Final column: After 12 years, one last article with healthy living tips to last a lifetime

Pharmacists are known for giving folks advice over the counter – that’s where the name of this health column comes from – whenever they have questions about their medication or general wellness topics. It is part of our duty and our calling as health professionals serving the community.

Over the past 12 years, we reformulated that provider-patient relationship into articles published in these pages (and online) that offer our best perspectives on how to live healthfully. We’ve touched on a wide range of health and wellness subjects, from details about vitamin D (November 2010) and hearing loss (June 2012) to a healthy Thanksgiving how-to (November 2020) and facts about women’s health (April 2022). Our goal was to present readers with timely, helpful, easy-to-understand information.

Gary Kracoff and John Walczyk
Gary Kracoff and John Walczyk

But the time has come for us to pack away our pen and pad and focus on our community pharmacy and wellness shop. Before we part ways, we wanted to share several of the top tips gleaned from the archives of our “Over the Counter” column, advice that should last a lifetime:

Eat right. We’ll be the last ones to tell you to stop eating pizza and burgers, because it is perfectly fine to enjoy comfort food – with natural ingredients and in moderation. But we would be the first to tell you that cleaning up your diet can be life-changing. Keep your body fueled by eating three meals (starting with a strong breakfast) along with some healthy snacks each day. Cut out processed foods, white flour, white sugar, unsaturated fats and chemicals, and stock up on vitamin- and nutrient-rich vegetables and heart-healthy protein. Consult with a dietitian, if possible, for professional, personalized guidance.

Get up and get out. Physical activity – even just taking the stairs at the office or finding some time for a walk – can work wonders for your health. Exercise builds and maintains muscle, supports our joints, and improves our cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. There are also some great added benefits – exercise reduces stress, being outside helps you sleep better and doing activities with friends or family will boost your mood.

Find ways to reduce stress. Stress, especially chronic stress, can have serious impacts on your health and well-being, and can contribute to headaches, fatigue, anxiety, depression, overeating and substance use. We recommend keeping stress in check by finding time to spend with loved ones, enjoying hobbies or practicing yoga and meditation. A good night’s sleep – about eight hours – will do wonders.

Go the natural route. A great, natural way to complement your efforts to sleep more, exercise or cook healthfully – even if you are short on time – is through supplementation to ensure that the body has access to the right amount of the natural minerals, nutrients and compounds needed to keep bodily processes running efficiently. At least consider a daily regimen with vitamin D to strengthen your immune system or probiotics to maintain a healthy gut. Consult with your physician, pharmacist or dietitian to determine which supplement can address any one of many ailments and conditions.

Protect yourself from COVID-19 and other viruses. The added benefit of living healthfully is improving the body’s chances of fighting viruses. While we may be approaching the end of the coronavirus pandemic, we still must do what we can to protect ourselves and others. Many of the tips shared above provide a much-needed boost to our immune system, and while we hope to avoid more outbreaks or another “once-in-a-lifetime” pandemic, they can help us fight seasonal bouts with colds and flu. Staying healthy today is an investment in your tomorrow.

Gary Kracoff has a degree in naturopathic medicine and is a registered pharmacist and John Walczyk is a compounding pharmacist at Johnson Compounding & Wellness in Waltham, Mass. For more information, visit

This article originally appeared on MetroWest Daily News: Healthy advice for a lifetime pharmacists sign off after 12 years