5 health improvements you can make today that will pay off for a lifetime


(BPT) - Improving your health and wellness can seem like a daunting task, especially if you know you have some bad health habits to break. But, several improvements you can make today can result in tremendous health benefits.

“It starts with you,” says physician assistant Tricia A. Howard, a faculty member at South University, Savannah’s College of Health Professions. “You have more control over your health than you think you do.”

Here are five steps you can take today that can have a positive impact on your overall health and wellness.

Stop smoking

Everyone knows smoking is bad for you. In fact, people who smoke have by far the greatest risk of lung cancer - the number one cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. - and increased risk of a cardiac event. But, many people don’t realize that changes in the lungs caused by smoking can actually improve over time once a smoker quits.

“Even if you’ve smoked for many years, you can reduce your lung cancer risks just by quitting,” says Howard. “And this isn’t just about your own health. Smoking puts the ones you love at risk, because even second-hand smoke can cause cancer. So, quitting is a win-win for you and those you love.”

Howard says people who want to quit smoking do better when they set a target date to quit. She also advises working with your primary health care provider who can actually individualize a stop-smoking plan for you. And, Howard says getting support from others is a crucial part of the battle.

Increase your water intake

Sixty percent of your body weight is water. Your body depends on water to carry nutrients to cells and to flush toxins out of vital organs, so getting the right amount of fluids each day is crucial.

Howard says men should drink 3 liters, or 13 cups, per day. For women, the recommendation is 2.2 liters, or 9 cups, per day. If that recommendation seems tough to follow, Howard says to divide it up throughout the day.

“Make sure you have water with every meal and also drink water at least once between each meal,” she suggests. “That divides up your fluid intake and can make the amount seem less daunting.”

And, Howard says you don’t have to stick to water. Milk, coffee, and other drinks that contain a lot of water and not a lot of calories count towards your daily fluid intake.


“Exercise reduces your risk for chronic disease, improves balance and coordination and helps with weight loss,” Howard says. “Exercise is a key part of living a healthy life.”

Howard says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise, or 90 minutes of vigorous exercise a week, for adults.

“That sounds like a lot,” Howard acknowledges. “But, if you break it into 15-or-20-minute daily workouts it’s much easier to fit into your schedule. You don’t have to spend hours at a time in the gym to reap the benefits.”

Howard says recent studies have shown that even short bursts of exercise can be helpful.

Adopt the Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet is a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, olive oil, nuts and fish. The results of numerous studies show long-term health benefits to adopting the diet.

“This is a diet filled with antioxidants and anti-inflammatories,” Howard explains. “This diet has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer when adhered to long-term. Weight loss and improvement in cholesterol can be seen after just a few months.”

Have your cholesterol checked

You might be surprised to learn that you should begin having your cholesterol monitored by a doctor at age 20. But since coronary artery disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S., it’s a recommendation you should take seriously.

“There is no reason to avoid having your cholesterol checked,” Howard says. “If your cholesterol levels aren’t where they should be, you can change them.”

Howard says levels that are too high can be controlled by diet, quitting smoking, exercise, and even prescription medication.

“There are so many things we can do to improve not only the length of our life, but the quality of those years,” Howard encourages. “Don’t wait. Commit today to making a few small changes, and see how they improve your health over time.”

Keep your skin glowing by staying active as temperatures start to drop

(BPT) - For some, chillier weather can decrease the likelihood of sticking to a consistent workout routine. Luckily, there are plenty of small changes one can make to ensure that staying active during short winter days and long nights remains a priority. Not only does exercise benefit physical and mental well-being, but it also has a positive effect on the look and feel of skin.

Celebrity fitness trainer Kacy Duke’s motto for staying active is “movement is a privilege.” She firmly believes that colder weather is no excuse to press pause on one’s workout routine. As part of the Simple Skincare Advisory Board - a group of experts who help women care for their skin from the inside out - Duke is well-versed in the positive impact that physical fitness can have on one’s complexion. As the weather turns, she shares her tips for how anyone can stay active and ultimately keep skin glowing throughout the winter months.

Make it a habit
Duke advises clients to get into the habit of working out before the dead of winter arrives. “It can be a challenge to start a fitness routine in freezing temperatures – especially if you haven’t started taking small steps beforehand,” she says. “Push yourself by setting unrealistic goals that you think you may not be able to achieve – in other words think big to win big, so even if you fall a little short, you’re still ahead of the game and on your way to locking in a healthy exercise habit.”

Lean on friends
Switch out happy hour drinks for fitness outings with friends so that being active becomes a social activity. Plan to run a 5 kilometer race with a friend or schedule a weekly spin class together so that all parties are held accountable. “I recently created my ‘Girlfriend Training Sessions’ and ‘Bromance Workout Sessions’ so that girls and guys can work with me in a small, semi-private group setting and bond over a great workout and healthy sweat rather than calorie-packed cocktails,” says Duke. Fitness won’t feel like a chore once it’s enjoyed in a social setting.

Remember the skin-loving benefits
Exercise increases blood flow and helps flush cellular debris out of the system. Plus, exercise tones muscles and reduces stress, all of which contributes to an improved overall appearance. At the end of any movement session, make facial cleansing a can’t-miss step to remove sweat and remaining traces of makeup. Try products that have no dyes, artificial perfumes or harsh chemicals that can upset skin, such as the Simple Skincare Facial Wipes that refresh with one step (no rinsing required) and are ideal for packing in gym bags. As sleeping in makeup can increase likelihood of skin sensitivity, irritation and dullness, follow Duke’s advice: “Washing one’s face post-workout and before bed ensures what I like to call a ‘No Makeup Wakeup’ - so you can start the day with naturally healthy-looking skin.”

For more holistic facial skincare tips from myself, and other Simple Advisory Board members, visit www.simpleskincare.com.