30 Healthy Habits to Adopt Now, According to Every Type of Doctor
We asked medical professionals about the healthiest habits that anyone could implement in their everyday lives. Here are their best pieces of advice for living well.
Cardiac Surgeon: Make your commute active
“I practice what I preach. I have actually run to work basically every day for 30 years. That’s my zen moment. I really take that time out. Some of my patients know I run to work every day, and they think it’s fascinating that I’m actually doing cardio every day.” —Steven Bolling, MD, cardiac surgeon, the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center.
Here’s what every woman needs to know about running.
Cardiologist: Be picky about supplements
“Doctors who strongly recommend certain supplements are often the ones selling them in their office. For primary prevention, if you’re not eating fish two to three times a week, then fish oil is probably a good idea. I also recommend vitamin D because 80 percent of U.S. adults are deficient. Those are the only two I take.” —Sarah Samaan, MD, cardiologist at The Legacy Heart Center in Plano, Texas, and author of Best Practices for a Healthy Heart.
(Here’s why you should talk to your doctor before taking supplements.)
Cardiologist: Park far away
“Park farthest from the mall entrance and purposefully forget where you parked! This helps me to add 3,000 steps just finding the car!” —Subbarao Myla, MD, the Medical Director of Cardiac Catheterization Labs at Jeffery M. Carlton Heart and Vascular Institute at Hoag Hospital Newport Beach.
(See how to burn more calories walking.)
Cardiologist: Make time for friends and loved ones (while obeying Covid guidelines)
“The quality and quantity of your social relationships has been linked to overall health and a lower risk for death. Heart disease has been associated with stressful life events and social strain, job strain, and psychological distress at any point in life—all things that good friends and family can help with.” —Jason Guichard, MD
(Did you know hugging also offers many health benefits?)
Cardiologist: Read all food labels
“My favourite healthy habit is to read food labels. People know to avoid saturated fats to eat heart healthy, but most labels don’t make them easy to spot. I suggest that patients avoid anything with lauric acid, stearic acid, or palmitic acid on the label.” —Shalini Bobra, MD, FACC, a cardiologist with White Plains Hospital Medical and Wellness in Armonk and the Montefiore Einstein Center for Heart and Vascular Care
(Here are the food labels you’re reading incorrectly.)
Dentist: Use a tongue scraper
“I wish more patients would use a tongue scraper. An estimated 50 to 90 percent of halitosis—or bad breath—can be caused by bacterial residue on the back of the tongue. Tooth brushing alone reduces volatile sulfur compounds by 45 percent, while tongue scrapers are significantly better with 75 percent reduction.” —Vera Tang, DDS, clinical assistant professor of periodontology and implant dentistry at NYU College of Dentistry
(Learn other secrets your dentist won’t tell you.)
Dermatologist: Always take your makeup off at night
“Always wash your face before you go to bed! Every night! It is so important to take off all your makeup and the oils and impurities you have collected throughout the day. These impurities clog your pores and irritate your eyes, causing puffiness that then leads to wrinkles. No! With a fresh face, I apply retinA every night.” —Anna D. Guanche, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist.
Dermatologist: Start the day with meditation
“Every morning I start the day off with meditation for 15 minutes. Deep breathing and a mantra repetition or intention-setting for the day is key to reducing stress and staying focused. Don’t skip it! Personally, it is the most important and cherished part of my day.” —Anna D. Guanche, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist.
(Be aware of the meditation mistakes that could actually be causing you stress.)
Emergency Medicine Physician: Get some fresh air
“Take a walk outside. In addition to providing some exercise, walking outside has other benefits. Sunlight exposure helps your body synthesize a natural version of vitamin D which helps maintain bone and muscle health and boost the immune system. Also, one study showed that being in nature improves our mood by reducing how much time we spend ruminating.” —Chirag Shah, MD, board-certified Emergency Medicine physician, medical reviewer at PollMed.
(Learn all the benefits of walking for just 15 minutes.)
Endocrinologist: Cook mostly at home
“My family and I eat at home. Eating and talking at the table with my wife and children without our cell phones, the television, or computer is important.”—Joel Zonszein, MD, director of the Clinical Diabetes Center at the Montefiore Jack D. Weiler Hospital and professor of medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
(Inspired? Check out these food prep tips healthy home cooks swear by.)
Endocrinologist: Don’t skimp on fibre
“I try to eat fibre-rich foods to keep myself full at lunch to minimize snacking later. This way I’m not riding a rollercoaster of high blood sugar and low blood sugar after I eat.”—Scott Soleimanpour, MD, who has type 1 diabetes, an assistant professor of endocrinology at the University of Michigan Health System.
