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Optimize Your Health and Happiness

Staying healthy mentally and physically isn't simply a matter of good genes. It's a proactive project that lasts your entire life. Like a finely tuned machine, your body needs preventive maintenance.

Experts offer the following suggestions to help you keep your body and mind running like a well-oiled machine.

Use the right fuel

To stay healthy over the long run, tune-up your diet.

Every day, you have numerous opportunities to give your body good nutrition for preventive maintenance. Follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Choose My Plate plan, sticking to a low-fat diet and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables to reduce your risk of obesity, heart disease and cancer.

Rev your engine

In short, exercise helps keep you younger longer. But you don't have to join a health club to reap these benefits.

Even walking for 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week at a brisk pace can boost your heart rate and help keep your joints limber.

Need more motivation? Research indicates that in addition to lowering your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and some types of cancers, exercise decreases the incidence of depression.

Tune up your social life

All told, happiness produces endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals in your brain that reduce stress. In turn, less stress reduces the potential for physical and mental illnesses.

Don't shift into neutral

Finally, if you're diagnosed with a chronic illness, continue to be proactive so you can function normally for as long as possible.

If you develop arthritis, for instance, take up swimming. If you develop diabetes, learn how to manage your condition properly.

The point? In most cases, you can help yourself feel better. Taking control of your life and optimizing your health in turn will make you feel better.