What's the best health advice you ever received?
May 9, 2008 9:14 PM   Subscribe

What's the best health advice you ever received?

My friend asked me to speak to her high school students about health (long story). In addition to the presentation I'm going to give, I want to give each student a little booklet with words of wisdom about health. They're going to go home afterward and ask their family and friends the same question and record the responses in a Word document. We're then going to make little books with all the tips. Help us get started. I was only able to think of the basic "Don't live next to a power plant, don't smoke, eat vegetables" banalities. I need help.

It can be something a parent, yoga insrtuctor, herbalist, doctor, or anyone else told you.
posted by HotPatatta to Health & Fitness (54 answers total) 67 users marked this as a favorite
Actually get enough sleep.

It's amazing how quickly I stopped getting colds when I started making sure I got a good 7-8 hours a night. Which I never did when I was in high school, simply because I had to be up at 6:15, and could never get to sleep sooner than midnight or so.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:21 PM on May 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

Never stop moving. The moment you stop moving (whether it be mentally, socially, or physically) as an adult, you'll stop for good.
posted by SpecialK at 9:24 PM on May 9, 2008 [6 favorites]

Not too far off base is Michael Pollan's simply elegant motto:
"Eat [real] food. Not too much. Mostly plants".
If one does that, and forfeits sodas, tobacco and gets 20-30 minutes of exercise daily they will go far to have a healthier lifestyle. And of course, anon, drunken, un-safe sexual activity can torpedo everything. Cleanlinesses in next to godliness. Wash your fruit.
posted by dawson at 9:25 PM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Mental health and physical health are inextricably linked.
posted by thedanimal at 9:27 PM on May 9, 2008 [3 favorites]

Getting enough fiber will go a long way towards keeping you happy. Really.

Minimize "white" foods -- white flour, white rice, white sugar.

When in doubt, have a piece of fruit.

Take the stairs.

Get enough sleep.
posted by scody at 9:31 PM on May 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

Meditate. Not religiously, either, if that's not your thing. Feels good short term; feels good long term. And has demonstrable long-term implications for mental health and all of the physical things that tie in to stress - blood pressure and heart rate and so forth.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 9:31 PM on May 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

Gotta go with the obvious but important: Wear sunscreen.
posted by answergrape at 9:33 PM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Everything in moderation. Including moderation.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:37 PM on May 9, 2008 [10 favorites]

Spank it.
posted by wfrgms at 9:37 PM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Drink plenty of water. It's amazing, when I was better able to get in tune with my body at a later age, how much I realized my feeling "out of it", "ill", "tired", or "achy" was really a matter of being dehydrated.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:38 PM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

When the doctors tell you to take your antimalarials, listen to them.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:39 PM on May 9, 2008

posted by silkygreenbelly at 9:40 PM on May 9, 2008

just saw inspector.gadgets comment. he said it better than me.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 9:41 PM on May 9, 2008

To heal the emotional body, "the truth will set you free."
posted by netbros at 9:43 PM on May 9, 2008

Stick to the outer aisles of the grocery store -- the produce, meat and dairy sections and avoid the vast deserts of processed foods in the middle.
posted by peacheater at 9:46 PM on May 9, 2008 [4 favorites]

Wash your hands. One of the most effective disease fighters there is.
posted by azpenguin at 9:53 PM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Make informed decisions.

-When you eat, know something about where your food is coming from and how it is processed. ~
-When you have a medical issue, do as much reading about the malady as possible. ~
-Know how much sleep you need. Get it. ~
-Know what exercises you can fit into your life on a regular basis. Do them. ~
-Know the health quality of your area. ~

When you know as much as you can, making smart decisions is made much easier.
posted by andythebean at 10:17 PM on May 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Don't smoke.
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 10:18 PM on May 9, 2008

posted by ikkyu2 at 10:19 PM on May 9, 2008

The best health advice I've ever gotten/used (with live-saving results): With all due respect to doctors, they don't know it all. Learn to be your own health-care advocate and to educate yourself. Don't ever be afraid to question health care authority figures. If they're truly competent and confident, they'll welcome your questions (and be able to answer them).
posted by amyms at 10:24 PM on May 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

Many people save money for retirement. Working hard to make more money is meaningless if you don't have the health to enjoy it. I say the most important investment you can make is in your own health.

