HEALTHY LIVING FOR A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE
Our body is our temple, and we need to take care of it. Do you know that over 70% of Americans are either obese or overweight?That’s insane! Think of your body as your physical shell to take you through life. If you repeatedly abuse it with unhealthy habits, your shell will wear out quickly.
Life is beautiful and you don’t want to bog yourself down with unnecessary health problems. Today, your vital organs (kidney, heart, lungs, gall bladder, liver, stomach, intestines, etc.) may be working well, but they may not be tomorrow. Don’t take your good health for granted. Take proper care of your body.
Good health isn’t just about healthy eating and exercise — it’s also about having a positive mental health, a positive self-image, and a healthy lifestyle. In this article, I share tips to live a healthier life. Bookmark this post and save the tips, because they are going to be vital in living a healthier life.
For good health, we need more than 40 different nutrients, and no single food can supply them all. It is not about a single meal, it is about a balanced food choice over time that will make a difference!
– A high-fat lunch could be followed by a low-fat dinner.
All humans have to eat food for growth and maintenance of a healthy body, but we humans have different requirements as infants, children (kids), teenagers, young adults, adults, and seniors. For example, infants may require feeding every four hours until they gradually age and begin to take in more solid foods. Eventually they develop into the more normal pattern of eating three times per day as young kids. However, as most parents know, kids, teenagers, and young adults often snack between meals. Snacking is often not limited to these age groups because adults and seniors often do the same.
- Eat three meals a day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner); it is important to remember that dinner does not have to be the largest meal.
- The bulk of food consumption should consist of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk products.
- Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts (with emphasis on beans and nuts).
- Choose foods that are low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars; look at the labels because the first listed items on the labels comprise the highest concentrations of ingredients.
- Control portion sizes; eat the smallest portion that can satisfy hunger and then stop eating.
- Snacks are OK in moderation and should consist of items like fruit, whole grains, or nuts to satisfy hunger and not cause excessive weight gain.
- Avoid sodas and sugar-enhanced drinks because of the excessive calories in the sodas and sugar drinks; diet drinks may not be a good choice as they make some people hungrier and increase food consumption.
- Avoid eating a large meal before sleeping to decrease gastroesophageal reflux and weight gain.
- If a person is angry or depressed, eating will not solve these situations and may make the underlying problems worse.
- Avoid rewarding children with sugary snacks; such a pattern may become a lifelong habit for people.
- Avoid heavy meals in the summer months, especially during hot days.
- A vegetarian lifestyle has been promoted for a healthy lifestyle and weight loss; vegetarians should check with their physicians to be sure they are getting enough vitamins, minerals, and iron in their food.
- Cooking foods (above 165 F) destroys most harmful bacteria and other pathogens; if you choose to eat uncooked foods like fruits or vegetables, they should be thoroughly washed with running treated (safe to drink) tap water right before eating.
- Avoid eating raw or undercooked meats of any type.
Tips for special situations:
- People with diabetes should use the above tips and monitor their glucose levels as directed; try to keep the daily blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible.
- People with unusual work schedules (night shifts, college students, military) should try to adhere to a breakfast, lunch, and dinner routine with minimal snacking.
- People who prepare food should avoid using grease or frying foods in grease.
- People trying to lose weight (body fat) should avoid all fatty and sugary foods and eat mainly vegetables, fruits, and nuts and markedly reduce his/her intake of meat and dairy products.
Reduce salt and sugar intake
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 flavours 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 a 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.
Drink more water. Most of us don’t drink enough water every day. Water is essential for our bodies to function — do you know over 60% of our body is made up of water?
Furthermore, drinking more water aids in losing weight. A Health.com study carried out among overweight or obese people showed that water drinkers lose 4.5 more pounds than a control group. The researchers believe that it’s because drinking more water helps fill your stomach, making you less hungry and less likely to overeat.
Adults need to drink at least 1.5 litres of fluid a day! Or more if it’s very hot or they are physically active. Water is the best source, of course, and we can use tap or mineral water, sparkling or non-sparkling, plain or flavoured. Fruit juices, tea, soft drinks, milk and other drinks, can all be okay – from time to time.
The amount of water you need depends on your age, weight, humidity level, and your physical activity. There used to be a recommendation to drink 8 glasses of water, but in 2004 this recommendation was removed and healthy adults are recommended to use thirst to determine their fluid needs. Bear in mind that food intake contributes to our fluid intake too — fruits, soups, juices have high water content. How to tell if you need water: if you have dry lips, dry mouth, or little urination, you’re probably not hydrated enough. Go get some water first before you continue this article!
