- Dr. Eric Carlsen
8 Summer Steps for Healthy Living
In the warmer, longer, lazier days of summer, the living may not be easy, but your life probably feels less chaotic. Even adults tend to adopt a "school's out!" attitude in summer. That's why this is a perfect time to improve your health in a fashion so seasonally laid back you'll barely notice the effort.
To get you started, WebMD went to eight health experts in fields such as diet, fitness, stress, vision, and oral health. We asked them this: If you could only suggest one simple change this season to boost personal health, what would it be? Here are their top eight tips.
1. Give Your Diet a Berry Boost
If you do one thing this summer to improve your diet, have a cup of mixed fresh berries -- blackberries, blueberries, or strawberries -- every day. They'll help you load up on antioxidants, which may help prevent damage to tissues and reduce the risks of age-related illnesses. Blueberries and blackberries are especially antioxidant-rich.
A big bonus: Berries are also tops in fiber, which helps keep cholesterol low and may even help prevent some cancers.
2. Get Dirty -- and Stress Less
To improve your stress level, plant a small garden, cultivate a flower box, or if space is really limited, plant a few flower pots -- indoors or out.
Just putting your hands in soil is "grounding." And when life feels like you're moving so fast your feet are barely touching the stuff, being mentally grounded can help relieve physical and mental stress.
3. Floss Daily
You know you need to, now it's time to start: floss every single day. Do it at the beach (in a secluded spot), while reading on your patio, or when watching TV -- and the task will breeze by.
Flossing reduces oral bacteria, which improves overall body health, and if oral bacteria is low, your body has more resources to fight bacteria elsewhere. Floss daily and you're doing better than at least 85% of people.
4. Get Outside to Exercise
Pick one outdoor activity -- going on a hike, taking a nature walk, playing games such as tag with your kids, cycling, rollerblading, or swimming -- to shed that cooped-up feeling of gym workouts.
And remember, the family that plays together not only gets fit together -- it's also a great way to create bonding time.
5. Be Good to Your Eyes
To protect your vision at work and at play, wear protective eyewear. When outdoors, wear sunglasses that block at least 99% of ultraviolet A and B rays. Sunglasses can help prevent cataracts, as well as wrinkles around the eyes.
And when playing sports or doing tasks such as mowing the lawn, wear protective eyewear. Ask your eye doctor about the best type; some are sport-specific.
6. Vacation Time!
Improve your heart health: take advantage of summer's slower schedule by using your vacation time to unwind.
Vacations have multiple benefits: They can help lower your blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones such as cortisol, which contributes to a widening waist and an increased risk of heart disease.
7. Alcohol: Go Lite
Summer's a great time to skip drinks with hard alcohol and choose a light, chilled alcoholic beverage (unless you are pregnant or should not drink for health or other reasons).
A sangria (table wine diluted with juice), a cold beer, or a wine spritzer are all refreshing but light. In moderation -- defined as one to two drinks daily -- alcohol can protect against heart disease.
8. Sleep Well
Resist the urge to stay up later during long summer days. Instead, pay attention to good sleep hygiene by keeping the same bedtime and wake-up schedule and not drinking alcohol within three hours of bedtime.
It's also a good idea to avoid naps during the day unless you take them every day at the same time, for the same amount of time.
There they are: Eight super simple ways to boost your health this summer. Try one or try them all. They're so easy you won't even know they're -- shhhh -- good for you.
From WebMD - By Kathleen Doheny
Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on June 17, 2010