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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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5 Simple Steps to Better Health

5 Simple Steps to Better Health

Your Wellness

Face it; we're all aware of the things we need to do to stay healthy; among them eating a balanced diet, exercising and not smoking. And we all know that being proactive about our health can add years to our lives - research backs this up. One study found that more than half of all deaths from chronic diseases among women are avoidable if women follow healthy practices.

But although we may be aware, we don't always make the smartest choices. The reasons can be complicated and varied: stress, travel, busy schedules, caring for others, lack of energy or motivation. These can easily sidetrack every single good intention.

Searching for some easy ways to keep your health in check? Read on.

Take a time out. Do you sometimes feel anxiety and stress creeping up on you, but ignore it, only to find it exploding with such force it renders you a sniveling mess? Next time, catch it before it catches you by giving yourself a brief break. Take a few minutes to breathe deeply. Inhale deeply through your nose, then exhale forcefully through your mouth. Do this a few times, until you feel yourself relax. Or if you're the type that needs to move, go out for a walk or run, punch a pillow or just run up and down the stairs in your house a few times.

Stretch. Sometimes it takes a while to realize your body is stiff and painful. That could easily be making you cranky. Take a lookat this listof comprehensive stretches. Stretching goes a long way toward making your body feel healthy and limber and helping you avoid injuries. It relaxes the tense muscles that often go along with stress (a health zapper).

Indulge in a nap. You might feel like this is an extravagance, but it's a real boost for your health and can enhance your energy when it's lagging. Just 20 minutes is enough to energize you and make you more productive the rest of the day. The National Sleep Foundation says this on their website: A recent study in the research journalSleepexamined the benefits of naps of various lengths and no naps. The results showed that a 10-minute nap produced the most benefit in terms of reduced sleepiness and improved cognitive performance. A nap lasting 30 minutes or longer is more likely to be accompanied by sleep inertia, which is the period of grogginess that sometimes follows sleep. On their site, I was especially intrigued to read this: More than 85% of mammalian species are polyphasic sleepers, meaning that they sleep for short periods throughout the day. Though it's not clear that this is the sleep pattern of humans, there's certainly no harm in a quick nap.

Speak up. If you eat out, you have every right to ask for your food to be prepared the way you prefer it. Don't be afraid to ask for grilled, even if the only word on the menu for that particular dish says "fried." If you'd rather not have the hash browns that come with the omelet you order (which, by the way, you can order "dry" so they don't make it in a ton of oil or butter), request a substitute of sliced tomato or a baked potato. Never mind that the waiter or waitress rolls their eyes; it's your meal and it's your health. You can be in charge.

Laugh. Sometimes I don't realize how long it's been since I had a good laugh UNTIL I have a good laugh – and then I realize just how great I feel. Research has found some amazing benefits of a good laugh, including increased blood flow, a boost in the levels of immune cells, lower blood sugar levels and better levels of relaxation and sleep. I dare you to watchthis video without breaking into at least a little smile.

This Matters>With some modest adjustments in your life, it's easy to keep good health in check. You needn't think about it 24/7, but a few simple reminders throughout the day should be enough to eventually make good health a habit.

You probably have some tips of your own to share. We'd all love to know.

You may also want to read:

Your heart health numbers

Preventive health screening for women

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