Most of our patients would agree they want to live a long, healthy life. However, that doesn’t just happen without conscious decision-making. While genes are certainly an important part of the equation, your daily lifestyle choices are the most critical factors in the quality of life you’ll enjoy from the present into the future.
7 Smart Choices For a Long & Healthy Life
As an all-women team of OB/GYNs, we see first-hand the truths of scientifically-based evidence of what it takes to live an optimal life in terms of time (lifespan) and overall health (wellbeing). Patients who care about their bodies, minds, and spirits tend to have a more engaged and action-based approach to their health, and it pays off. Even if you have a chronic health condition, positive and healthy choices make it easier to manage.
Here are 7 tips to make the best choices for your “...one wild and precious life.”
1. Observe annual wellness visits
There is absolutely no doubt that annual wellness visits help patients prevent the unknowable from becoming more severe or irreversible health issues. For example, patients may eat well and exercise and manage their weight. They then decide they don’t need to observe annual appointments because “they’re just fine.” However, certain medical conditions – such as unbalanced blood sugar levels or pre-type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol/blood pressure, small breast lumps, or irregular cervical cells can lurk without presenting symptoms.
By faithfully attending annual wellness visits, we catch and correct/treat early red flags before health issues manifest into something bigger or more challenging to manage.
2. Establish healthy sleep habits
Healthy sleep, seven to nine hours per night, is a great holistic health regulator. Sleep is essential for detoxifying the brain and body, regulating hormones, cell repair and regeneration, and maintaining metabolic balance. Establishing healthy sleep habits benefits a range of other aspects of your physical and emotional wellbeing.
3. Get a moderate amount of exercise every day
Everyone knows exercise (at least 30 minutes per day, five days a week) is essential for everything from weight management to reducing the symptoms of heart disease and other common health ailments. However, that doesn’t mean you have to get to a gym or go jogging. Physical exercise occurs when your body is in motion and includes the elevation of your heart rate.
A recent review observed a 22% lower risk of early death in individuals who exercised — even though they worked out less than the recommended 150 minutes per week. So, while walking, hiking, swimming, taking a yoga class, riding your bike, and so on are all “standard” forms of exercise, so is dancing, taking the stairs, or parking and walking from the furthest parking place instead of the closest. We encourage patients to seek ways they can build exercise into normal daily activities to keep exercise as approachable as possible.
4. Focus your diet on anti-inflammatory foods
Who likes the word diet? Instead of thinking of a diet as being restrictive, consider nutritional choices that focus on whole, fresh anti-inflammatory foods and set boundaries around foods that increase inflammation. By reducing inflammation in the body, you’ll look and feel your best.
Many patients are delighted to find that by adhering to an anti-inflammatory diet (like the Mediterranean diet) and being a bit more vigilant about processed foods and sugars, they can manage existing health issues with fewer medications/interventions. Also, ask your doctor about turmeric (curcumin) supplements, which are proven to reduce inflammation and improve symptoms associated with inflammation like arthritis.
5. Avoid smoking altogether
This one is as simple as it gets. Smoking is bad, bad, bad for your health and the health of others and E-Cigarettes and vaping are not healthy alternatives. Let your doctor know you’re having a hard time quitting, and we’ll do all we can to find a smoking/nicotine cessation plan that works for you.
6. Find your personal stress management tools
Just as we consider sleep an ultimate health regulator, stress is just the opposite. Those who report moderate- to high-stress levels or struggle to manage their stress have a higher risk for just about every health condition under the sun. While the media incessantly tout the benefits of yoga and meditation, they aren’t for everyone.
So, if those practices didn’t do much for you, seek the stress management tools that work for you. Examples include:
● Breathing with a focus on extending the exhales
● Installing an app that leads you through relaxing visualizations
● Walks in nature
● Doing something creative that you love
● Keeping a gratitude journal
● Enjoying a long bath or shower with essential oils
● Getting back to a team or solo sport you used to enjoy
● Learning a new skill, sport, hobby, etc.
7. Prioritize social connections
Make high-quality social engagement a priority if you don’t have a social network or have let social connections languish. Comprehensive studies on the importance of human connection find that those who have high-quality social connections live longer, have higher-quality lives, and experience healthier heart, brain, hormonal, and immune function, which may decrease their risk of chronic disease.