No matter what your job, making an appointment to exercise 3-5 times a week is the most important appointment you'll make in the long run.
posted by Octoparrot at 10:29 PM on May 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

Here's advice that wasn't in the previous thread and I don't see in this one, either:

Whatever you do, budget for health insurance. Never let it lapse.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:36 PM on May 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

People who floss their teeth live longer (so says Dr. Gupta from CNN).
posted by All.star at 11:02 PM on May 9, 2008

Get your eye health (not just vision) checked regularly, by an optometrist/ophthalmologist, because you can have a serious problem like glaucoma and not know it until you start to go blind. There's no cure for glaucoma so it's important to stop the progression of the disease as early as possible.

(A student of mine once gave a presentation on glaucoma with these scary tidbits of info. It made a big impression on me, and I scheduled my overdue eye appointment with great alacrity.)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:23 PM on May 9, 2008

Context: In your twenties, your metabolism changes and we lose those you-can-eat-anything-and-it-doesn't-matter bodies
It's much MUCH easier to tweak your lifestyle to avoid gaining weight in the first place, than it is to try to lose weight once you've gained it.

(And you know what - even if this advice were 100% medically incorrect, it would still be good advice! :)
posted by -harlequin- at 12:22 AM on May 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

eat kimchi. koreans never get sick.
posted by dawdle at 12:48 AM on May 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

Breathe, smile and jangle when you walk
posted by hortense at 1:06 AM on May 10, 2008

It's way more incredibly easy to put weight on than take it off.
When pregnant, you're not actually eating for two, and you might not need to catch up for all the lost calories from morning sicknesses.
Breastfeeding also doesn't mean eating for two, even though you've read that you can have more calories and the weight will come off - it won't come off if you're eating enough for a sumo wrestler.

Despite all evidence (and personal superstition) to the contrary, you will probably live past 30, and the 30+ year old you will really really appreciate it if you ate junk food occasionally (not every week) and drank moderately, because the body you have then, depends a lot on what you do now.

Use sunscreen, and don't tan. Tanning (yep, that's what they do to make leather - tanning) ages your skin, making it all wrinkly and as a bonus, you can die from it, and lots and lots of people do, particularly in Australia. Tanning beds are apparently even worse.

If you act stupid when you're drunk (ie getting into cars with drunk drivers or lechers of any gender or having unprotected sex) make sure you drink at home (or a mate's home), where you only have to navigate between the living room and the bathroom.

Don't have unprotected sex. Haven't you heard of sexually transmitted debt? You can't kill that off with antibiotics.

Avoid Chernobyl.

Wear a helmet or a seatbelt (whichever is applicable). Don't ride a bike wearing flipflops. Don't ride a motorbike in shorts, a singlet and barefeet. I don't care how good a rider you are, if the dick in the car next to you does something stupid, your super riding skills will not save you from gravel rash (or worse).

Make sure your tattooist follows appropriate hygene procedures. And you should too, wash and DRY your hands after you go to the toilet - yes I know your genitals are clean, but you can't be certain everyone else who used the facility is as hygenic.

And don't sweat the small stuff. You don't actually need a toilet seat cover, your bum can tolerate the germs. You probably don't need to use antiseptic spray in the office. Using too much antiseptic in the home can leave you vulnerable with lazy immune system.

But mostly, don't smoke, and trust me on the sunscreen.
posted by b33j at 1:29 AM on May 10, 2008

Make time to play and sleep :)
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:10 AM on May 10, 2008

Fuss kills people.
posted by flabdablet at 2:52 AM on May 10, 2008 [3 favorites]

Regular exercise fights depression.
posted by loosemouth at 3:54 AM on May 10, 2008 [3 favorites]

Seconding eye exams. I have fabulous vision, 20/13, so I never went to the eye Dr. I finally went at age 30 just to "get a baseline check". Found out that I was glaucoma suspect. I have symptoms of and I'm in danger of developing full blown glaucoma any minute. Now I go for checks every six months and live in fear of one day losing my vision. DON'T MESS WITH YOUR EYES. They are easy to 'overlook' especially if they seem to be working just fine.
posted by pearlybob at 4:45 AM on May 10, 2008

If your main 'chute fails, try the reserve. If that fails, you've got the rest of your life to fix it.
posted by dinger at 5:03 AM on May 10, 2008 [10 favorites]

Breast feed your babies. Health benefits to you AND them.


Drink milk.

Get married.

Not necessarily in that order.
posted by nax at 6:01 AM on May 10, 2008

I will give you the best health advice you will ever receive: Don't smoke.

Other than that:

Get some sun daily- 10 minutes or so unprotected.

Wear sunscreen.

Move often. Don't sit around for too long.

