If you lead a healthy lifestyle, you can cut your risk of a vast array of diseases including cancer, hypertension, heart disease and stroke, diabetes, memory loss, osteoporosis, backache, and even heartburn. So say the experts.
But what is a healthy lifestyle? A healthy lifestyle is a set of habits that promote optimum health and prevent chronic illnesses such as the above. Here is a checklist of healthy lifestyle habits. How do your habits measure up against them?
Abstention from smoking
Smoking is associated with innumerable health problems including cancer, heart disease and strokes, gum disease, and miscarriage and birth defects. If you are at all serious about your health and you smoke, quitting smoking is an absolutely essential first step.
A good diet is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle.
- Eat at least five servings (2½ cups) of fruits and vegetables daily (not counting potatoes). It is even better to aim for nine daily servings of fruits and vegetables (the equivalent of 2½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit).
- Eat oily fish twice weekly and eat foods rich in alpha-linolenic acid, such as walnuts, and flaxseeds.
- Reduce your intake of saturated and hydrogenated (trans) fat, such as butter, cheese, animal fat, and vegetable shortening.
- Use whole grains (whole wheat and brown rice) in place of potatoes, white flour, and white rice. Avoid foods and drinks that are high in sugar and low in nutrients, such as soft drinks, sugar-coated breakfast cereals, and pastries.
- Drink moderately. If you’re a man, limit to one or two drinks per day. It’s best for women not to drink daily even in moderate amounts. Avoid alcohol altogether if you have a personal or family history of breast or colon cancer or alcoholism.
Exercise and weight
Physical activity and healthy weight maintenance are an integral part of a healthy lifestyle.
- Do a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. To improve muscular strength and balance and minimize bone loss, include strength-building activities, such as weight lifting or calisthenics.
- Maintain your body-mass index (BMI) below 25. Being overweight (BMI of 25-29.5) or obese (BMI of 30 or more) increases the risk of many chronic diseases.
- Maintain your waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) below 0.8 if you’re a woman and 1.0 if you’re a man. Too much abdominal fat increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure and gall bladder disease.
Practice good oral hygiene
Brush twice daily and floss once daily. Good oral hygiene prevents cavities and gum disease; gum disease can cause heart disease.
Establish body rhythms
Your body loves rhythms. So try to stick to some important schedules. Wake up and go to sleep at about the same time every day. Eat four to five regular meals. Maintain a good weekly exercise schedule. Maintaining schedules should not contribute to boredom if you allow enough variety in the foods you eat and physical activities you perform.
Maintain healthy interpersonal relationships
Maintain healthy interpersonal relationships with your family, boss, coworkers, neighbour, and friends. Unhealthy interpersonal relationships can contribute to stress, which has the power, depending upon the degree, to seriously harm your health. This is often the hardest part of a healthy lifestyle to achieve because we cannot choose our relatives, coworkers, or boss in the same way as food and exercise. You can, however, benefit enormously by learning good interpersonal skills.