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5 cheap ways to get healthy

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 (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Do you think it’s too expensive to be healthy? It may seem that way, with all the gadgets, supplements and diets on the market designed to make you healthier. In most cases, it’s just a lot of hot air — there are plenty of ways you can get healthier right now for next to nothing.

Eat More Plants

A lot of people think vegetarian living is expensive, but in reality, meat is usually the most expensive part of a meal. You don’t have to go completely vegetarian to reap health and budget benefits, either — just a few veggie replacements per week will provide benefits. Swap out ground beef for beans in chilis and stews, squash for pasta, or just have a big salad instead of a sandwich, and you’re there. Not only are you saving at the grocery store; you’re doing wonders for your health.

READ MORE: How Eating Veggies Saves Money

Veggies are a great occasional replacement for carbs because they tend to have lots of fiber, which digests slowly and keeps you satisfied, unlike blood-sugar-spiking rice and pasta. Plus, they’re packed with micronutrients like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are vital for healthy organs. When you have veggies instead of processed meats like cold cuts, sausages and ground beef, you’re doing yourself an extra favor. The American Heart Association reports that processed red meat, rather than whole cuts, increases the risk of heart disease.

READ MORE: Here’s Why You Should Eat Healthy

Drink More Water

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, only about 76 percent of people drink water on any given day, and the average daily water consumption amount is 3.9 cups. Even if you get at least eight cups per day, you stand to benefit from drinking more. That’s just a minimum guideline, anyway — people who are active, overweight or tall need more than others, and men need more than women.

Your body needs more water than anything else. The more water you drink, the better your skin will look and the better your heart will function. Drinking plenty of water will also aid in digestion and help the brain function better. Not only is it necessary for all of your organs to function at optimal levels, proper hydration also helps ward off certain diseases like kidney stones and exercise-induced asthma.

READ MORE: Managing Exercise-Induced Asthma

Get Enough Sleep

According to an international survey of six countries by the Sleep Foundation, 56 percent of Americans don’t get enough sleep on work nights, the second-highest percentage of the group, just after Germany’s 66 percent. Americans also get less sleep per work night than any other country besides Japan, at about 6.5 hours per night. So what’s the big deal?

If you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re not at your best, period. You could have perfect vitals, be a non-obese nonsmoker, and if you’re not sleeping enough, you’re still not functioning to your highest potential. As far as brain health, a lack of sleep is connected to poor brain function, lack of focus and moodiness. On the physical side, insufficient sleep is linked to heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes.

Baby boomer? Get Tested for Hep C

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 75 percent of adults who have hepatitis C are baby boomers, born between 1945 and 1965. What’s more, most of those infected don’t even know they have the virus, because it often doesn’t show signs or symptoms until life-threatening liver disease results. Because baby boomers are our next generation of seniors, these liver problems are starting to rise and so are unnecessary deaths due to hepatitis C.

That’s why the CDC urges people who were born between 1945 and 1965 to get tested, and many hospitals and nonprofit organizations offer free screenings for Hep C.  So if you’re a part of that generation, consider calling your local medical center or clinic to see if they have free Hep C testing hours. If they don’t, you can call Hep C Test Express toll-free at 855-246-4937 to get a free hepatitis C test.

READ MORE: 5 Health Commandments to Adopt Now

Hug Someone you Love

Did you know love is, at least in part, a chemical reaction? It’s true. The hormone oxytocin is released during sex and childbirth in large amounts to fuel attraction and loving feelings, and in smaller amounts after warm, comforting experiences with loved ones. When oxytocin is released into the blood stream, it encourages bonding and lowers blood pressure and stress. Some research also suggests oxytocin can reduce pain, act as an anti-inflammatory and help fight against obesity. More research needs to be done to confirm, but many signs point to the healing powers of love, so get yourself a cuddle session, STAT!