I just returned from Barton Springs Pool, the iconic spring-fed swimming pool, 1/6 of a mile from end-to-end, just across the lake from downtown Austin. We had a short break in the rain and decided to visit that magical spot for a short swim and meet-up with visiting friends. Summer is still going strong here in Texas, and the only signs that fall are coming are the pumpkins starting to pop up at local grocery stores.
But other parts of the country are experiencing the first signs of autumn, and soon it will be here too. I can't wait!
Here are some tips to make the most of this beautiful season:
1) Catch up on your health screenings: Checking in with your primary care doctor may not be your top priority, and it's easy to put off, especially if you're healthy or if you already see a specialist regularly for a chronic condition. But staying up-to-date with screening tests for cancer and chronic diseases, like diabetes and hypertension, is very important and may even save your life. Fall is a great time to see your doctor, who is probably back from summer vacation and open for business. For all women, testing for cervical cancer (age 21 and up) and breast cancer (usually starting around age 45 or 50) is strongly recommended. Women with risk factors, some men, and all women by age 65 should be screened for osteoporosis. All adults also should be screened for colon cancer (usually beginning at age 50), HIV, high cholesterol, diabetes, and other conditions, depending on your age and risk factors.
2) Get immunized: Immunizations are not just for kids; they are important for adults of all ages. A flu shot is recommended for everyone, every year, and the vaccines are available nowl. Flu shots do not cause the flu, and there are few contraindications. Tetanus shots are given every 10 years (One of those should be a TDaP). The new Shingrix vaccine is recommended at age 50 to prevent shingles (even for those who received the previous shingles vaccine called Zostavax). Two pneumonia vaccines, PPSV23 and PCV13, are recommended at age 65 (generally separated by a year) but may be given sooner depending on other health conditions and risk factors.
3) Take precautions to stay healthy: Respiratory viruses are common in the fall and winter. Do what you can to avoid getting sick. Vitamin C and echinacea don't work. I wish they did, but studies do not show that they are any better than placebo. But eating a health diet, getting enough sleep, and especially washing your hands regularly will help keep you from picking up an infection.
4) Enjoy cooking again: In the summer, I'm not excited to spend time at the stove or to turn on the oven when it's already 100 degrees outside. But in the fall and winter, cooking can be pleasant and comforting. I love finding healthy, vegetable-packed soup recipes, roasting veggies, or making a big pot of risotto.
5) Plan early for the holidays. I feel like the holidays sneak up on me every year and are a huge source of stress. Planning ahead can help. Book plane tickets now if you're plan to fly somewhere over the holidays. Consider shopping early to avoid a big rush at the end (and talk to friends and family about cutting back or giving nonmaterial gifts). Be careful to avoid overscheduling or raising expectations too high.
6) Exercise! Developing a daily (or almost daily) exercise routine can do more to improve health than any medication. With cooler weather coming, sometimes that routine may need a little adjustment. In cooler climates, you may need to move your exercise indoors (or in Texas, I can move back outdoors!). Most authorities recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. I like to exercise first thing in the morning before another activity gets in the way. It's a great way to start the day, leaving me with more energy and a sense of accomplishment. Make exercise fun with a good workout mix, fun group class, an audiobook, or exercising with a friend.
For more suggestions, I found a great article from Reader's Digest.
What are some of your favorite fall activities or suggestions for staying healthy?