Whether pursuing a demanding career, eating better, or maintaining friendships, accomplishing the feats we most desire requires a healthy foundation. Living life to the fullest starts with paying attention to your body and mind.
“The long-term effects of good and bad health habits are cumulative. In simple terms, you can’t get over your past,” William Roberts, a professor in the University of Minnesota’s department of family medicine and community health, said in an email.
Getting enough physical activity and seeing your doctor regularly is a good starting point, said the medical analyst at CNN Leana Wen.
“There’s a lot of evidence about things we can proactively do that can improve our longevity and also quality,” said Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management in the Milken Institute’s School of Public Health at George Washington University.
Here are some habits worth adopting to have the best chance at a longer, happier life.
1. Regular exams
Young people tend to have fewer chronic diseases than older people, but prevention is key, Wen said. “If you test positive for prediabetes, for example, there are steps you can take to prevent progression to diabetes.”
Annual checkups also allow you and your doctor to get to know each other, he added. “The best time to see your doctor is not when you already have symptoms and need help – it’s to regularly build and establish that relationship so your doctor can get a baseline of your health.”
2. Constant physical activity
Getting enough physical activity can lower your risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, heart disease and stroke, Wen said.
“There is an overwhelming amount of research that supports regular aerobic exercise not only for living longer, but also for maintaining cognitive function longer,” said Nieca Goldberg, medical director of Atria New York City and an associate professor of medicine at Grossman University. from New York.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate to vigorous physical activity weekly, while pregnant women should do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobics and strengthening per week.
3. A healthy BMI
Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat that assesses a person’s weight category and potential risk for health problems, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Maintaining a healthy BMI can extend your life by more than a decade, according to a 2018 study, and has been linked to a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Regular physical activity and eating healthy foods can help you with this goal.
4. Proper nutrition
Eating more plant-based foods provides a great source of antioxidants, Goldberg said. “Oxidation is a sign of stress in our system and can lead to changes in plaque buildup in the arteries,” she said. “And that oxidation is also associated with aging.”
You can prolong your life by eating less red and processed meats and more fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts, according to a February study published in the journal PLOS Medicine.
The potential benefits are especially strong if you start young – women who start eating optimally in their 20s can increase their life expectancy by just over ten years, while men who start at the same age can add 13 years.
At mealtimes, at least half of your plate should consist of fruits and vegetables, Goldberg said. Also, what’s important is “not just what’s in the food, but how you prepare it,” she added. “So roasting and grilling is better than frying.”
5. Pay attention to mental well-being
Mental health is often “such an overlooked part of our overall health, but it actually contributes a lot to overall health and well-being,” Wen said.
The past few years have brought stress and anxiety that can affect blood pressure, sleep, food choices, alcohol intake or attempts to quit smoking, Goldberg said.
Taking just 15 minutes for a little mental hygiene can make your life easier, experts say. Try taking deep breaths when you wake up, being present during breakfast instead of being distracted, going for a walk daily, and taking breaks from screens.
The benefits of these mindfulness practices come from lowering levels of cortisol, the stress hormone associated with health complications. Being able to better regulate your emotions – which can be achieved with meditation – has been linked to health resilience in old age.
6. Sleep well
People who sleep less than seven hours a night tend to have higher levels of stress hormones, blood sugar and blood pressure, Goldberg said.
You can improve the quality and quantity of your sleep by getting regular exercise and having good sleep hygiene. Keep your room dark, quiet and cool at night, and only use it for sleeping and having sex.
7. Drink less
“A long time ago, people associated alcohol with a healthier heart,” said Goldberg. But “heavy alcohol intake can actually be a direct toxin to the heart muscle and result in heart failure. and also increases [os níveis de açúcar no sangue] and causes weight gain.”
Avoiding too much alcohol can add several years to your life, lowering your risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and other chronic diseases, according to a 2020 study.
8. No smoking
“Smoking is a major risk factor that increases the likelihood of many types of cancer — not just lung cancer, but also things like breast cancer,” Wen said. It also “increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other life-shortening conditions.”
If you’re a heavy smoker, it’s not too late to stop to prolong your life, Wen added.
9. Build strong relationships
Having close, positive relationships adds happiness and comfort to our lives and reduces stress, experts said. Studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends, and the community have fewer health problems, live longer, and experience less depression and cognitive decline later in life, according to Harvard Health.
If implementing all these habits seems like a lot, think of them as a gradual build-up, Wen said. “We may not be perfect at everything all the time,” she said, “but [há] things we can do to improve on one or several dimensions, and we can commit to that kind of lifestyle improvement.”
Source: CNN Brasil