Get enough sleep. When you don’t rest well, you compensate by eating more. Usually, it’s junk food. Get enough rest and you don’t need to snack to stay awake. Also, lack of sleep causes premature aging, and you don’t want that.
Exercise. Movement is life. Research has shown that exercising daily brings tremendous benefits to our health, including an increase in life span, lowering of risk of diseases, higher bone density, and weight loss. Increase activity in your life. Choose walking over transport for close distances. Climb the stairs instead of taking the lift. Join an aerobics class.
Physical activity and exercise is a major contributor to a healthy lifestyle; people are made to use their bodies, and disuse leads to unhealthy living. Unhealthy living may manifest itself in obesity, weakness, lack of endurance, and overall poor health that may foster disease development.
- Regular exercise can prevent and reverse age-related decreases in muscle mass and strength, improve balance, flexibility, and endurance, and decrease the risk of falls in the elderly. Regular exercise can help prevent coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure. Regular, weight-bearing exercise can also help prevent osteoporosisby building bone strength.
- Regular exercise can help chronic arthritis sufferers improve their capacity to perform daily activities such as driving, climbing stairs, and opening jars.
- Regular exercise can help increase self-esteem and self-confidence, decrease stress and anxiety, enhance mood, and improve general mental health.
- Regular exercise can help control weight gain and in some people cause loss of fat.
- Thirty minutes of modest exercise (walking is OK) at least three to five days a week is recommended, but the greatest health benefits come from exercising most days of the week.
- Exercise can be broken up into smaller 10-minute sessions.
- Start slowly and progress gradually to avoid injury or excessive soreness or fatigue. Over time, build up to 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every day.
- People are never too old to start exercising. Even frail, elderly individuals (70-90 years of age) can improve their strength and balance with exercise.
- Almost any type of exercise (resistance, water aerobics, walking, swimming, weights, yoga, and many others) is helpful for everybody.
- Children need exercise; play outside of the home is a good beginning.
- Sports for children may provide excellent opportunities for exercise, but care must be taken not to overdo certain exercises (for example, throwing too many pitches in baseball may harm a joint like the elbow or shoulder).
- Exertion during strenuous exercise may make a person tired and sore, but if pain occurs, stop the exercise until the pain source is discovered; the person may need to seek medical help and advice about continuation of such exercise.
Most individuals can begin moderate exercise, such as walking, without a medical examination. The following people, however, should consult a doctor before beginning more vigorous exercise:
- Men over age 40 or women over age 50
- Individuals with heart or lung disease, asthma, arthritis, or osteoporosis
- Individuals who experience chest pressure or pain with exertion, or who develop fatigueor shortness of breath easily
- Individuals with conditions that increase their risks of developing coronary heart disease, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cigarette smoking, high blood cholesterol, or having family members who had early onset heart attacks and coronary heart disease
- Individuals who are morbidly obese
Consequences of physical inactivity and lack of exercise:
- Physical inactivity and lack of exercise are associated with heart disease and some cancers.
- Physical inactivity and lack of exercise are associated with type II diabetes mellitus (also known as maturity or adult-onset, non-insulin-dependent diabetes).
- Physical inactivity and lack of exercise contribute to weight gain.
Pick exercises you enjoy. When you enjoy a sport, you naturally want to do it. Exercise isn’t about suffering and pushing yourself; it’s about being healthy and having fun at the same time. Adding variation in your exercises will keep them interesting.
Work out different parts of your body. Don’t just do cardio (like jogging). Give your body a proper workout. The easiest way is to engage in sports since they work out different muscle groups. Popular sports include basketball, football, swimming, tennis, squash, badminton, Frisbee, and more.
Healthy living involves more than physical health, it also includes emotional or mental health. The following are some ways people can support their mental health and well-being.
- Get enough sleep daily; the CDC recommends the following by age group (naps inclusive); 12-18 hours from birth to 2 months, 14-15 hours from 3-11 months of age, 12-18 hours for 1-3 years of age, 11-13 hours for 3-5 years of age, 10-11 hours for 5-10 years of age, eight and a half to nine and a half hours for 10-17 years of age and those 18 and above need seven to nine hours of sleep. Elderly people need about seven to nine hours but do not sleep as deeply and may awaken at night or wake early, so naps (like kids need) allow them to accumulate the total of seven to nine hours of sleep.
