Catherine Ryan

Sure, eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly are two of the best ways to stay healthy. But doing them isn’t always easy. Stop beating yourself up if that fast food drive-through was just too tempting or you fell off the workout wagon. There are plenty of other ways to help protect and maintain your health -- and they’re a lot easier than you may think. Adopt these habits today and start feeling your healthy best tomorrow.

1. Floss daily to save your heart.

With this one simple daily ritual, you can keep both your smile and your ticker in tip-top shape. Bacteria from gum disease can trigger an overproduction of C-reactive protein, a substance that leads to inflammation and is tightly linked to heart disease, according to the Journal of Periodontology. Flossing helps remove the plaque that breeds the bacteria, so no plaque means no bacteria -- and no disease-causing compounds.

2. Kiss more to control cholesterol and stress.

Couples who smooched more often over a six-week period lowered their cholesterol and reported feeling less stressed, according to a study from Arizona State University. Because stress is tied to higher cholesterol, the relaxing effect of affection can thwart heart-clogging molecules, researchers say.

And that’s not the only antistress benefit to kissing. A Rutgers University study found that when couples kissed, levels of the stress hormone cortisol instantly dropped. That’s good news since less cortisol has been associated with better sleep, improved immune function and other markers of good health, says Claire Kruppe, a pathologist and wellness coach in Palm Desert, Calif.

3. Laugh it up to lower blood pressure and boost immunity.

When people say laughter is the best medicine, they aren’t far off. Watching a funny video can actually lower your blood pressure, reveals a study from Loma Linda University in California. But that’s not all: Simply anticipating a funny experience increases hormones that aid your immune system and reduces those associated with stress, research from the same university shows.

So look for and think about opportunities to have a chuckle, whether by filling your DVR queue with comedies or setting up a night out with a hilarious friend. You’ll have fun while blunting the dangerous effects of chronic stress.

4. Cook with garlic to protect against cancer.

The more garlic you eat, the lower your chances of developing cancer, say researchers from Pennsylvania State University. Scientists speculate that an element in the bulb inhibits the formation of toxic compounds that may lead to the disease.

Add your garlic to salad dressings, pasta and stir-fry for a tasty and beneficial meal. Just be sure to use fresh cloves; you’ll get a more potent health effect than from the dried version.

5. Have a drink and toast to overall health and longevity.

Sipping one alcoholic drink a day could help you live longer and healthier. Ladies who drink moderately have the lowest mortality rates of all women, reports the New England Journal of Medicine. They’re also less likely to develop heart disease, diabetes and depression.

Drinking moderate amounts of beer, wine or liquor is also associated with less weight gain when compared to excessive drinking and even abstaining, according to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. In turn, keeping the scale in check helps ward off diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke, Kruppe says. Cheers to that!

Of course, don’t give up on healthy eating and exercise, not to mention regular doctor visits. But adopting these incredibly simple healthy habits will keep you feeling your best yet.


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