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Sheryl Kraft

Sheryl Kraft, a freelance writer and breast cancer survivor, was born in Long Beach, New York. She currently lives in Connecticut with her husband Alan and dog Chloe, where her nest is empty of her two sons Jonathan. Sheryl writes articles and essays on breast cancer and contributes to a variety of publications and websites where she writes on general health and wellness issues. She earned her MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College in 2005.

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How We Can Improve Health and Wellness
How We Can Improve Health and Wellness

A Glimpse of Wellness From the Global Wellness Summit 2017

Improve your health and wellness with these tips for making healthy lifestyle choices from blogger Sheryl Kraft, who attended the Global Wellness Summit 2017.

Menopause & Aging Well

It's not often I get to immerse myself along with 500-plus others to hear international thought and industry leaders discuss the past, present and future state of health and wellness.

I've just returned from the Global Wellness Summit, organized by the Global Wellness Institute. It's an annual gathering held this year at the gorgeous Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida. Past Summit locations included Austria, Mexico, Morocco, India, Indonesia, Turkey and Switzerland.

The attendees represent diverse sectors of the $3.7 trillion global wellness industry in areas like fitness, finance, architecture, beauty, education, medicine, nutrition, spa, travel, tourism and more. I was honored and humbled to have been chosen as one of the summit's 30 press delegates to attend this information-filled gathering that fosters collaboration and innovation and opens a dialogue to solve shared problems and concerns.

I'm a knowledge nerd (my attempt to find words that sum up someone who could easily be a professional student), and the three intensive days I spent at the various panel-led discussions, general sessions, breakout sessions and hosted dining conversations allowed me to whet my desire to understand just how complicated—yet how simple—health and wellness can be.

Health and wellness is hardly a new concept, yet people continue to succumb to diseases that are largely preventable by lifestyle choices. One of the many major contributors: the influx of processed and unhealthy junk food, which is convenient, plentiful and relatively inexpensive. It's often cheaper and easier to get than healthy food. Sadly, cost is a driving force behind poor nutrition and obesity.

Dr. Andrew Weil—one of my health heroes for as long as I have been interested in health (and that's a very long time)—said that rather than having a health care system, our country has a disease-managing system. "Prevention doesn't pay," he said. Sad, isn't it?

But, there is a way to turn that around. We can all, as a group, make it better:

  1. It all starts with education. Consumers need—and deserve—information that is easily understood and reliable. It also helps if it's conveyed so that they can connect it to their own experiences.

    With so much information on television, in magazines and on the Internet, it can be tough to know how to sort through it all. Remember this: Consider the source. On the web, check out the “About Us” page, which can tell you who runs the site (it may be a branch of the government, a university, a health organization, hospital, business or other organization). Here's HealthyWomen's About Us page. Then, judge the quality of the information being presented. Is it written in an authoritative voice? Is it reviewed before it's posted or does the site have an editorial board? These are specific checks that can help assure reliable, accurate information. Be skeptical if something seems too good to be true.

  2. Practitioners must model good health. There's nothing more disheartening than seeing a medical professional who is overweight, unkempt or, worse, has the lingering odor of tobacco. (I've experienced this; I'm sure you have, too.) "You have to embody health," was Dr. Weil's message to health professionals. I agree. Patients need their health care professionals to provide a good role model, along with empathy, knowledge, communication and ethics.

  1. Spend more time in the company of people with good health habits. Just as moods are contagious, so is good health. Think about it: You're out to dinner with friends. Aren't you more likely to order a salad and grilled fish if they are? Conversely, if your friends indulge in something unhealthy, you're more than likely to join in (and perhaps your—and their—guilt is assuaged by seeing others behave the same).

    Large bodies of research support the fact that healthy lifestyle behaviors are contagious, from eating healthfully, losing weight, working out, quitting smoking and limiting alcohol consumption to getting vaccinated.

Many people will argue that wellness can be tough and expensive. But what I see in my everyday life is that the ability to live a healthy and well life is all around. You just have to open your eyes and look. Be aware. Making healthy lifestyle choices can turn your health around!

Some of my everyday, easy, no-brainers:

  • Sit less and stand more.

  • Take the stairs, not the elevator.

  • Park in the spot farthest from your destination.

  • Snack when you're hungry—but snack on fresh fruits and veggies instead of sugar-laden empty calories. (Make it easy by cutting up some veggies ahead of time and storing them in clear bags within reach in the refrigerator.)

  • Establish a relaxing bedtime ritual and good sleep hygiene to ensure a good night's sleep.

  • Deal with stress, whether through therapy, meditation, breathing, yoga, exercise or any other safe and proven choice. Letting it fester is dangerous to your immune system and to your health.

  • Watch your weight. Obesity is one of the biggest causes of chronic diseases and high health care costs in our country. Weight creeps up slowly, and many times catches us unaware. Studies show that we weigh more than Americans did 30-plus years ago, and it's not just because of diet and physical activity. Some hypotheses: The rise of the use of prescription drugs; exposure to more chemicals that might be altering our hormonal processes; a change in our microbiome (or gut bacteria). Learn more shocking facts about obesity.

  • Get some exercise every single day. Even if you can't get to the gym, make sure to move. If you're watching television, get up during the commercials (rather than fast-forwarding) to stretch or do some jumping jacks or jump in place. Do push-ups against the kitchen counter. Use a standing desk, or stand up and pace when you're on the phone.

  • Be aware of your portion sizes. They matter.

  • Practice gratitude and forgiveness.

  • Remember to smile and laugh and surround yourself with supportive family and friends.

You might also want to read:
Do These 5 Things to Get Healthy and Fit
7 Ways to Beat Sitting and Move More

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