- Take a walk and reflect on what you see and hear at least several times per week.
- Try something new and often (eat a new food, try a different route to work, go to a new museum display).
- Do some mind exercises (read, do a puzzle occasionally during the week).
- Try to focus on a process intensely and complete a segment of it over one to several hours, then take a break and do something relaxing (walk, exercise, short nap).
- Plan to spend some time talking with other people about different subjects.
- Try to make some leisure time to do some things that interest you every week (hobby, sport).
- Learn ways to say “no” when something occurs that you do not want to do or be involved with.
- Have fun (go on a trip with someone you love, go shopping, go fishing; do not let vacation time slip away).
- Let yourself be pleased with your achievements, both big and small (develop contentment).
- Have a network of friends; those with strong social support systems lead healthier lives.
- Seek help and advice early if you feel depressed, have suicidal thoughts, or consider harming yourself or others.
- People taking medicine for mental-health problems should not stop taking these medications, no matter how “well” they feel, until they have discussed their situation with their prescribing doctor(s).
Eat fruits. Fruits have a plethora of vitamins and minerals. Do you know that oranges offer more health benefits than Vitamin C pills? Satisfy your palate with these nutritious fruits: Watermelon, Apricots, Avocado (yes, avocado is a fruit!), Apple, Cantaloupe, Grapefruit, Kiwi, Guava, Papaya, Strawberries. If you intent to consume a large quantity of fruits at one go, consume fruit with some fats — such as a dressing, almond butter, olive oil, avocado — to reduce the glycemic load.
Eat vegetables. Like fruits, vegetables are important for good health, with many important vitamins and minerals. Onion, leek, and garlic are prebiotics — essential food for good gut bacteria. Spinach, kale, swiss chard, and turnip greens are dark leafy greens with high mineral content. Beyond just eating vegetables, be sure to consume a variety of different vegetables for diversity in good gut bacteria. What are your favorite vegetables and how can you include more of them in your diet today?
Avoid excess fiber intake. Contrary to what the food and medical industry promotes, excess fiber intake is detrimental for constipation and smooth digestion. The more fiber you take, the bulkier your stools, the slower your colonic transit time, and the more difficult it is to pass motion (which leads to constipation, piles, anal fissure). Too much fiber also contributes to excess gas and abdominal bloating.
Why do so many doctors, cereal boxes, supermarket aisles, studies, etc. recommend a high fiber intake then? This recommendation originated from a large macro-study that suggested that high fiber intake may lower risk of colon cancer. This study did not account for factors like lifestyle and diet, and it led to an industry-wide recommendation to eat more and fiber, without consideration of their current diet and gut status. Many high-fiber foods also contain vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, that are helpful for the body. People who consume a high-fiber diet are likely to eat less red meat, drink less alcohol, smoke less, and get regular exercise – all healthy behaviors that can reduce cancer risk.
Should we cut out fruits/vegetables then? No. Firstly, fruits and vegetables contain fermentable fiber, which is essential for the good gut bacteria. Secondly, much of fruit/vegetable content is water. For example, watermelon contains only 0.4% fiber, while lettuce contains 1.3% fiber. Unless you consume big bowls of salads every day for every meal, it’s difficult to over-consume fiber from fruits/vegetables alone. Moderate intake of fiber from whole plant foods is beneficial for good gut bacteria.
The fiber sources to watch out are cereal grains. Multi-grain bread has 12% fiber and multi-grain cereals can have 22% or more fiber. High-fiber, whole wheat, and whole grains are the “in” thing today; some cereals have over 30% fiber!
My personal recommendation: (1) Cut down on whole grains/wheat; (2) Eat fruits/veg as per normal; (3) Eat other things in moderation. A typical diet with fish/chicken (zero fiber), dairy (zero fiber), low fiber fruits/vegetables, and some potatoes/rice is already low fiber. On the other hand, when you stuff yourself with fiber, you may notice bloating, bulkier stools, and even piles / anal fissures. Read: Fiber and Constipation Research Study | Fiber and Colon Cancer [Harvard] |Myths and Truths About Fiber | 4 Reasons Not to Add Fiber to Your Diet | Myths and Truths About Fiber | Fiber Menace Reviews (real people who ate a high fiber diet based on doctor recommendations and suffered from constipation, bleeding, etc.)
