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12 Healthy Shortcuts

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Every day, you're faced with dozens of directives from doctors, health experts, and well-meaning family members: exercise 30 minutes a day, eat fish twice a week, floss every night. But it's just not possible to do everything perfectly. You can't cut corners on some things, such as quitting smoking or giving up trans fats, but other health mandates offer wiggle room for sane shortcuts. Want real-life advice for healthy living? Here are a dozen easier ways to do good-for-you things:

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1 Eat a balanced, healthy breakfast. Ideally, you'd like to have protein, complex carbs, and healthy fat, with about a third of your daily caloric intakes. Studies show that people who eat regular breakfasts maintain their weight and have a lower risk of diabetes.

Sane shortcuts: Breakfast bars are a tempting shortcut, but many of them have too much sugar, too many calories, not enough fiber, and very little protein. Read labels carefully. Other ideas:

  • Keep a supply of boiled eggs in the refrigerator for quick breakfasts.
  • Combine whey protein, milk of your choice, and fruit in a blender the night before, so all you have to do in the morning is grab it and go.
  • Spread almond butter on a whole-grain toaster waffle.
  • Try an apple with a few cubes of cheese or a packet of salmon.

2 Boost cardiovascular health with daily activity. About 30 minutes of vigorous activity every day-or even most days-can improve cardiovascular health, reduce LDL cholesterol, and normalize weight.

Sane shortcuts: If a 30-minute run seems out of your reach, break it up into manage-able bursts of intense activity-anything that gets your heart beating faster.

  • Park several blocks away from your office and sprint to work.
  • Use a bike for transportation whenever distance and weather allow.
  • Stow a jump rope in your car, office drawer, briefcase, or backpack, and jump rope on your lunch hour.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

3Get at least 8 hours of sleep. Less than that, and you'll increase your risk of high blood pressure and weight gain; other studies show skimping on sleep is linked to a lowered immune system.

Sane shortcuts: Make sure your bedroom is the ideal sleep environment-quiet, dark, comfortable-and follow good sleep hygiene: avoid caffeine in the late afternoon, don't watch scary movies, and follow a calming pre-bed ritual. Other ideas:

  • Take an afternoon siesta.
  • One study showed that nappers lowered their risk of heart disease, so grab a 20-minute snooze after lunch or work.
  • Try NADH: 20 mg can boost mental alertness and concentration, and help you perform better on mental tasks when you're sleep deprived.
  • Close your eyes and do deep-breathing exercises for 10 minutes to temporarily refresh your mind.

4Meditate. A number of studies show that a daily meditation practice lowers blood pressure and reduces stress.

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Sane shortcuts: The idea behind meditation is to calm the nervous system, slow your heart rate, and lower stress. Close your eyes, listen to your breath, and repeat the word "calm" or "relax." If spending 30 minutes cross-legged on a cushion is unthinkable:

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