Live Better: 50 Steps to Better Health

We asked 26 local professionals how to be healthier. Here is their best advice.

1 Eat a breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and supper like a pauper, says Dr. Donald Feeney of Brandywine Total Health Care in Wilmington. “The brain is the most demanding part of your body in the morning, and even though it’s only 8 ounces in weight it demands 80 percent of your body’s energy. Go lighter on food intake later in the day, which enables the body to rest and leads to better sleep.”

2Keep TV and computers out of the bedroom to improve your sleep, and douse the light on your clock radio. “Even though the TV and radio go off before sleep, you’re still bombarding your body with electromagnetic fluctuation,” says Feeney, Delaware’s only board-certified clinical nutritionist. “The glow still affects your eyes, as well as your pineal gland above your eyebrows, which balances your sleep patterns.”

3 Better regulating your sleep patterns can help control your weight. “If you sleep less than six hours a night, you have a 16 percent greater chance for obesity,” Feeney says. “Likewise, if you sleep more than nine hours a night, you have a 32 percent chance of obesity.”

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4 Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, says registered dietitian Marianne Carter, director of the Delaware Center for Health Promotion. “Phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables have disease-fighting properties that can help in everything from cancer prevention to controlling cholesterol levels,” Carter says. “We haven’t yet been able to isolate these agents in pill form, but they’re plentiful in our fruits and in our vegetables.”


5 Eat less and exercise more. “The magic formula for successful weight loss involves three steps,” says registered dietitian Marianne Carter. “Step one is to eat less. Simply reduce your portion sizes. Step two is to move more. Set aside time daily for physical activity.” And step three? “Repeat steps one and two. It truly works, and it’s a strategy you can use long-term.”


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6Get plenty of vitamin D. Dr. John Kehagias of First State Family Practice in Middletown suggests a daily intake of 2,000 to 5,000 units a day for adults, 400 a day for children. “Vitamin D lowers the risk of skin cancer, colon cancer and breast cancer, and it’s nature’s most potent anti-oxidant,” he says.

7Consume lots of omega 3 fatty acids, Kehagias says. “It is best to take them from natural sources such as salmon, olive oil, olives and tuna.”

8Get a skin cancer screening. Even freckles could indicate a problem, says registered nurse Donna Goldsborough of Bayhealth Medical Center. Other warning signs include moles, lesions, and red or darkened areas.

9Limit your intake of sodas to one a day to reduce sodium, says Dawn M. Fowler, stroke center coordinator at Bayhealth Medical Center. “Less sodium translates into healthier blood pressure and lower chances for stroke,” she says.

10 Maintain muscle mass through weight-bearing exercise, says Dr. Charles Wagner, a family practice physician in Milton. “Even if you’re not of an ideal weight, as long as you’re carrying muscle, you’re statistically more likely to be healthier than a heavy person without the muscle. By the time you reach 60, you’ve lost 60 percent of your muscle cells. If you keep the cells tuned up, they’ll maintain the muscle fibers within the remaining cells and keep you out of trouble.”

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11 Maintain a “four by four diet” of 400 calories four times a day. “This allows the body to take in fuel at a reasonable speed,” Wagner says. “You don’t want to eat 1,600 calories at one sitting. A visit to a fast-food restaurant, where you consume a large meal, is essentially a 1,600-calorie trip. Your pancreas and liver can’t tolerate that forever.”

12 Get outside at least once a week. “Run, bike or walk—without an iPod—at one of the area’s great state or city parks, and reconnect with the sounds, sights and smells of nature,” says Kris Benarcik, a personal trainer with Plexus Fitness in Wilmington. “It does the soul good.”

13 Incorporate interval training into your weekly workouts to strengthen your heart and lungs. “It works up a great sweat, burns calories and can be a time-saver, too,” Benarcik says. Warm up for five minutes, then alternate a minute of hard running and a minute of walking. Repeat seven to 10 times, then cool down. “You get a great workout in just 30 minutes,” she says.

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14 Make basic, short-term health and fitness goals. “Too many people want to radically change their entire lifestyle overnight and often feel overwhelmed,” says Rachael Ling, assistant fitness director at the Hockessin Athletic Club. “Whether it’s incorporating fitness or a nutrition element into your life, change happens slowly. Those who are most successful with transformation understand that they don’t have to give everything up tomorrow, but gradually, over time.”

15 Reward yourself for reaching health milestones. “If a woman says that she wants to drop a dress size or two as a result of her workout regimen, she should go out and buy a new dress in the new size and show off her accomplishment,” says Maria Argiroudis, fitness director at the Hockessin Athletic Club.




