Nobody likes being around people coughing and sneezing from colds and flu yet that’s what doctors do. Every day they are on the front lines, listening compassionately to complaints ranging from aches and pain to fever and persistent coughs. Yet they rarely get sick. How do they do it?
Want to know doctors' secrets to staying healthy? Here, Anne West, MD, a family medicine doctor at Duke Primary Care Timberlyne in Chapel Hill, reviews the top 10 ways she and her colleagues stay healthy throughout the year, and how you can too:
- Wash hands frequently. “It’s the most effective preventive measure,” says Dr. West. Use hand sanitizer or soap and water frequently during the day.
- Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth. They are gateways that allow bacteria and viruses access to your body.
- Sanitize surfaces. Disinfectant is used continually at Duke Primary Care Timberlyne to wipe down everything from exam surfaces to computer keyboards. Dr. West suggests people do the same with high traffic areas in their homes or offices. “Wipe down your desk, your phone, any common areas, and where you eat at least once a day.”
- Exercise regularly. Research shows regular exercise – 30-45 minutes per day, 4–5 days per week, boosts the immune system and helps maintain good health. Walking requires no skill, is inexpensive, accessible, and a good form of exercise as well. Walk at least 5000 steps per day (less than 5,000 considered a sedentary lifestyle) with the goal of walking more than 10,000 steps most days of the week. Pedometers are relatively cheap and can track the steps you take. Phone apps can do the same, and many are free.
- Drink water. Clear liquids are best, says Dr. West, who drinks water regularly. “It keeps your energy level up and ensures your body stays hydrated,” she says.
- Get enough sleep. Seven to eight hours per night is key to maintaining a healthy body. “If you do get sick, resting helps your body heal faster,” Dr. West says.
- Eat seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables. They’re packed with vitamins and nutrients that are essential for overall good health.
- Beware of party food. That double dipper may be leaving germs in the party dip. Stay away.
- Laugh a lot. It minimizes stress, which can weaken immune systems.
- Don’t smoke. Need another reason to quit? Research shows smokers have poorer health than non-smokers and take more sick days.