No matter what age, you can take steps now towards better health and feeling great. Even small changes can make a big difference to how you feel. Healthy living is within your reach, starting today. Sure, healthy living is a long-term commitment, not a flash-in-the-pan fad. But there are steps you can take right now. Here's your checklist of practical healthy living tips that are ready to go.
Healthy Living Tips:
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.
- 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.
Healthy Living 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.
- With unusual work schedules (night shifts, college students, military) should try to adhere to a breakfast, lunch, and dinner routine with minimal snacking.
- Men who prepare food should avoid using grease or frying foods in grease.
- To lose weight (body fat) one 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.
- Seek medical advice early if you cannot control your weight, food intake, or if you have diabetes and cannot control your blood glucose levels.
Sleep Better For Healthy Living:
If you have trouble sleeping, try these tips from sleep medicine specialist Lisa Shives, MD, medical director of Northshore Sleep Medicine in Evanston, Ill.
- No TV or computer two hours before bedtime. It's not just because the TV and computer are stimulating; it's also because of their light. “We're very sensitive to the cue that light gives you that it's time to be up and about,” Shives says. She recommends light, calming reading lit by a lamp that doesn't shine directly into your eyes.
No heavy exercise close to bedtime. Light stretching is OK, but vigorous activity will heat up your body's core temperature, which makes it harder to sleep. “If you're working up a sweat, you're working too hard right before bed,” Shives says.
- Take a hot bath. That will heat up your core body temperature, but when you get out of the bath, your core temperature will fall, which may help you get to sleep. Plus, the bath “relaxes you mentally,” Shives says. She adds that having a hot, noncaffeinated drink, such as chamomile tea, may also help.
- Set a regular sleep schedule. When Shives treats insomnia patients, she tells them that although they can't make themselves fall asleep, they can make themselves get up at a certain time the next morning. And though they may be tired at first, if they don't nap, they may start sleeping better during the following nights. “We're going to get nowhere if they take big naps during the day and keep a very erratic sleep schedule; it's chaos then,” Shives says.
- Don't count on weekend catch-up sleep. If you have chronic sleep problems, you probably can't make up for that on the weekends. But if you generally sleep well and have a rough week, go ahead and sleep in on the weekend. “I actually think that's good for the body,” Shives says.
- Don't ignore chronic sleep problems. “Don't let sleep troubles linger for months or years. Get to a sleep specialist earlier rather than later, before bad habits set in,” Shives says.
- Prioritize good sleep. “This is as important as diet and exercise,” Shives says. She says that in our society, “we disdain sleep, we admire energy and hard work and [have] this notion that sleep is just something that gets in the way.”
Physical Activity and Exercise
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.It can help prevent coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure. Weight-bearing exercise can also help prevent osteoporosis by building bone strength.
- Exercise can help chronic arthritis sufferers improve their capacity to perform daily activities such as driving, climbing stairs, and opening jars.
- It can help increase self-esteem and self-confidence, decrease stress and anxiety, enhance mood, and improve general mental health.
- Daily 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
- People with heart or lung disease, asthma, arthritis, or osteoporosis
- Individuals who experience chest pressure or pain with exertion, or who develop fatigue or 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
- Person who are morbidly obese
Improve Your Relationships
Healthy living isn't just about your personal habits for, say, diet and activity. It's also about your connections with other people — your social network.
DeWall, the University of Kentucky social psychologist, offers these tips for broadening your social network:
- Look for people like you. The details of their lives don't have to match yours, but look for a similar level of openness. “What really is important in terms of promoting relationship well-being is that you share a similar level of comfort in getting close to people,” DeWall says. For instance, he says that someone who needs a lot of reassurance might not find the best relationship with someone who's more standoffish. “Feel people out in terms of, ‘Does this person seem like me in terms of wanting to be close to other people?'” DeWall suggests.
- Spend time with people. “There's this emphasis in our culture that you need to be very independent — an army of one, you can get along on your own,” DeWall says. “Most people don't know their neighbors as much as they did 50 or 60 years ago.”
- Build both virtual and face-to-face relationships. DeWall isn't against having online connections to other people. “But I think long term, having all of your relationships online or virtual … would probably be something that wouldn't be as beneficial as having a mix” of having virtual and in-person relationships.
- If a close relationship is painful, get help. “Some of my work and some work that other people are doing suggest that … when you feel rejected by someone, that your body actually registers it as pain. So if I'm in a relationship that's really causing me a lot of pain, then we need to do something, we need to go and seek help,” DeWall says.