16 Aug Top Nine Tips for a Long, Healthy Life
One of the major dietary changes that have taken place in many countries over the last 30 years has been a shift to consuming more processed foods. Along with processing comes an increase in added sodium, more saturated fat, more sugar, and less fiber. The result? More cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cancer, and diabetes.
For example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends consuming no more than 2,300 mg (less than 2.4g) of sodium each day—less for many seniors and other people with certain health conditions, like high blood pressure. Still, in a survey of more than 7,000 Americans, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found people consume an average of 3,300 mg of sodium per day. Most of the salt comes from restaurants and convenience foods, like baked goods, cured meats, and soup.
Do your body a favor, and try to eat “clean” more often, including foods high in fiber (which are linked to greater longevity) and other ingredients you purchase and prepare yourself. If you’re short on time (and who isn’t?), cook ahead in big batches, or splurge on ready-made salads and other fresh or frozen vegetables while watching the sodium and sugar contents on the label.
If you’re a smoker, you know how hard quitting can be.
But here’s some inspiration: The NIH says tobacco use remains the most preventable cause of death. Some estimates suggest smoking can rob you of a decade of life.
Whether you quit cold turkey or phase out your habit, your body is surprisingly forgiving; blood pressure and circulation improve soon after quitting, and your risk of getting cancer decreases every year thereafter. Keep in mind that your family members will also benefit from your staying tobacco-free because they’ll no longer be exposed to dangerous secondhand smoke. You’ll look younger, too.
Like anger, stress takes its toll on your body and may actually shorten your life. By trying to reduce stress, you can improve your health in the long term, and quality of life in the meantime.
Journaling or writing in a diary, meditating (a practice with multiple longevity benefits), and learning to relax are wonderful ways to de-stress. Working in just a few minutes of meditation a day—even at your desk—can give your brain the mini-vacation from anxiety and tension it needs.
The amount of sleep you get can affect your lifespan, and not just because a sleepy driver is at risk of a car accident. In epidemiological studies, sleeping too little (fewer than six hours) or substantially more (over nine hours) has been shown to put people at greater risk of death.
Quality of life is also on the line: A good night’s sleep can help you ward off stress, depression, and heart disease.
You can learn to fall asleep more quickly and take measures that can help, like keeping your bedroom dark and distraction-free and having the temperature on the cool side. Meditation exercises can set the stage for a good night’s sleep, and an inexpensive noise machine can help with relaxing sounds. If you’re still having trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, see your health provider for further help.
Wine is considered particularly beneficial due to its high content of polyphenol antioxidants. Results from a 29-year study showed that men who preferred wine were 34% less likely to die early than those who preferred beer or spirits. In addition, one review observed wine to be especially protective against heart disease, diabetes, neurological disorders, and metabolic syndrome.
To keep consumption moderate, it is recommended that women aim for 1–2 units or less per day and a maximum of 7 per week. Men should keep their daily intake to less than 3 units, with a maximum of 14 per week.
It’s important to note that no strong research indicates that the benefits of moderate drinking are greater than those of abstaining from alcohol. In other words, there is no need to start drinking if you don’t usually consume alcohol.
Physical activity is important for people of all weight ranges and health conditions. It helps us burn off the extra calories, it is good for the heart and circulatory system, it maintains or increases our muscle mass, it helps us focus, and improves overall health well-being. We don’t have to be top athletes to get on the move! 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity is advised, and it can easily become part of our daily routine.
We all could:
• Use the stairs instead of the elevator,
• Go for a walk during lunch breaks (and stretch in our offices in between)
• Make time for a family weekend activity
Fruits and vegetables are among the most important foods for giving us enough vitamins, minerals, and fiber. We should try to eat at least 5 servings a day. For example, a glass of fresh fruit juice at breakfast, perhaps an apple and a piece of watermelon as snacks, and a good portion of different vegetables at each meal.
A high salt intake can result in high blood pressure, and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
There are different ways to reduce salt in the diet:
• When shopping, we could choose products with lower sodium content.
• When cooking, salt can be substituted with spices, increasing the variety of flavors and tastes.
• When eating, it helps not to have salt at the table, or at least not to add salt before tasting.
Sugar provides sweetness and an attractive taste, but sugary foods and drinks are rich in energy and are best enjoyed in moderation, as an occasional treat. We could use fruits instead, even to sweeten our foods and drinks.
Studies show that loneliness increases the risk of early death by 45 percent. It weakens the immune system and raises blood pressure while increasing the risk for heart attacks and stroke. By contrast, people with strong ties to friends and family have as much as a 50 percent lower risk of dying, according to a study in PLOS Medicine. So visit a friend. And don’t discount your online friends. A 2016 study by researchers at the University of California, San Diego found that those who use Facebook also live longer, but only when online interactions don’t completely supplant face-to-face social interaction.