat foods containing lactic acid, such as yogurt, have a lower incidence of gum disease—a major cause of tooth loss in adults and a possible precursor to problems such as heart disease. It is thought that lactobacilli, the healthy bacteria in such foods, may control the overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the mouth.
9. Lower ovarian cancer risk with coffee
A large January 2008 study at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School suggests that a higher caffeine intake may lower the risk of ovarian cancer—particularly in women who are post-menopausal—possibly because the enzymes that metabolize caffeine are the same ones that metabolize reproductive hormones, says Harvard epidemiologist Shelley Tworoger. (If you’re pregnant, limit your coffee intake or switch to decaf: More than 200 milligrams of caffeine, or approximately two cups of coffee, doubles the risk of miscarriage).
10. Find yourself a weight-loss cheerleader
Eighty percent of us want to lose weight and 46 percent are stressed by thoughts of our weight, according to a 2008 survey. And with good reason: obesity can increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease. If regaining weight you’ve already lost is a concern, hire a weight-loss counselor. In a Journal of the American Medical Association study, people who received even 15 to 20 minutes of counseling a month—either by phone or in person—regained less weight than people using other strategies, such as managing on their own. Registered dietitians are an excellent source of weight-loss advice.