Healthy Lifestyle Choices
Cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular problems, and diabetes: the list of chronic diseases plaguing the American population continues to grow. While many of these diseases have a strong genetic correlation, lifestyle factors can also make a substantial impact on an individual’s likelihood of developing diseases over the course of one’s lifetime. By making these key lifestyle choices, you can improve your health and your long-term quality of life.
In this blog post, we discuss some of the risks of a sedentary lifestyle, and we offer some tips for helping you to break out of it and prevent potential injury. Read on to learn more about the healthy lifestyle choices you can make to help reduce your likelihood of disease.
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1. Wash Your Hands
When it comes to warding off infectious and communicable diseases, nothing beats scrubbing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds—after shaking hands, using the restroom, right after coming home, basically anytime you potentially expose yourself to germs. Hand sanitizer is not as effective, but better than nothing in the absence of soap and running water—such as when you get into the car after leaving a store or shop. Consider a little social distancing, too—not hugging or shaking hands with people—during flu and cold season or other disease outbreaks, and make sure your vaccinations are all current.
2. Lose That Extra Weight.
Between 2017 and 2018, more than 42 percent of the American population suffered from obesity. Most people carry around what they term a little extra weight, and many Americans have little desire to do anything about it. Fast food, a high prevalence of sugar-filled treats, and a sedentary lifestyle have led to an obesity epidemic across America. Unfortunately, this epidemic also leaves Americans open to a wide range of potential health problems, including the risk of developing cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and even some types of cancer.
Many Americans struggle to lose their extra weight. Some of the following strategies can help, and many of them can also aid in reducing the risk of developing many common diseases:
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that healthy adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, every week. You can break that down into a thirty-minute session five days a week for moderate exercise or engage in longer sweat sessions to help meet your requirements. The most important thing is just to get moving! As you exercise, you will burn more calories, which will help you lose any extra weight.
Avoid Excess Sugar
Eating too much sugar can substantially increase your risk of dying of heart disease, even if you do not suffer from obesity. The more sugar you eat, the greater the impact it can have on your body. Unfortunately, many common American foods have a great deal of sugar in them. Learning to identify those foods and avoid them when possible can help keep you healthier, reduce your risk of diabetes, and help you control your weight.
Eat the Right Foods
Reducing your risk of disease, as it turns out, requires more than just controlling what you do not eat. You also need to pay careful attention to what you do eat. Consuming the right foods can make a big difference, not only in your overall health, but also in your ability to prevent or stave off diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.
Make sure your diet includes:
- Plenty of dark, leafy greens. A single piece of iceberg lettuce on your hamburger does not count.
- Apples, which can reduce blood pressure and decrease the risk of colon and breast cancers
- Avocados, a known powerhouse for a healthy heart
- Whole grains, rather than foods made from bleached white flour. Whole grains provide plenty of fiber and can help with heart health.
- Healthy fats, including nut and seed oils or olive oil
- Low-fat proteins, including fish and chicken, instead of fatty beef and pork
Reduce Your Sodium Intake
High quantities of salt, often found in packaged foods, can send your blood pressure skyrocketing, not to mention make you feel bloated and uncomfortable. Many people worry that reducing sodium intake will also reduce the flavor in their food. Over time, however, you may find that you can decrease the amount of salt you eat without realizing the flavor difference. Try gradually reducing your sodium consumption on foods you prepare yourself while also cutting out prepackaged snacks and treats. You may find that your palate changes, making you much more sensitive to foods that you once thought barely contained enough salt.
Learn How to Control Your Portion Size
American portion sizes, especially in restaurants, often far exceed the recommended serving of any given food. While working your way through a large plate of food, you may fail to realize how many calories you have really taken in, especially if you have an inaccurate view of common portion sizes. A serving of lean protein should cover approximately the palm of your hand, for example. Get a feel for proper portion sizes. You may need to weigh out and measure your foods for a while to better learn how much you should eat of each type of food. Check the nutrition information on the back of the package and adjust your portions accordingly. Over time, this can lead to significant weight loss, even without avoiding some of your favorite foods.
3. Avoid the Potential Effects of a Sedentary Lifestyle.
Increasingly, across America, many people find themselves trapped in sedentary lifestyles. Workers spend their days sitting behind desks, often can’t get up for more than a handful of times a day. In a worst-case scenario, they may even have to report visits to the restroom or risk write-ups. Unfortunately, this sedentary lifestyle causes a host of health problems and raises the risk of disease for people of any age.
You cannot undo the impact of sitting all day with a mere 30 minutes of exercise a couple of times a week. Instead, try some of these steps to help prevent you from developing the diseases commonly associated with a sedentary lifestyle, including increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Get Moving Several Times Throughout the Day
Do not wait until the end of the day to get up from your desk and try to get in some exercise. Instead, make opportunities to get up and move around throughout the day. Take the long way to the bathroom. Stop by the break room and engage in conversation for a few minutes. Stand up at your desk and move around, or do a quick exercise routine in your office. Simply getting your heart pumping at regular intervals can go a long way toward combating many of the effects of a sedentary job.
