Six things you should do to be healthy
How To Be Healthy
Thanks to new insights from medicine and science, we know a lot about what it takes to be healthy, and live longer. Healthy living is not super complicated. There are a few common themes.
Ultimately the answer to how to be healthy is first discovering what works for your body, and your life. Experts agree that there are some keys for how to be healthy which include: a good diet (i.e. real food), exercise and physical activity, maintaining a healthy body weight, not smoking and moderating alcohol intake. Studies suggest people who met all five of these criteria lived longer on average: 14 years longer for women, and 12 years longer for men.
Lifestyle factors make a difference, but the concept of a healthy life can be personal. When it comes to a diet, much depends on where you start from in terms of body weight, and your level of activity. For people with preexisting conditions, or who are over 50, a rigorous exercise schedule will look very different than for a much younger person.
Becoming aware of when we make choices that improve our health, or damage it, is a major factor in health outcomes. Recognizing patterns does not mean being obsessive. Gentleness with ourselves is also important for health. You can train yourself to take a look at what you’re eating, what ingredients it contains, and how it was made, i.e. whether it was processed, or unprocessed.
Experts agree that there are some keys for how to be healthy which include: a good diet (i.e. real food), exercise and physical activity, maintaining a healthy body weight, not smoking and moderating alcohol intake.
Revamp Your Diet
A global study in 2017 said the majority of the world’s population were eating a suboptimal diet. (Lower-income people were disproportionately affected.) This is yet another reason it is important to take personal health into our own hands. Every person deserves to know how to live a long, healthy and happy life. Perfection isn’t always the objective. Most people just want to improve from their current state. The key to success for a healthy diet is to focus on short, medium, and long term goals.
Progress has to be made steadily when transitioning to a new diet. It is not possible or healthy for your body to go from 0 to 100 overnight. Small setbacks happen all the time. Do not punish yourself. On average it can take people roughly 66 days to commit to a new lifestyle or positive habit (as opposed to the often cited 21 days) and to see real changes in their health. When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle and eating right, changing our habits can be a major challenge!
Food cravings tend to arise from processes in parts of the brain devoted to memory, pleasure and rewards. Hormonal imbalances with serotonin, or depression can also create cravings. The endorphins the body gets from eating make us susceptible to be actually addicted to food. Several steps can be taken to limit cycles of unhealthy eating. Drinking enough water is key, as is getting enough rest.
Cooking at home is the best way to control what you’re putting into your body. If you find it difficult to come up with easy recipes to make at home, there are many resources available to help you live a healthy life. If you have real difficulty finding enough time to cook, and health is your priority, it may be worth considering a meal kit delivery service.
The American Diabetes Association recommends aiming for “the most bang for your buck” when choosing carbs – those packed with fiber, minerals, and vitamins. This means fruits, veggies, and low or fat-free dairy and grains. Stay away from sugars and refined grains, which are processed, high in calories and low in what matters for your body.
There is a good cholesterol (HDL) and a bad kind (LDL). Unsaturated fats promote the good kind of cholesterol, while trans and saturated fats tend to increase LDL levels (the bad one). When learning about fats, an easy trick is to focus on minimizing fats that stay solid in room temperature, which tend to be trans and saturated fats.
To review the healthy lifestyle eating habits we’ve outlined here:
On average it can take people roughly 66 days to commit to a new lifestyle or positive habit (as opposed to the often cited 21 days) and to see real changes in their health.
Don’t Neglect Exercise
The positive health impact of exercise and physical activity cannot be stated strongly enough. Daily movement has a variety of life saving benefits, from relieving depression and mental illness, to weight loss, to reducing your risk of chronic disease. To prevent injury it is recommended you speak with a doctor and personal trainer for exercise clearance, and to develop a work-out plan meant to minimize injury.
When it comes to how to be healthy in your fitness routine, a foundational principle is to get your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes as many days in a week as possible. For a lot of people, this could be as simple as going out for a brisk walk. (Walking can have a big impact, especially for someone who is normally sedentary.)
Exercise is not only about weight loss: it also improves mental health while lowering your risk for chronic disease. Other major potential benefits include preventing osteoporosis, a disease that leads to weak bones and fractures, by strengthening bone mass. You may have heard that there are several different types of exercise to lead a healthy life. Two general categories, which might be useful to know:
Aerobic exercise deals with how to improve your body’s use of oxygen, by increasing your stamina consistently over a period of time (usually 20 minutes or more.)
Anaerobic exercise includes weightlifting, sprinting, and any activity that’s done at intervals more like 2 minutes. It doesn’t require your body to change its use of oxygen, but is ultimately more efficient for building muscle, and strength. Studies indicate that the combination of these types of training (aerobic and anaerobic, or resistance-based) make it easier to lose fat, and increase muscle mass, which also speeds up your metabolism. A higher metabolism means a greater likelihood of keeping weight off.
Yoga is particularly good for people with conditions like arthritis to improve movement. As the mind and body are so connected, almost any physical activity is likely to improve your mood – and can also help with more serious conditions like depression or anxiety.
When it comes to how to be healthy in your fitness routine, a foundational principle is to get your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes as many days in a week as possible.