Pick different-colored fruits/vegs. Fruits/Vegetables with bright colors are usually high in anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants are good for health because they remove free radicals that damage our cells. Eat fruits/vegetables of different colors: White (Bananas), Yellow (Pineapples, Mango), Orange (Orange, Papaya), Red (Apple, Strawberries, Tomatoes, Watermelon), Green (Avocado, Lettuce, Cucumber), Purple/Blue (Blackberries, Prunes).
Get your macro-nutrients. Macro-nutrients are nutrients needed in bulk amounts to ensure normal growth, metabolism, and well-being of our bodies. The 3 macro-nutrients needed by humans are carbohydrates (sugar), proteins (amino acids), and fats (lipids). There are many funky diets today from high/low carb to high/low protein to high/low fat. While you are free to eat whatever you want, we need carbohydrates, proteins, and fats (known as macro-nutrients) for a healthy body. Carbs give us immediate energy. Proteins help repair tissues, heal wounds, and create enzymes and hormones. Fat is needed to build cell membranes; for blood clotting, muscle movement, and inflammation; and to absorb certain vitamins and minerals.
Be careful of fad diets. Eat a diet with a well-rounded distribution of macro-nutrients (40% carbs, 30% proteins, 30% fats, vs. being skewed to one particular group). In a study of pre-diabetics, those on a “high protein” diet (defined as 40% carb, 30% protein, 30% fat) resulted in 100% remission of pre-diabetes to normal glucose tolerance, while those on a high carb diet (defined as 55% carb, 15% protein, 30% fat) resulted in only 33% remission.
Get your micro-nutrients. While macro-nutrients provide our bodies with the bulk energy to function, we need micro-nutrients, i.e., vitamins and minerals, to orchestrate a range of physiological functions. Deficiency in any vitamin or mineral will cause dire effects on our body. Make sure to eat a range of different food to meet your micro-nutrient needs. Eating different food also ensures you have a diverse set of gut flora, which is important for optimal health. Here is a list of micro-nutrients needed by our body.
Cut down on processed food. Processed food is not good because (a) most nutritional value is lost in the creation of these foods and (b) the added preservatives are bad for our health. Many processed foods contain a high amount of salt, which leads to higher blood pressure and heart disease. In general, the more ingredients a food has on the label (ending with ‘ite’ or ‘ate’), the more processed it is. Eating 50 grams of processed meat a day has also been found to increase the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. Go for less processed food, such as a baked potato over chips, a fresh fruit over canned fruit, steamed fish over canned fish, or organic produce over food with high preservatives.
Choose white meat. Cut out red meat. Red meat has been repeatedly established to increase colon cancer risk. Cut out red meat (or at the very least, limit your consumption). Substitute red meat with white meat such as chicken and fish. Increase your fish intake which seems protective against cancer. Fish also has healthy fats, a large source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and vitamin D.
Go for healthy fats. As mentioned in #11, fat is a macro-nutrient and is essential to a healthy body. Fat is not the enemy — trans and saturated fats are. And trans/saturated fats are in many products today. We need healthy fats which are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. Here’s the low down on fats:
- Avoid trans fat (Bad fats): Increases harmful LDL cholesterol and reduces beneficial HDL cholesterol. Common sources: Solid margarines, commercial cookies and pastries, fast-food French fries, “partially hydrogenated oil” in food ingredients.
- Limit/Avoid saturated fat (Bad fats): A diet rich in saturated fats can drive up total cholesterol, and tip the balance toward more harmful LDL cholesterol, blocking arteries. Common sources: Red meat, whole milk and other whole-milk dairy foods, cheese, coconut oil, many commercially prepared baked goods and other foods.
- Take monounsaturated fats (Good fats): Common sources: Olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, avocados, most nuts, high-oleic safflower and sunflower oils.
- Take polyunsaturated fats (Good fats): Polyunsaturated fats are essential fats. They are required for normal body functions but your body can’t make them, so you must get them from food. These fats lower LDL and triglycerides and boost cholesterol profile. Common sources: Salmon, mackerel, and sardines, flaxseeds, walnuts, canola oil, unhydrogenated soybean oil.
Go barefoot walking/running. There are many benefits of barefoot walking/running, from better posture, less stress for your feet, less stress for your joints, etc. If the terrain in your neighborhood is too sharp, wear barefoot shoes. I’ve been running barefoot since May 2010 and loving it.
