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Habits to Help You Look Good and Feel Terrific

You can help reduce the effects of aging by following this simple advice: Take care of yourself. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), habits that keep your body functioning at its best are the same things that promote an active, confidant bearing physique.

Here are some ideas to help aid in shaping healthy behavioral patterns to help produce and maintain a positive outlook on life.

Eat a healthy diet

A diet high in saturated fat and trans-fat can increase your risk for heart disease and certain cancers. The American Heart Association and other health organizations recommend limiting your total fat intake to no more than 30 percent of your daily calories. Diets that are high in fat and sugar also promote obesity, which not only affects your appearance, but also is a risk factor for many diseases. An unhealthy preoccupation with weight loss, however, can also take its toll on your appearance, particularly in adolescent and young women, and can lead to serious eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia. For optimum health and appearance, strike a healthy balance by eating meals rich in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, with small servings of chicken, fish, and lean meat. Be sure to drink plenty of water every day because good hydration helps keep the skin taut and elastic, and reduces bloating.

Exercise regularly

Regular exercise improves muscle tone, so you stand taller, walk with more confident strides, and look people straight in the eye. Good cardiovascular conditioning also improves blood flow to muscles and skin, so your skin tone is more likely to have a healthy glow. The AAFP suggests some kind of moderate physical activity for 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week. According to the 2008 Physical Guidelines for Americans, 30 to 60 minutes of exercise each day not only will help maintain and improve health, but will also help prevent weight gain. In order to prevent weight gain, 60 to 90 minutes is recommended to not only improve your overall health but to sustain weight loss. Include anaerobic strength training and aerobic activities, such as walking, running, swimming, or cycling. Include daily stretches to maintain flexibility. Be sure to check with your health care provider before beginning any exercise program.

Get a good night's sleep

Give your body the rest it needs to restore itself. You'll feel refreshed, you'll look better, you'll have more spring in your step and your day will be filled with vitality. Getting too little sleep creates a "sleep debt" that eventually must be repaid. Operating on a sleep deficit affects your judgment and reaction time.

Avoid toxins

Harmful substances take their toll on your appearance and your health. Smokers, for instance, are more likely to have dry, wrinkled skin than nonsmokers, says the American Cancer Society. Overuse of alcohol can also dry the skin. Too much sun causes damage, too. Guard against skin cancer and premature wrinkling by using sunscreen and wearing a hat and protective clothing when you spend time outdoors.

Don't forget your emotional health

According to the AAFP, people with good emotional health are aware of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. They have learned healthy ways to cope with the stress and problems that are a normal part of life. Poor emotional health can weaken your body's immune system, making you more likely to get colds and other infections during emotionally difficult times. One way to nurture your emotional health is to calm your mind and body through relaxation and meditation. If you are positive about yourself and others, you will automatically present a more attractive face to the world.

So if you want to look healthier and improve the quality of your physical and emotional health, start by taking care of yourself. Remember that one small, positive change a day can result in major benefits over time!