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Foundations for Healthy Living: An Introduction for Busy Students  

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Rachel Rose


UM Medical School

While most students are busy enough trying to juggle academics, extra-curriculars, and social lives, always remember that time spent towards healthy living and wellness is time well-spent. Below are the basic guidelines on how best to maintain an optimal level of health. Aside from the daily benefits of feeling your best, healthy living can boost the immune system—resulting in fewer days spent sick or fatigued—which is a health benefit that every busy student could use.
* Optimal nutrition can maximize your energy during the day and prevent chronic illness in the future:
* Consume a diet high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, lean meats and berries, and low in refined grains [non-“whole-grain”] and sugars. Nutrient-dense, low-glycemic-load fruits and vegetables such as berries, plums, citrus fruits, apples, cantaloupe, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, and avocados are best.
* Eat whole, natural, fresh foods. Avoid highly processed and high-glycemic-load foods [such as sugar, white breads/pastas/cereals/rice, sodas and juices, and other junk foods]. Keep salt intake to a minimum.
* Increase consumption of omega-3 fatty acids from fish, fish oil, and plant sources [such as walnuts and flax seeds].
* Incorporate olive oil and/or non-trans-fatty acid canola oil into the diet.
* Increase consumption of lean protein, such as skinless poultry, fish, and game meats, and lean cuts of red meat. Cuts with the words "round" or "loin" in the name are usually lean. Avoid high-fat dairy and fatty, salty processed meats such as bacon, sausage, and deli meats.
* Avoid trans-fats ["hydrogenated oils"] entirely and limit intake of saturated fats. This means eliminating fried foods, hard margarine, commercially baked goods, and most packaged and processed snack foods. Substitute mono- and poly-unsaturated fats [such as olive oil] for saturated fats.
* Drink plenty of water [8-10 glasses of day] to stay hydrated. Coffee and soda tend to be dehydrating. It has been argued that many of our common ills [from headache to chronic pain to peptic ulcer disease] are simply manifestations of dehydration.
* Participate in daily exercise, including aerobic/cardiovascular, strength training/weights, and stretching exercises. Exercise has many health benefits, besides helping to maintain appropriate weight and body composition, and it can help combat depression. Working out with a partner or joining a fitness program [such as MFit or UMOVE] may make it easier to stay active.
* Get a good night’s sleep, with a minimum of 7-8 hours each night. Being sleep-deprived has a similar effect as being intoxicated, which can make it harder to concentrate in class and to retain the material you’ve learned.
* If you drink, drink responsibly. Alcohol can have damaging effects on learning, cognition, and memory long after the acute effects of intoxication have worn off.
* Don’t smoke. If you already do, get help to quit. Smoking has an overwhelmingly large amount of negative health consequences. [For a Quit Kit, call UHS at 734-763-1320.] Encourage your social network to hang out in places that are smoke-free.
* Mental health is important, too! Find enjoyable, healthy ways to relieve stress, such as exercise. Have a social support group of at least a few people (family and friends) that you can talk to and count on. Help others everyday.

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