• Image: Water coming from a faucet
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    Health advice, such as drinking 8 glasses of water a day, may not be for everyone.

    No one will ever get sick from avoiding cigarettes or trans fats. But some of the most commonly repeated pieces of advice actually aren't meant for everyone. After all, the USDA couldn't equip its pyramid with a section just for people with celiac disease or those taking certain meds. Health recommendations are sometimes based on studies that didn't include a good cross section of the general public. And even when broadly representative studies trumpet a 94% success rate, that still leaves 6 people out of 100 looking for answers.

    "What's good for the population as a whole is not necessarily good for a given individual," says Dan Roden, MD, assistant vice chancellor for personalized medicine at Vanderbilt University.

    9 natural cures you can trust

    So we took a look at some pieces of conventional wisdom that are truly wise—for most people. Then we asked the experts what you ought to do, just in case you're not completely average in every way. Feeling kind of special? This is for you.

  • 1. Outdoor walks are a simple way to stay fit

    Tailor it: if you have heart disease and it's a smoggy day.

    Studies show that the tiny particles in the air during a high-smog day can increase the risk of heart attack. Move your workout indoors on smoggy days (check airnow.gov for local air quality), and flick on the air conditioner—it can cut indoor pollutant levels by up to 50%.

  • 2. Every bit of exercise counts, even chores

    Image: Brisk walking
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    Chores don't give you a workout that helps you prevent heart disease. Instead, do 30 minutes of moderatly vigorous exercise, such as brisk walking.

    Tailor it: if you're trying to prevent or treat heart disease.

    True, any activity is better than none, but sweeping or pulling weeds probably won't work your heart hard enough or long enough to significantly reduce the odds of clogged arteries, heart attack, or stroke. Instead, do 30 minutes of moderately vigorous exercise 4 or 5 times a week to dramatically lower your heart risk. A study of nearly 40,000 women found that briskly walking at least 2 hours each week halved the risk of heart disease.

    28 days to a healthier heart

  • 3. Swimming is ideal low-impact cardio

    Tailor it: if you have asthma.

    The chlorine in a pool—even if it's outdoors—can trigger an attack. In children, it may even raise the odds of developing the disorder in the first place. To be on the safe side, find a different form of exercise if you have asthma that flares up poolside, experts say; if you have a child under age 7 with allergies, don't take him to a pool with a strong smell of chlorine.

  • 4. Eat plenty of leafy green vegetables

    Tailor it: if you take the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin).

    This drug prevents dangerous blood clots by blocking the action of vitamin K, which is needed to make clot-building compounds in the blood—but too much K in your diet can overwhelm your protection. The nutrient is especially abundant in dark green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, Swiss chard, and kale, so don't have more than one serving of any of these in a day.

    25 nutritional superstars

  • 5. Drink at least 8 glasses of water every day

    Image: Water coming from a faucet
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    If you have bladder control problems, ask your doctor how much you need to drink each day.

    Tailor it: if you have bladder control problems.

    You might be able to avoid leaks by cutting back a bit on fluids. Ask your doctor how much you should drink each day—and don't worry if it doesn't come close to the magical "8 glass" rule. Nearly 20% of your water intake comes from food anyway, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. If you're peeing at least every 8 hours and your urine is light colored, you're likely drinking enough.

  • 6. Get blood pressure as low as you can

    Tailor it: if you have coronary artery disease.

    Getting your blood pressure down—to about 120/80—can help you avoid a heart attack or stroke, but don't go much lower. You need a little extra pressure to push blood through your narrowed vessels. A study of more than 22,000 people with coronary artery disease found that cutting diastolic pressure (the bottom number) to less than 70 more than doubled the risk of a heart attack or death. One exception: Low blood pressure didn't seem risky for coronary artery disease sufferers who'd had angioplasty to clear obstructed vessels or bypass surgery to reroute blood through a healthy new vessel.

    12 ways to lower blood pressure naturally

  • 7. Acetaminophen is the safest pain med

    Tailor it: if you have a glass of wine (or any alcohol) daily.

    It’s well known that acetaminophen can damage the liver in high doses, especially in heavy drinkers. But even light drinking can prime the liver for trouble, says Donald Jensen, MD, a medical advisor of the American Liver Foundation. Although 3,900 mg of acetaminophen is the recommended maximum daily dose, you shouldn't exceed 2,000 mg on any day you have even one drink.

    8 mistakes that make pain worse


  • 8. Get nutrients from whole foods, not pills

    Tailor it: if you're a strict vegetarian.

    If you don't eat eggs or drink milk, you may need supplements to get enough vitamins B12 and D. Try 6 mcg of B12 (the amount in a typical multi). The current recommendation for vitamin D is 200 to 600 IU, depending on your age, but researchers say that needs an update: 1,000 to 2,000 IU is optimal and safe to take. And although you can get plenty of iron through a vegetarian diet, it takes planning. Get a blood test to check your iron levels if you fatigue easily.

  • 9. Take an NSAID for chronic pain

    Tailor it: if you're age 65 or older

    The main risk with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen, is that they can cause stomach ulcers and internal bleeding—and that danger rises substantially with age. In fact, almost all deaths from NSAID-related bleeding occur in the elderly, experts say. If you're over 65 and need relief from chronic pain, talk with your doctor: Other options include acetaminophen (which isn't an NSAID) and corticosteroids—and even narcotics like Demerol, as long as you follow your doctor's instructions to reduce the chances of dependence or side effects.

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