Purge negativity from your life.
- Purge negative people. Positive mental health is part of a healthy life. You don’t need toxic people in your life. If you feel that a friend is overly critical or negative, let him/her go. If you’re dealing with backstabbers, let them go too.
- Purge negativity from yourself. You don’t need negativity from yourself either. Listen to the thoughts that come up and get rid of your negative thoughts. Sometimes people eat when they are unhappy, so by staying positive, you remove an unhealthy dependency on food. One great way to remove your negativity is to brain dump when you feel frustrated. I do this with my clients, where I ask them to write out their deepest thoughts so that we can address them.
Avoid trigger foods. Trigger foods make you go berserk and binge after you eat them. Everyone’s trigger foods are different (mine used to be doughnuts, pastries, and chips), but generally trigger foods are candy bars, chocolate, confectionery, chips, cookies, or anything with a high level of refined sugar, salt, or flour. These foods cause a blood sugar imbalance, hence triggering one to eat more.
Breathe. Deeply. Oxygen is vital for life. You may know how to breathe, but are you breathing properly? Most of us don’t breathe properly — we take shallow breaths and breathe to 1/3 of our lung capacity. Athletes are coached proper breathing techniques to get their best performance. A full breath is one where your lungs are completely filled, your abdomen expands, and there’s minimum movement in your shoulders.
Improve your posture. Good posture improves your breathing (see tip #20) and makes you look more smarter and more attractive. Read more: Benefits Of a Good Posture (And 13 Tips To Get One)
Address emotional eating issues. Emotional eating is eating to fill an emotion rather than real hunger. Do you eat when you feel stressed out, down or frustrated? Do you reach out for food when you hit a block at work? Chances are, you’re emotional eating. However, emotional eating will never make you feel happy, because you’re trying to fill a void that has nothing to do with food. Food doesn’t give you love or happiness; it’s just food. Why do you reach for food when you’re down? How can you address it? Get to the root of the issue and address it.
Eat small meals. Choose several small meals over huge meals. This evens out your energy distribution. It’s also better for your stomach, because it doesn’t over-stretch from digesting a huge volume of food at one go, which can lead to a hiatus hernia. In general, eat when you feel hungry, and stop when you’re full.
Stop eating when you feel full. Many of us rely on external cues to tell when we’re full, such as whether everyone has finished eating or whether your plate is empty. These are irrelevant: you should look at internal cues, such as whether your stomach feels full or not. Don’t eat just because there’s food on the plate. I stop when I feel about 3/4 full — if I eat till I’m totally full, I feel bloated. Use your gut as your indicator (literally).
Live a life of purpose. Positive health starts from within! Are you living a life of meaning? Are you living in line with your purpose? Since I started living my purpose, I’ve never been happier. And you can experience that too.
Cut down on deep-fried food. Deep fried food contains acrylamide, a potential cancer-causing chemical. According to a BBC report, an ordinary bag of crisps may contain up to 500 times more of the substance than the top level allowed in drinking water by the World Health Organisation (WHO)! When I consume oily foods, I feel sluggish. Go for food prepared using healthier methods instead, such as grilled, steamed, stir-fried, or even raw food. Reduce your intake of fast food, fries, doughnuts, chips, wedges, and deep-fried food.
Cut down on sugary food/drinks.
- Sugary food. These are your candy bars, pastries, chocolate, cookies, cakes, and jelly donuts. Not only do they not fill you, but they trigger you to eat more due to the sugar rush. Eating once in a while is okay, but not daily. Go for healthy snacks instead.
- Soda and sugary drinks. Soda is unhealthy, causes weight gain, and is an artificial stimulant. Go for plain water, green tea, or vegetable juices instead!
Don’t drink alcohol. Like caffeine, alcohol is a diuretic. Not only that, but alcohol is repeatedly proven to have negative effects on our body and health — impacting the proper functioning of our brain, liver, lungs, and other major organs. If you drink alcohol regularly, it’s time to cut it out, or at the very least, reduce your consumption.
Adverse consequences of excessive alcohol consumption:
- Chronic, excess alcohol consumption is the major cause of liver cirrhosis in the U.S.
- Liver cirrhosis can cause internal hemorrhage, fluid accumulation in the abdomen, easy bleeding and bruising, muscle wasting, mental confusion, infections, and in advanced cases, coma, and kidney failure.