(Try our high-fibre blueberry salad.)
Endocrinologist: Eat whole fruits
“When you eat an orange, the amount of sugar in one orange is much less than the sugar in squeezed oranges. Plus, you get the fibre from eating a whole orange. The sugar absorbs much more slowly when you eat whole fruits instead of drinking juice.” —Joel Zonszein, MD, director of the Clinical Diabetes Center at the Montefiore Jack D. Weiler Hospital and professor of medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine
(You can also eat your oranges in a meal, like in this Orange Cauli-Coucous Salad.)
Family Physician: Always do your yearly checkup
“The importance of seeing a doctor once a year can’t be overstated. Despite being a physician, I still see my primary care physician once a year and do a full blood workup. Yes, I can self-diagnose myself for the small things, but I go to my doctor and tell him to treat me just as he would any other patient and forget that I am a doctor.” —Nodar Janas, MD, Medical Director at Upper EastSide Rehabilitation and Nursing.
(Check out the vitamin secrets doctors tell their friends.)
Family Physician: Have a morning routine
“Every morning I pray, meditate, and stretch before I eat breakfast. For me, this helps to center me and sets the tone of the day. I spend a lot of time sitting at work, so stretching helps my chest, lower back, and quadriceps.” —Michele C. Reed, MD, Board Certified Family Physician, and Certified Personal Trainer.
(Here’s how to become a morning person.)
Gastroenterologist: Keep up with vaccinations
“Make sure that I’m up to date with influenza vaccination every year. It helps protect others as well as myself.” —Thomas Ullmann, MD, chief of gastroenterology at Einstein and Montefiore.
(Here are the vaccines every woman needs to be healthy.)
Gastroenterologist: Don’t text and drive
“Keep your seatbelt on and phone down when driving.”—Thomas Ullmann, MD, chief of gastroenterology at Einstein and Montefiore. You may also want to keep your phone away from you when you’re sleeping.
(Here’s how to tell if you’re addicted to your phone.)
Infectious Diseases Physician: Get the flu vaccine
“My favourite healthy habit is getting my annual influenza (flu) vaccination. As an infectious disease physician, I see firsthand the devastating impact flu can have on people. During the 2017-2018 flu season here in the US, more than 950,000 people were hospitalized, and about 80,000 people died because of flu and related complications. I love getting my annual flu shot because I know it’s safe and effective at preventing flu, which is especially important for those of us who are age 65 or older and those who have chronic health conditions.” —William Schaffner, MD, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.
(Here’s what you need to know about the Covid-19 vaccine.)
Internal Medicine Physician: Keep a gratitude journal
“Studies have recently shown that expressing gratitude may have a significant positive impact on heart health. One study, for example, showed the volunteers who were asked to focus on feelings of deep appreciation had increased heart rate variability, which is a marker that predicts decreased death from cardiac disease. Another study found that patients who kept a gratitude journal for two months had lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers that could lead to cardiovascular disease. Giving thanks can improve subjective well-being and overall health. It’s become clear to me that gratitude isn’t just good for the soul, it’s good for the body, too.” —Nicole Van Groningen, MD, internal medicine physician at NYU.
(Here’s how to start a journal.)
Internal Medicine Physician: Stay positive
“Always remain positive! No matter the curve balls that life throws your way, remember that the attitude in which you react or respond to any problem makes a world of a difference. Your overall outlook on life is tremendously important. There is so much power in positive thinking and research has even linked it to improved cardiovascular health, increased longevity, and other health benefits. This is absolutely one habit worth trying to incorporate into your daily life.” —Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, MD, physician and health expert.
(But—beware of toxic positivity.)
Neurologist: Challenge yourself
“If there is a problem with the phone or the plumbing, I will try to fix it. If I try to figure out how to fix this on my own, it is good for my brain. It is a way to keep different parts of my brain thriving.” —Gayatri Devi, MD, neurologist, clinical professor of neurology, Downstate Medical Center.
(Check out these other habits to boost brain health.)
Ophthalmologist: Wear shades, even when it’s cloudy
“Choose sunglasses that protect against 100 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays, which can cause all sorts of eye damage and problems. Even on a cloudy day, UV lights still shine through and will hit and damage your eyes. More expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better protection. You can get drugstore sunglasses with just as good of protection or better than designer ones.”—Vincent Hau, MD, ophthalmologist at Kaiser Permanente in Riverside, California.
(See our roundup of the best sunglasses.)
