Suppose you went in for a checkup, but your doctor had time to do only one test to accurately measure your overall health. Would the doctor:
A. Measure your weight on a scale or a BMI.
B. Do an electrocardiogram.
C. Listen to your heart with a stethoscope.
D. Measure your blood cholesterol.
E. Measure your waist size.
If you answered "E. Measure your waist size"…you are correct. Unlike the excess fat in our cheeks, neck, arms and thighs, excessive abdominal fat behaves like a chemical factory, spewing out unhealthy products that cause all those diseases you don't want to get, especially diabetes, cardiovascular disease and those "-itis" illnesses—bronchitis, arthritis, colitis and dermatitis. Staying lean (meaning having the right weight and waist size for your individual body type) is one of the top health words for longevity.
9. Stress less.
In addition to working out a routine for the health of your body, it's as equally important to work out a routine for the health of your mind. Identify the stressors in your life that you can get rid of, or at least minimize. Make humor an important part of your daily living. Practice deep breathing as a stress-buster. Meditate for at least five minutes a day. Focus on solutions, not problems. One of the secrets of people who live the longest and healthiest is the mantra: "If you can't change it, don't worry about it."
People who live the longest and healthiest have deep social connections. Giving love and feeling loved is therapeutic. Take time and effort to strengthen the love relationships in your life. Make new relationships. Heal troubled relationships with family members. Remember, in healing others, you heal yourself. Serve! Enjoy the helper's high. The best way to relieve your stress is to help others relieve theirs.
Dr. William Sears is the father of eight children and has practiced pediatrics for more than three decades. Martha Sears is a registered nurse, childbirth educator and parenting and health consultant. They are the authors of more than 30 books on childcare and live in Southern California.