Your doctor will probably advise you to eat more veggies and quit smoking, but he or she is also more likely to prescribe a pill or suggest surgery for what ails you, instead of arming you with preventive measures that could have long-term health benefits. So we enlisted Illinois-based cardiologist Dr. Kara Davis for her tips on what your doctor’s not telling you so you can live long and prosper.
“Like most women, I’m concerned about my health. Yes, I’d like to be around for many years, but I want those years spent with strength and vitality,” explains Dr. Davis, a wife, mother of four and author of two books, Spiritual Secrets to a Healthy Heart and Spiritual Secrets to Weight Loss.
“I’m also a physician. And like most physicians, I don’t always find the time to share my own approach to good health with my patients.”
Here, Davis shares her tips for health and longevity.
Stay spiritually connected
A huge number of scientific studies have examined the relationship between a person’s spiritual life and physical and mental health. The vast majority of these studies (more than 84 percent) show a strongly positive relationship. In other words, a sincere commitment to religious and spiritual matters can lead to better health. And the benefits are seen on all fronts. Spirituality helps prevent diseases from developing, helps us cope with illnesses once they occur and facilitates a speedy recovery.
Keep a positive attitude
Anger, stress and pessimism all affect the body. These emotions will make you crave high-sugar, high-salt and fatty foods, and increase the risk of heart disease. Anger is detrimental to our physical, mental and spiritual health, and if it goes unchecked, it can kill us. Stress is often unavoidable, so it’s important that we regularly de-stress — whether it’s puttering in your garden, walking around the track or knitting, find an activity that will help you unwind and clear your mind. Conquer pessimism and negative thinking with the power of gratitude.
Grow your own food
You don’t have to be a farmer to grow food. Starting a garden is worthwhile even if you only have a small plot in your backyard to grow herbs and vegetables. Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in women, and diet plays a major role. Fresh, plant-based foods are packed with heart-healthy vitamins and nutrients. And it’s a way to avoid the high sodium that’s found in processed foods.
We’re sedentary for about 19 hours each day. But our bodies are made to move! Physical activity holds the key to physical and mental health. It helps control the pain of arthritis and fibromyalgia. It lowers the risk for type 2 diabetes, preserves bone strength and alleviates anxiety. And exercise and physical activity is essential for weight loss.
Do a self-check for sadness
Depression is extremely common, but often overlooked — even in the doctor’s office. But it’s a real disease and a major cause of disability. Don’t be ashamed to confront it; don’t dismiss how you feel. Good, effective therapy is available.
Get a good night’s sleep
Ads for sleeping pills abound, but before you ask your doctor for a prescription, take some simple steps to improve your sleep. Avoid caffeine and vigorous exercise for several hours before bedtime. Make sure the room is dark — block out even LED lights from clocks, phone chargers and other devices. Your bedroom shouldn’t be too warm or too cold. And silence is golden when it comes to sleep, so turn the television off before you doze off.
Become a volunteer
Caring for others not only helps the recipient, but it’s good for the giver. There’s certainly a food pantry, hospital or youth program in your area that can use a set of helping hands. Take advantage of the therapeutic benefits that come from volunteering.