Reduce Daily Stress
This is another major topic that ties into how to be healthy. Left unchecked, stress can contribute to serious conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Especially in America, stress is extremely common, and intensifying in the time of COVID. In a Gallup poll, 55% of Americans responded experiencing stress throughout the entire previous day (compared to 35% on average in other countries).
Most people don’t realize stress is controlled by physiological processes. The production and release of cortisol, an adrenaline steroid, or “the stress hormone” is a major one of these processes. Cortisol is typically released in the morning, when you exercise, and under stressful conditions. Too much cortisol, when you are stressed and your body is in overdrive can lead to weight gain, acne, easy bruising, fatigue, headaches and difficulty concentrating. Long term it could leave you with problems like heart disease and obesity to anxiety and depression.
Professional mental health experts say concrete steps can be taken to combat stress. One step is to counter our own feelings of passivity when facing problems. To lead a healthy life, confronting a problem makes it easier to solve. This applies too for taking steps to change a stressful lifestyle. Learning some time management principles can get you started.
Establishing a support network is another big step. Activities with others can help us relax, and increase chances of laughter, a big stress buster. Setting goals, and seeing the minor stressors of life within a broader frame is also key. Intentional practices of gratitude significantly increase happiness and reduce stress, including journaling, or for instance, writing down three things you’re grateful for, or happy about at the end of each day.
Try recognizing when stress is starting, by paying attention to your thoughts, breathing, and heart rate, and cut off the cycle of stress at the pass.
Intentional practices of gratitude significantly increase happiness and reduce stress, including journaling, or for instance, writing down three things you’re grateful for, or happy about at the end of each day.
Sleep A Lot (Even More Than You Think You Should)
Here we come to one of the basic pillars of how to be healthy. Without sleep your immune system is weakened, it is easier to gain weight, and you could be left at higher risk for cancer and diabetes. Sleep is the only time your body is fully able to be at rest and heal. In the short term if you don’t sleep 3 nights in a row it can cause hallucinations, delusions, and even psychosis. That gives you an idea of just how crucial sleep is to the functioning of your health both bodily and mental. Despite that, it seems 1 in 3 Americans are not sleeping enough to support their health.
There are some clear, easy ways you can help take control of your sleep patterns, and create a healthy sleep schedule for yourself. Big steps in the right direction include minimizing flows of information through phones, laptops, and other technology, 1-2 hours before going to bed. Generally, avoid working or using social media in bed. Keep in mind: your bedroom should be first and foremost for sleeping.
Work On Your Mental Health
People can spend so much time focused on physical health that they forget how intertwined our minds and our bodies tend to be. Life was evidently stressful enough before constant connectivity started to blur our private and public lives. In our moment, it is a real possibility to spend every second of every day receiving new information. Diet and exercise, as in other aspects of health, are proven to improve mental health across all segments of the population. What helps your blood pressure and your cholesterol, does the same thing for emotions and moods. Mental health is a big factor in how to live healthier.
Anxiety disorders are known as the most common mental illness in the U.S. – with 40 million adults or 18.1% Americans having symptoms. Generally anxiety tends to be treatable, but only a minority of people suffering from it receive treatment.
Risk factors for anxiety and depression include genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events. Many alternatives to pharmaceutical medication exist, such as successful proven approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Telemedicine has made it cheaper and more accessible for many people to access mental health care. If initiating a course of medication, do not discontinue therapy or a personalized action plan developed with your team to maximize likelihood of success.
If you're still wondering, some signs of positive mental health include:
Approaches you can take to improve on all these fronts include getting more sunlight (proven to boost your mood), doing something you enjoy, and connecting with others.
Most people try to make the right lifestyle choices in diet and regular physical activity. But how do we know that we’re staying on track? What other diseases do we need to be looking for? At what age do we start being cautious?
Anxiety disorders are known as the most common mental illness in the U.S. – with 40 million adults or 18.1% Americans having symptoms.
Prevention Is The Best Medicine
Finally, though there are many simple ways to live a healthier life – it’s also important to check in with professionals now and then. Preventative screening is the backbone of improving life expectancy and quality in modern medicine. It is about understanding how personal and family history determine our risk factors for disease. You should, in collaboration with your doctor, check that you are on schedule.
Screening health checks often should begin early on, in your 30s, especially if your family has a history of heart disease, or cancer. For adults, cholesterol levels are tested every five years, and it is even screened in children. Another thing your doctor will take into account are your lifestyle and other risk factors, such as smoking or alcohol consumption. The best way to avoid these kinds of lifestyle factors leading to disease is to quit or significantly reduce your consumption. Nonetheless, if you do smoke or drink regularly, you will want to make sure you are checked even more regularly.
Most preventative screening will be covered by your insurance, even as a young adult. Normal screenings should include blood pressure, cholesterol (adults 20 and older with risk factors, and all men 35 and older), Type 2 Diabetes, and HIV. You should be sure to have immunizations for Hepatitis A & B, HPV, flu (influenza), measles, meningitis and pneumonia. Women are additionally eligible for well-woman (overall) checkups on a yearly basis, and breast and cervical cancer screenings.
--Dr. Jose Torradas