16 Make more open time in your schedule, especially on weekends. Watch a movie for a few hours or read a book in a quiet place. “We never rest,” says yoga instructor Chris Rogers. “Our schedules become so regimented that we never give ourselves time to refuel.”







17 Practice the art of non-doing from time to time. “We’ve become a society of doers, to the point we’re in a speed coma,” Rogers says. “We are moving so quickly from task to task, we are asleep. Putting off a task until a later time is not an act of laziness, but allows our sensors to rest.”

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18Take time to nourish your mind, body and spirit. “We go from bed to car to office to bed and the cycle repeats itself,” Rogers says. “We’d rather polish the bars of our cage than open the doors and be free. True healing is moving from shutting down to opening up.”

19 Practice yogic breathing. “Incorporating the three-part breath of yogic breathing for 10 minutes a day is a powerful tool for lowering the stress response,” says Wendy Harrold of The Comfort Zone Yoga Center in Lewes. Simply inhale deeply through the nose, down into the abdomen. Fill the belly first, then the ribs, then up to the collar bone. Begin exhaling through the nose, drawing your navel back toward the spine.

20 Detoxify in the morning. “At night, our bodies are programmed to detoxify and eliminate in the morning,” Harrold says. “To support healthy eliminations and removal of toxins, drink a combination of warm water with lemon, apple cider vinegar and honey first thing in the morning.”

21 Cleanse and lubricate your nasal passages to improve breathing. “Use a Neti pot to remove inflammation from the nasal passages with a warm water and saline solution,” says Ed Harrold of The Comfort Zone. “Then lubricate your nose with a Q-Tip dipped in unrefined sesame oil or Nasya oil. Sniff the oil up into the sinuses to lubricate and enhance the breathing process.”

22 Drink plenty of water to keep allergies in check. “Respiratory membranes are sensitive to drying from dehydration. As a result, people with allergies will have more difficulty clearing their respiratory tracts,” says Dr. Michael Wydila of Allergy Associates in Wilmington. “Water is good medicine.”

23Don’t sleep with your pets. “The bedroom is the room in our homes where we typically spend the most amount of time in a given day,” Wydila says. “If you have exposure to allergens and you spend a lot of time in the place where they gather, you’ll likely have more exposure, which adds to the level of sickness and reactivity.” Avoidance is the cure.

24 Close your home windows during allergy season and use the air conditioning. “People think, ‘It’s cool outside, so I think I’ll open the windows,’” Wydila says. “What they’re really doing is letting allergens seep into their homes and turning them into pollen chambers.”

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25Always stretch before exercising. “Athletes, especially weekend warriors, can prevent injury by always stretching and warming up before competing,” says Mary Harbeson, outpatient physical therapist at Bayhealth Orthopedics & Rehabilitative Services in Lewes.

26 Heal aches and pains from exercise with the RICE method, Harbeson says: rest, ice (10 to 15 minutes a few times a day), compression (with an Ace bandage) and elevation.

27 Learn to “touch” every part of your body by meditating five to 10 minutes each morning in the same location. “Try to quiet your mind,” says Polly Grimaldi, an internationally known lecturer from Newark. “Think of a word that will calm you. People who meditate tend to live 10 to 15 years longer than those who don’t.”

28 Talk to your body for a few minutes each day and thank your organs for what they do. “Do you not believe that your heart and organs have some sense of what you’re doing?” Grimaldi says. “They do. Thank your body for what it does.”

29 Eat deeply colored vegetables. “Anything with color—green, yellow, orange or red—has a plentiful supply of antioxidants,” Grimaldi says. Steam vegetables to preserve their nutrients.

30 Give yourself an exercise break at work. “Get up out of your office chair, place your hands on your hips, then lean back while looking straight up at the ceiling,” says instructor Sheri Minear of Bayhealth Lifestyles Fitness Center. “Back extensions will ease your aching back.”

31 Work hard when you exercise. “Moderate to high intensity provides faster results,” Minear says. “A 10-pound weight loss can reduce your systolic blood pressure seven to eight points.”


32Get a physical exam once a year. Update your immunizations, and get tested for lipids, diabetes, thyroid problems and other issues, says Dr. Preeti Gupta, a family medicine physician in Milford. “Women should receive an annual gynecological examination, which typically includes Pap smear, mammogram and STD screening.”



