We all know that maintaining a healthy lifestyle right now can mean a longer, higher-quality of life in the long run. Yet for many, adopting health-focused habits sounds about as enjoyable as an algae and flax milkshake. Good news: Incorporating these 10 tips into your daily routine can make leading a longer, happier life much simpler. Plus, many of these healthy lifestyle guidelines go hand in hand, so when you start with one or two, it’s easier to adopt many of the rest. And we promise, there’s not a slimy shake in sight!
A healthy diet is all about variety and moderation, says Dee Sandquist, M.S., R.D., spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association (ADA) and director of nutrition, diabetes, weight management, and wound healing at Southwest Washington Medical Center. Because varying the foods you eat can help reduce your risk of developing a chronic disease, Sandquist recommends the following equation: “Make half your grains whole grains, vary your veggies and fruits, go lean with protein and get calcium-rich foods.” Stick with this philosophy, and you’ll automatically get all the buzzed-about nutrients and antioxidants that can help combat early aging. And by moderating the amounts of sodium, cholesterol, and sugar you eat, you’ll have plenty of room for nutritious foods.
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Stay at a Healthy Weight
“Maintaining a healthy weight will reduce your risk of chronic disease and help you to feel better so that your quality of life will be greatly improved,” says Sandquist. One technique for determining whether you’re in a healthy weight range is to measure the smallest part of your waist above the hips. Sandquist recommends that men measure less than 40 inches and women less than 35 to reduce the risk of such chronic conditions as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. You can also check to see how your body mass measures up by using our BMI Calculator.
Make Activity a Must
Incorporating activity into most if not all days of the week is a must for adding years to your life. Not only does regular exercise help stave off heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, diabetes, obesity and depression — but moving regularly makes it easier to remain active well into your senior years by keeping tendons, ligaments, and joints flexible and healthy. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends working in 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity at least four to six days per week — a combination of aerobic, strength, and flexibility training is best. If that sounds too daunting, try sneaking in snippets of activity whenever you have a free moment. A few 10-minute walks (walk like your late) a day are better than nothing at all. To ensure that you stick with it, just be sure to vary your routine with activities that you enjoy.
Flex Your Mental Muscles
A study funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) found that people who most often participated in information-processing activities, such as listening to the radio, reading newspapers, playing puzzle games, and visiting museums were 47% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who participated least often in these same activities. The reason? “If you sit around and don’t exercise a muscle, it atrophies — and the same goes for the brain,” says Dr. Kimford Meador, MD, fellow with the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) and professor of neurology at the University of Florida. So get your brain working by engaging in mental stimuli that you enjoy. Mind exercises can be anything from reading a good novel to playing cards to working through crossword or Sudoku puzzles.
Ditch the Habit
If you’re a smoker, the U.S. Surgeon General counts this as the “single most important step” that you can take to enhance the length and quality of your life. Quitting smoking can decrease your chances of many diseases, including a long list of cancers (bladder, cervix, esophagus, kidney, larynx, lung, mouth, pancreas, stomach, throat and some forms of leukemia), as well as heart attack, stroke, and emphysema. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that male non-smokers can add 13.2 years to their life expectancy and female non-smokers can hold on to 14.5 more years than smokers. If you need help quitting, call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-ACS-2345 for a list of support groups or telephone-based quit lines in your area. And it is a yucky, smelly habit!
Not only can stress make your heart work overtime, it can literally make you age faster. According to Dr. Jay Winner, author of Take the Stress Out of Your Life and founder and director of the Stress Management Program for Sansum Clinic in Santa Barbara, studies have shown that stress can actually alter a person’s DNA, http://www.mygenewize.com/lifestyles aging them beyond their years. Dr. Winner suggests first trying to let go of obvious stressors that you have control over. Not possible to ditch your stressful job right now? Then learn to cope with your reality. Take five minutes at work to stop and focus on your breath. Or if standing in line at the grocery store is causing your blood pressure to skyrocket, grab a magazine and take those five minutes to relax. And remember to be grateful for what you do have, like good health and a great family. Putting things in perspective will help you realize there are more important things to invest your mental energy in than a nasty case of road rage.
Let Go, Let God!
Get Your Rest
Catching enough zzzs can tack years onto your life. According to the National Institutes of Health, adults who consistently get less than seven hours of sleep per night are at higher risk for conditions like hypertension, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and depression. Plus, not getting a good night’s sleep prevents the release of vital hormones that repair cells and tissues and fight sickness and infection, keeping your body from its natural healing processes. So don’t think of it as sleeping your life away. Using the evening hours for a good snooze will actually give you the chance to enjoy more of life.
Slather on the SPF
The CDC has found that UV rays from the sun are the leading environmental cause of skin cancer — the most common type of cancer in the United States. So before you step outside, bulk up your defenses by applying sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. The American Cancer Society recommends using at least a palmful for your entire body, and reapplying every two hours while you’re out in direct sunlight, especially after you’ve been swimming or if you’ve been sweating at lot. Make sure to do your homework here and look for a Suncreen that is as natural as possible.
Screen for the Big Three
A routine cancer screen can identify certain cancers before symptoms occur, when your chances of beating the disease are greatest. The “big three” to screen for regularly include breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers. Women should get regular clinical and self breast exams by age 20 and (Thermal Imaging instead of Mammograms.) to test for breast cancer. Mammograms generate radiation. In addition, women should have a regular Pap smear starting at age 21 or within three years of first having sex to check for cervical cancer. For both men and women, the CDC recommends a colorectal cancer screening soon after turning 50, then routinely after that. Catching these types of cancer early can make treatment more effective, giving you a better chance at that long, healthy life.
Be a Social Butterfly
Severe stress and depression can have negative effects on parts of the brain like the hippocampus, which is vital for memory retention, says Dr. Meador. On the flipside, Dr. Meador suggests that maintaining strong, supportive relationships can be beneficial to both mental and emotional health. Need another reason to beef up your social circuit? The NIA has found that social engagement can significantly reduce cognitive decline and dementia. So be sure to keep your friends and family on speed dial and consider accepting all your social invitations. While seemingly inconsequential, that friendly chitchat could be helping to keep your mind young and engaged.