- Liver cirrhosis can lead to liver cancer.
- Alcohol accounts for 40%-50% of deaths from automobile accidents in the U.S.
- Alcohol use is a significant cause of injury and death from home accidents, drowning, and burns.
Comments and recommendations (tips):
There are many treatments for alcoholism. But the crucial first step to recovery is for the individual to admit there is a problem and make a commitment to address the alcoholism issue. The 12-step-style self-help programs, pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous, can be one effective treatment. Psychologists and related professionals have developed programs to help individuals better handle emotional stresses and avoid behaviors that can lead to excess drinking. Support and understanding from family members are often critical for sustained recovery. Medication can be useful for the prevention of relapses and for withdrawal symptoms following acute or prolonged intoxication.
Watch out on glycemic index/load. Glycemic index is an index that indicates the ability of a carbohydrate food to increase glucose level in the blood. 100 represents pure glucose, which means rapid digestion and absorption of glucose into the bloodstream. Eating food with high GI creates sugar spikes and will lead to diabetes in the long run. A GI of 55 or lower is considered low. High GI foods include mashed potato (>80), white bread (>70), white bagel (72), white rice (65), Coke (63).
However, glycemic index is only one part of the story — we need to look at the glycemic load, which tells us how high our blood sugar rises when we consume the food, depending on the amount consumed. Glycemic load is calculated by multiplying GI by the amount of carbs consumed, divided by 100. A glycemic load of 10 or below is considered low; 20 or above is considered high.
For this reason, fruits have high GI but a low glycemic load for the quantity normally consumed. For example, watermelon has a high GI of 80. But a serving of watermelon has so little carbs (6 grams) that its glycemic load is only 5. Eating a food with a low GI but in large quantity is similarly unhealthy. Macaroni has a GI of 50 but the usual serving of 180 grams will lead to a glycemic load of 24. You can lower the glycemic load of a food by pairing it with fat and protein. Here is a list with glycemic index/load for 100+ foods.
Go organic. Organic foods are foods produced without synthetic inputs such as pesticides and chemical fertilizers, do not contain genetically modified organisms, and are not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives. The organic movement is slowly catching on, with more supermarkets offering organic options. Organic food tends to cost more, but hey — would you rather save some money and feed your body with pesticides or pay a few extra dollars for a cleaner, healthier body?
Prepare your meals. Whenever I can, I try to prepare my meals. When you prepare your meals, you control what goes into them, rather than choosing between sub-optimal choices in a restaurant. Get quality kitchen equipment — it will be your best investment ever. Having a blender makes it a breeze to make your fruit/vegetable juices! Having a small oven makes baking and heating food so easy.
Avoid high-risk sexual behaviors
High-risk sexual behavior can lead to the acquisition of sexually transmitted illnesses such as gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, or HIV infection. High-risk sexual behavior is also known to spread human papillomavirus infection, which can lead to cervical cancer in women and other anogenital cancers in both men and women. High-risk sexual behaviors include the following:
- Multiple sex partners
- Sex partners with a history of the following:
- Intravenous drug use
- Venereal disease (sexually transmitted diseases or STDs)
Adverse consequences of high-risk sexual behavior:
- Transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, genital herpes)
- Transmission of hepatitis B (50% of hepatitis B infections are due to sexual transmission) and, in rare instances, hepatitis C
- Transmission of human papilloma virus (HPV), which can cause genital warts and anogenital carcinomas, most commonly cancer of the uterine cervix
- Unplanned pregnancy
- Avoid unprotected sex (sex without barriers such as a condom) outside an established, committed, monogamous relationship.
- If you plan to have sex and are unsure of your partner’s health status, use a condom.
Tips for a longer life
No matter what your age, you have the power to change many of the variables that influence how long you live, and how active and vital you feel in your later years. Actions you can take to increase your odds of a longer and more satisfying life span are really quite simple:
- Don’t smoke.
- Enjoy physical and mental activities every day.
- Eat a healthy diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, and substitute healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats for unhealthy saturated fats and trans fats.
- Take a daily multivitamin, and be sure to get enough calcium and vitamin D.
- Maintain a healthy weight and body shape.
- Challenge your mind. Keep learning and trying new activities.
- Build a strong social network.
- Follow preventive care and screening guidelines.
- Floss, brush, and see a dentist regularly.