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33 Get enough iodine in your diet. The government recommends 150 micrograms of iodine a day, but herbalist Alan Tillotson of Wilmington suggests 3 to 4 milligrams. “Iodine is essential for proper thyroid function,” he says. “Without it, the thyroid gland under-functions which can contribute to hypothyroidism, which then leads to obesity.” Iodine supplements must be prescribed by a doctor, especially if you have a thyroid disorder.

34 Try shilajit for your heart and mind. Shilajit is derived from a moss of the Himalayas, Tillotson says, but you can find it at health food stores. Boil it, then add to fruits. “Ancient doctors found that it strengthened the heart and was good for mental function,” Tillotson says.

35 Try a chiropractic adjustment. “Chiropractic adjustments work by removing interference to the nervous system,” says Kirk Evans of First State Health and Wellness in Christiana. “Optimal nervous system facilitates healing and optimal health. Not only will you feel less pain, you will have more energy, vitality, increased motion, better sleep and less stress.”

36 Improve your nutrition with carefully chosen dietary supplements. Many studies suggest that people who supplement their diets with specific antioxidant vitamins and minerals may show lower risk of some cancers, heart disease, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, Evans says. “Supplements support a healthy immune system and can help prevent premature aging.” Consult a healthcare professional before choosing supplements.

37 Find out your blood pressure. “Ask your doctor if yours is a healthy blood pressure and find out what you can do to stay in a healthy range,” says Dr. Harjinder S. Grewal, a cardiologist with Bayhealth Medical Center. “And learn your cholesterol numbers. Like high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels are also a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.”

38 Floss your teeth. “Brushing alone, even if done perfectly, can only clean 60 percent of tooth surfaces,” says dentist Michael Hazuda Jr. of Wilmington. “Flossing cleans the other 40 percent and helps prevent premature tooth loss due to gum disease and cavities between teeth.”

39 Maintain healthy gums to maintain a healthy heart. “We now know that the bacteria that cause periodontal disease also create inflammation of the linings of our arteries,” Hazuda says. “Brushing and flossing daily means healthy arteries, and can increase your lifespan by 6.7 years, according to Dr. Mehmet Oz.”

40 Don’t grind your teeth. For many people, it’s a natural response to daily stress, but “clenching or grinding can crack fillings, and even healthy enamel, leading to major dental repairs, abscesses or tooth loss, as well as gum recession, root wear and decay,” Hazuda warns.

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41 Be good to your skin. “The skin is your largest organ of elimination, and proper cleansing of the skin is not just vital for immediate benefits of the skin but also for overall maintenance of whole-body health,” says Denise Wilson, aesthetician at Harmony Wellness Center in Newark.

42 Make your own health and fitness goals. “Just because Sally lost 30 pounds on the Atkins Diet doesn’t mean you’ll do the same,” says Nancy Hawkins-Rigg, founder of the Forever Fit Foundation in Lewes and Dover. “Your fitness goals need to be a lifestyle change for you, and they have to be forever, not just in preparation for a college reunion or that vacation in Cancun.”

43 Set objective goals and measure them objectively. “The scale cannot be one of them,” says Hawkins-Rigg. “Find a clothing size you’d like to achieve, or set a goal in terms of health measurements, such as a lower cholesterol level or a better heart rate.”

44 Protect your eyes from the sun. “UV light promotes cataract formation as well as macular degeneration,” says Dr. Greta Steinbach, a Wilmington-based optometrist. She recommends wearing good sunglasses. “Exposure to UV light speeds up the aging process on our entire body, and that includes our eyes.”

45 Eat leafy greens for eye health. “Many people think of their eyes as disconnected from the rest of their body, but the eye is a neural tissue and needs proper nutrition just as much as any other part of our bodies,” Steinbach says. “Eating those green leafy vegetables or those blueberries rich in fiber all promote good health for your vision.”

46 Screen early and often for cancer. Paula Hess, cancer screening nurse navigator at Bayhealth Cancer Institute, stresses the importance of mammograms, Pap smears, colonoscopies, PSA blood tests, digital rectal exams and other important tests.

47Laugh. Look for reasons and opportunities, whether they are jokes, our own follies or the daily absurdities of life, says Dr. Margaret Keenan, director of Health Psychology, Preventive Medicine and Rehabilitation Institute at Christiana Care. “A sense of humor really is good medicine.”

48 Stay connected to others. “Our relationships with friends, family and social groups support both mental and physical health,” Keenan says.

49 Take five and breathe. “We all need to create breaks to quiet our mind and body, especially when we feel our engine revving a bit too fast,” Keenan says.

50 “Tune in moments of beauty, joy and inspiration around you,” Keenan adds. “They can balance out the challenges of the day and help keep problems in perspective.”

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