Ophthalmologist: Put UV-blocking film on side car windows
“One healthy habit is putting a 99 percent UV blocking film on my car side windows. This is based on a study I did with one of my daughters that found poor protection of most car side windows increases risk of left-sided cataracts and skin cancer on the left side of the face.” —Brian Boxer Wachler, MD, ophthalmologist, founder of The Boxer Wachler Vision Institute.
(Learn the warning signs of skin cancer that are easy to ignore.)
Pediatrician: Log miles when you can
“I run. Going out in the mornings for me is, quite honestly, therapeutic. Getting my heart rate up and working my muscles eases pent-up tension in my back, neck, and scalp that might contribute to a tension headache later. And, when the weather is right, and my body hits its stride, running is a meditative exercise (literally). It calms, it soothes. I notice that when I fail to exercise for long stretches, the headaches can assert themselves. That is all the motivation I need!” —Jack Maypole, MD, Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine.
(Here’s how to tell if it’s a headache or a migraine.)
Pediatrician: Wear a helmet
“My favourite part of the day is going bicycling every day using one of the city bike-share bicycles. It invigorates me and makes my stress fly away, especially because it forces me to take deep breathes of the fresh Southern California air. I love the feeling of the warm sun caressing my skin, the misty air tickling me as it lands on my face, the smell of the Pacific Ocean, and the beautiful view of the rocky California coast. Of course, I wear my helmet to protect myself and teach onlookers the importance of bike safety.” —Daniel S. Ganjian, MD, pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA.
(Prefer riding indoors? Learn if the new Peloton Bike+ is worth the hype.)
Pediatrician: Don’t skimp on sleep
“I make sleep a priority, making sure I get at least seven or eight hours of sleep a night. I wake up very early (4:30 am) to exercise, so I usually am in bed by 8:30 pm or 9:00 pm.” —Eric Ball, MD, a CHOC Children’s pediatrician. Have trouble sleeping?
(Here’s the trick to falling—and staying—asleep.)
Pediatrician: Keep veggies at your desk
“I keep a bag of vegetables (usually carrots, cucumbers, or bell peppers) on my desk at work. I snack on them throughout the day so that I avoid eating unhealthy snacks or overeating at meals.” —Eric Ball, MD, a CHOC Children’s pediatrician.
(Check out these other healthy snacks to have on-hand when working form home.)
Psychologist: Always have a water bottle with you
“I know that the brain can’t always tell the difference between hunger and thirst and for that reason I make sure a water bottle is never far away. Sipping on water frequently throughout the day helps prevent you from reaching for unnecessary snacks when all you really need is something to drink. Plus, it helps ensure I am always appropriately hydrated!” —Candice Seti, Psy.D., CPT, CNC
(Here are some flavoured water recipes that are super refreshing.)
Radiologist: Get your yearly screenings
“I get a mammogram every year. Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent breast cancer, and we don’t yet have a cure. That is why it is so important to find it as early as possible, making it easier to treat. Annual mammogram beginning at age 40 saves the most lives.” —Nina Watson, MD, board-certified diagnostic radiologist.
Sports Medicine Specialist: Move your body daily
“As a sports doctor and orthopedic surgeon who has studied the human body on an evolutionary level and cared for it on a mechanical one, I’ve long held the opinion that we were all born to be athletes. Whether you’re the competitor or a spectator, there is a visceral response to engaging in or watching competition that is fascinating and entirely unique to humans. I exercise every day! Whether that is a run with my wife, a leisurely walk or challenging hike, endurance and speed are an evolutionary birth-right bestowed upon our early human ancestors so that they could exhaust and outrun their prey. Exercise kicks in our brain’s reward centers, so not only are we hardwired with the anatomy to be active, we’re also designed to enjoy it!”— Bert Mandelbaum, MD, sports medicine specialist and co-chair of medical affairs at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, California, and author of The Win Within: Capturing Your Victorious Spirit.
(Here are some workout motivation hacks to get you moving.)
Venous Disease Specialist: Wear compression socks if you sit or stand often
“Compression socks are helpful for anyone to reduce swelling that may be associated with standing or sitting for long periods of time (gravity dependent edema). Compression socks are also important in healthy persons to reduce the risk of developing a deep venous thrombosis (DVT) in the leg veins during long periods of immobility, such as during air or car travel, or even working at a desk job. As a medical professional, I wear compression socks every day to work, underneath my scrubs. I have done so for years, and so have my staff. Even without an underlying medical issue, compression socks can help reduce leg fatigue, discomfort as well as swelling.” —Nisha Bunke, MD, FACPh, RPhS, Venous Disease Specialist, La Jolla Vein Care.
Next, check out the secrets your surgeon won’t tell you.