- Ask your doctor if medication can help you control the potential long-term side effects of chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, osteoporosis, or high cholesterol.
Smoking: An enemy of longevity
If you want to live a long, healthy life, make sure you’re among the nonsmokers. Smoking contributes to heart disease, osteoporosis, emphysema and other chronic lung problems, and stroke. It makes breathing during exercise much harder and thus can make activity less enticing. It appears to compromise memory, too.
The news does get better. People who quit smoking can repair some, if not all, of the damage done. After a smoker quits, the risk of heart disease begins to drop within a few months, and in five years, it matches that of someone who never smoked. Stroke risk drops to equal that of a nonsmoker within two to four years after a smoker quits, according to one study. The death rate from colorectal cancer also decreases each year after quitting. At any age, quitting progressively cuts your risk of dying from cancer related to smoking, although this drop is most marked in those who quit before age 50.
Diet and aging: Gaining a nutritional edge
Plenty of research suggests that eating healthy foods can help extend your life and improve your health. Studies reveal that a healthy diet can help you sidestep ailments that plague people more as they age, including heart disease, hypertension, cancer, and cataracts.
There is no shortage of new and conflicting advice on diet and nutrition. Stick to the basics with more broad-based changes, such as cutting back on meat; eating more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains; and striking a healthy balance between calories in and calories out.
Choose fruits and vegetables wisely
Get at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. When filling your plate with fruits and vegetables, choose from a full color palette. For even more health benefits, aim for nine servings a day. To get there, choose vegetable soups and vegetable or fruit salads. Sprinkle fruit on breakfast cereal, and select it for snacks or as a sweet end note after meals.
Choose fats wisely
Whenever possible, use monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils. Avoid trans fats entirely. Limit saturated fats to less than 7% of daily calories and total fat to 20% to 30% of daily calories.
If you don’t have coronary artery disease, the American Heart Association recommends eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout, or mackerel, twice weekly. If you have documented coronary artery disease, consume roughly 1 gram a day of EPA or DHA from oily fish and supplements if your doctor advises this.
Choose carbohydrates wisely
Choose whole-grain foods over those made with refined grains, such as white bread. Look beyond popular choices like whole oats and brown rice to lesser-known whole grains like barley, bulgur, kasha, and quinoa. Limit your intake of white potatoes.
Choosing protein wisely
Emphasize plant sources of protein, such as beans, nuts, and grains, to help you bypass unhealthy fats predominant in animal sources. Enjoying a wide variety of vegetables and eating beans and grains helps you get a full complement of amino acids over the course of a week. Shy away from protein sources high in saturated fat. Favor fish and well-trimmed poultry. If you do eat beef, pick lean cuts.
Don’t char or overcook meat, poultry, or fish — it causes a buildup of carcinogens. Cutting off fat, which causes flames to flare on the grill, can help avoid charring; try gently sautéing, steaming, or braising these foods in liquid instead. Grilling vegetables is safe, however.
Turning the tide on weight gain
Turning the tide to lose weight — or just holding the line at your current weight — can be difficult. The following tips may help:
Line up support. Work with your doctor and, possibly, a nutritionist or personal trainer. Ask for help in setting a reasonable goal and taking small steps that make success more likely. Tell friends and family about your goal, too.
Shut down the kitchen. Make your kitchen off-limits after dinner — even if you need to run a strip of crime tape across the door to do so.
Aim for a small change. Trimming 5% to 10% of your starting weight is a realistic goal with excellent health benefits, including reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels and lowering the risk for diabetes.
Eat well. Focus on vegetables and whole grains, which are digested slowly. Limit refined carbohydrates. Enjoy moderate amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in your diet. Cut down on saturated fats and avoid trans fats.
Watch the balance. Taking in more calories than you burn off adds extra pounds. Burning off more calories than you take in shaves pounds. A moderately active person who gets about 30 minutes of exercise a day needs 15 calories of food for each pound of body weight. To lose a pound a week, you need to lop off about 500 calories a day by becoming more active and eating less.
Step up activity. If you are struggling to maintain a healthy weight or need to lose weight, the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 60 to 90 minutes a day of moderate activity. You can work out in one daily session or shorter bouts at least 10 minutes long. Walking is safe for practically everyone. Talk to your doctor if you’d like to include more vigorous activities, which give you twice the bang for your exercise buck — that is, one minute of vigorous activity equals roughly two minutes of moderate activity.