Wash your bed pillows in the washing machine in hot water with a little bleach. Replace bed pillows every 6 months or so. (Not the most life or death advice, but it's helpful)

Take care of your feet. (Grandmother used to tell me this)

Avoid high-fructose corn syrup and trans fats

Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Buy fresh and unprocessed. This means you may have to go every 3 or 4 days.

Take up a physical hobby, like gardening. It's good for the mind and body.

And last but not least, wear your seatbelt!
posted by LoriFLA at 6:26 AM on May 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
posted by munchingzombie at 6:43 AM on May 10, 2008

Don't lick knives.
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:49 AM on May 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

Don't overthink your bowels.
posted by docpops at 6:54 AM on May 10, 2008 [3 favorites]

Yes, they look stupid and take up too much space, but go with an electric toothbrush.
posted by jamesonandwater at 7:16 AM on May 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Don't Smoke.
Drive Sober.
Wear the Seatbelt.
Wear the Helmet for biking, skiing, etc.
Read the falsely-attributed-to-Kurt-Vonnegut graduation speech for more fine ideas.
posted by theora55 at 7:28 AM on May 10, 2008

Here's a different angle:

The biggest enemy to health is stress.
The biggest enemy to stress is solid relationships with other people.
Show more respect to other people than is warranted, this might hurt in the short term but is a sure investment in the long term.
Be more generous with the people who are close to you than they are with you.

This will help your health much more than exercise and eating right (which are also important).
posted by Murray M at 8:16 AM on May 10, 2008 [7 favorites]

Holding onto anger curdles your insides. Experiencing it, and expressing it constructively, is healthy, but for the long term, learn how to let it go.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 10:02 AM on May 10, 2008

Exercise regularly: nothing else has such a broad range of substantial benefits, both physical and mental.

Understand the odds: don't worry about dying from the sorts of tragedies highlighted in the news, e.g., plane crashes, terrorism, shark attacks at the beach. These things are "news" precisely because they are so rare. Worry about the stuff that's so common that it doesn't make the news: in particular, heart disease and cancer. (And if you're afraid of flying, but think nothing of getting into a car, remember that a car is 50 times more likely to kill you than a plane!)
posted by korpios at 10:20 AM on May 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Drink plenty of water.
posted by Koko at 12:00 PM on May 10, 2008

Keep your mind active.
posted by wingless_angel at 12:21 PM on May 10, 2008

LITFA (leave it the fuck alone)

Works for a variety of minor wounds.
posted by sunshinesky at 1:17 PM on May 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

You can tell a lot about your health from your poop. Do what it takes to keep it, er, ideal. Gross but true!
posted by eric1200 at 1:29 PM on May 10, 2008

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:22 PM on May 10, 2008 [5 favorites]

Nthing those who said "wear your seatbelt." I'm pretty sure my seatbelt is one of the things that kept me from death or severe injury when I had my car accident.

I am still shocked by the number of people I see who don't wear a seatbelt while driving.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:46 PM on May 10, 2008

Aha! Keith Talent found the quote I was looking for!
posted by nax at 3:02 PM on May 10, 2008

If you ever have to go into the hospital, make sure that someone stays with you at all times. That includes having someone spend the night in your room every night. If it means spending extra to hire a private-duty nurse, do it. There will be a jillion docs/nurses/etc. coming in and out of your room at all hours doing all sorts of things (giving meds, taking notes, doing tests, etc.) and you need someone lucid and aware and on-the-ball to monitor exactly what's going on, question things that seem wrong, and advocate on your behalf when you are sick, drugged or asleep.

Sorry that's not short and pithy for your booklet, but I know it's good advice because it saved my life.
posted by mccxxiii at 8:22 PM on May 10, 2008 [4 favorites]

"Everyone's different." Example: Most people enjoy touching water, but some people get a severe rash from it. Some are allergic to UV, some are hard of hearing in one ear but better than average in the other. Don't assume that because it worked for someone else it'll work for you - or vise versa.

From my grandfather... "Everything will be alright eventually." It sounds very happy-go-lucky, but coming from a man who had a very 'interesting' life [lost his father and sister when he was young, lost his first child, lived through the flu epidemic, the great depression and WWII, was bankrupt twice, had two heart attacks with an enlarged heart+murmur, and had congestive heart disease for the last ten years of his life] but died at 90 surrounded by adoring friends and family, I have to believe he was right. And on top of that, he died from a form of elderly leukemia, his heart was still chugging along. Sorry about that extreme run on sentence.
posted by chana meira at 1:34 AM on May 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Women: learn about your fertility.
posted by k8t at 6:12 AM on May 11, 2008

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