Find an Active Hobby
If you dread exercise, you will likely make excuses to avoid or skip it. You will also more likely make excuses to avoid getting up and moving around at work. Examples include: You had a busy day; you needed to hit that deadline; or your boss gets upset when you do not appear productive on company time. When you have a form of activity that you enjoy, however, you will grow more likely to get up and moving, since you will actively engage with that activity, look forward to it, and plan for it.
You do not have to choose a form of exercise. Gardening, nature photography, and visiting museums, for example, can all get you off your couch and moving without forcing you to actually exercise. As your activity levels increase, you may find that you actually enjoy more active pursuits than you previously realized.
Look for Ways to Add in Activity
Many fitness tracker users quickly discover just how little they move on an average day. While 10,000 steps a day might have little to do with a person’s overall health, it can help users set a clear, easily-definable goal, and it can help fitness band wearers track just how much activity they get each day.
Look for ways to add those extra steps to your day, especially if you work at a job that requires you to spend most of the day behind a desk. Take the stairs when you need to go up and down between floors. Park further away from your building. Park in the back of the parking lot when you go out to shop or hit a restaurant for lunch. Little measures can lead to big gains as you move toward greater movement every day.
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4. Keep an Eye on Your Alcohol Consumption.
Excess alcohol consumption can put you at high levels of risk for liver disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and some types of cancer. Not only that, alcohol often contains a high number of calories, which can lead to increased levels of obesity. As you drink, keep in mind the following:
Calorie Content of Your Drinks
Sugar-filled drinks and beer, for example, may add a significant number of calories to your diet. Make sure you know how many calories your favorite drinks have and work that into your diet accordingly when you do drink.
How Often You Drink
Drinking occasionally likely will not cause substantial health problems, especially if you drink in moderation. Drinking in excess, on the other hand, can quickly leave you facing a range of health complications. Pay attention to how often you drink, especially if you notice your alcohol consumption starting to increase. By catching that increased consumption early, you may reduce the odds that you will face severe health consequences.
How Much You Drink
Having a drink with dinner or a couple of drinks while out with friends will have a much lower impact on your overall health than if you drink to drunkenness every time you go out. Pay attention to how much alcohol you choose to consume and what circumstances make you most likely to over-indulge. When you become more aware of your drinking habits, you can more easily avoid activities that may pose a danger to your health.
5. Avoid Tobacco and Nicotine
Smoking can cause a wide range of health complications, including cancer, heart disease, lung disease, and emphysema. Smokers also face a higher risk of developing diabetes than non-smokers. Not only that, but smoking can also cause problems with your immune system, including rheumatoid arthritis. In short, if you have a smoking addiction, and you want to decrease your risk of disease, getting rid of your cigarettes once and for all can substantially lower your risk of developing many diseases.
The positive health impacts of choosing to stop smoking begin within hours of smoking your last cigarette. The longer you go without smoking, the more you will notice your health improving. At the same time, your risk of contracting deadly diseases will be decreasing.
6. Undergo Regular Medical Screenings.
Many diseases have clear warning signs and symptoms, especially if you visit your doctor regularly. Others may have few symptoms in the early days, but respond faster if you treat them early. See your doctor at least every three years between the ages of 19 and 64. As you approach your senior years, you may need to see your doctor more often. Follow your doctor’s recommendations when it comes to the screenings and scans that you need. You may feel that these preventative treatments add a great deal of unnecessary time and expense to your day, but they can also help keep you healthier and reduce the risk that you will leave a dangerous disease untreated.
It can help to know your medical history when you visit your doctor. If you have a strong family history of a certain type of illness or disease, your doctor can screen for that disease earlier and provide advice about healthy lifestyle choices that can help reduce your odds of developing symptoms.
7. Get Enough Sleep.
Americans today often pride themselves on burning the candle at both ends, chronically getting by on too little sleep and too much stress. Poor sleep, however, opens you up to a host of potential health problems and makes you more likely to develop many diseases. People who regularly do not get enough sleep have an increased risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
To improve your quality of sleep, try:
- Checking your bedtime to ensure that you get enough sleep each night.
- Sleeping in a cooler room to help encourage healthy sleep.
- Avoiding screen time immediately before bed, which can make it harder to fall asleep.
- Watching your alcohol consumption before bed, since it can interfere with healthy sleep.
Even the healthiest lifestyle cannot prevent your risk of disease entirely, but it can decrease it substantially. With these key tips, you can reduce your risk of developing many of the diseases that continue to wreak havoc on the American population.