How many times have we made New Year resolutions but never followed through? We regret and wait for that time of the year again. But our health will not wait for the next New Year to come along. It’s time to celebrate good health NOW!
Researchers are hard at work trying to perfect techniques such as gene therapy and stem cell therapy which may one day be used to turn the biological clock backwards and let us humans live for hundreds of years. But while we wait for such breakthroughs to happen, we are going in the opposite direction – turning the clock forward. What is the use of living for a thousand years, if it means spending the last 300 or 500 years in a nursing home?
Irrespective of the number of years we live, don’t we want to live a healthier and happier life bereft of the diseases that people suffer from today?
There are a number of lifestyle changes that could add a decade to our lives. Forget all those vague goals that you have made so often and find difficult to follow through. Break your goals into more manageable and more practical steps. Start living life the right way from today.
These changes may seem minor but they can have a huge impact on your health in the long-term…..
1. Check Your Caffeine Intake!
Nothing can be better than starting the day with a steaming cup of coffee. I’m sure you agree with me that coffee has no equal in aroma, taste and fragrance. But studies have shown that it is better to have coffee after consuming a wholesome breakfast. Drinking coffee on an empty stomach increases the production of acids in the stomach. (If you are like me, it doesn’t end with one cup).
These acids are said to be bad for the inner lining of the stomach and may cause indigestion and acidity.
This is not the only reason to curb your coffee cravings. It’s not just coffee that contains caffeine. Caffeine is present in tea, Coke, Mountain Dew, Pepsi, Dr Pepper, chocolate and energy drinks too. It’s everywhere and without realizing it, we end up consuming too much by the end of the day. The worst danger is from the “hidden” caffeine foods, according to scientists at the Center For Science in the Public Interest.
You must ensure you read all the labels on the food you buy carefully. Try not to be tempted by that mouth-watering coffee cake! Start your day with a wholesome oatmeal cereal and enjoy that steaming hot cuppa after that.
2. Eat Potassium and Protein Rich Snacks!
Our nutritional choices can be the most important gifts we give our bodies, but unfortunately, these choices are usually dictated by availability and time. It’s time you take up the simple but essential task of stocking your pantry with potassium and protein rich snacks.
- Potassium – Potassium is very important in treating diabetes and statistics reveal a scary diabetic figure. Potassium intake helps increase the functioning of pancreas. Foods rich in potassium allow insulin to be utilized better in the body.
- The best sources of potassium are foods that are fresh and unprocessed, which include fish, meats, vegetables like potatoes, fruits like apricots and bananas, citrus juices like orange juice, whole grains and dairy products. You don’t have to get confused with all these food choices. You can get your daily potassium requirements fulfilled by drinking milk, eating meats, vegetable and fruits in good quantities.
- You should pick up quick potassium rich snacks, such as baked potatoes, a handful of raisins, bananas, almonds, peanuts, milk, carrot juice and dates, instead of reaching out for that bag of chips and the Cola. These will help keep diabetes at bay.
- Protein – You also need to build up your reserves of protein too. Protein is essential for the body, and provides the much needed energy, builds muscle and also repairs broken tissue. You can eliminate the fear of clogged arteries and heart attacks with a protein-rich diet, as protein reduces triglyceride levels in the body significantly.
- On a weight loss regime? Research shows that a protein-rich diet combined with exercise works wonders for your body and assists in losing weight faster and more effectively. Lack of protein is not a problem in America; the problem is eating the wrong type of protein.
- Animal protein is loaded with saturated fat and cholesterol. It also elevates the LDL (bad) cholesterol and high levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood clogs arteries, leading to heart disease and stroke. On the other hand, plant-based protein, like the one found in soy, lowers LDL and raises HDL (good) cholesterol. This prevents any arterial plaque buildup. Vegetable protein also enhances calcium retention in the body, and reduces the risk of kidney problems and osteoporosis.
Now you know why you should add a healthy portion of protein to your diet!
3. Control Your Sugar and Sodium Intake!
- Sugar – If you are a dessert lover, I know it’s going to be hard to face this bitter truth: The less sugar you add to foods, the better your blood-fat profiles will be and the lower your cardiovascular risks. The typical American diet consists of plenty of added sugars. The food industry uses caloric sweeteners in processed foods and these ingredients increase the desirability of those foods. Sugars are found in so many of the processed foods we don’t think of as sweet. Such processed sugars may give you an emotional high briefly, but evidence clearly shows that they affect our biology and promote obesity, diabetes, tooth decay as well as depression.
- It is pretty obvious what you need to do, but the question is of having the willpower to do it.
- Take it one step at a time and leave a couple of processed foods at a time, and in a few months, you can get rid of as many packaged and processed foods as you can from your diet and your kitchen. Replace them with natural foods, such as natural fruits, vegetables and whole grains. This means shopping smart and cooking smart. It may seem difficult in the beginning but this lifestyle change is essential for the health of your family.
- Sodium – Without a second thought we pick up the salt dispenser sitting on the table and sprinkle it on everything we eat. You should not stop eating salt altogether, as a little salt is good for health. Consumption of salt and water replaces the amount lost through sweat. However, the American Heart Association advises adults to get about 2.400 milligrams of sodium per day, which is about 1 teaspoon. Going overboard with salt is very easy, taking into consideration the amount of salt there is in all the snacks we eat. You munch on those salted chips during breaks, which can be harmful.
- You are consuming too much of the regular salt (which is not good for you) on a daily basis. Try and get iodized salt if you can. Iodine is essential for the production of thyroid hormone and is a must for a pregnant woman, as less iodine can affect the brain of the fetus or an infant. The natural sources of abundant iodine are sea vegetables such as seaweed and saltwater fish. Find out more about why excessive sodium intake is bad for you.
The best way to control your cravings is to remove temptation in your home so you won’t need to exercise your willpower all the time.
4. Keep Your Skin Healthy!
Whenever we decide to lose weight, the first visible signs show in the skin, which loses its elasticity and glow. This happens due to several reasons ranging from crash dieting to lack of nutrition to lack of moisture.
A good skin care regimen will ensure your skin looks and feels its best at all times. Go for natural skin care products, such as almond oil or olive oil and apply every morning and evening. Use a loofah for the skin on the heels and under the feet, and do intensive moisturization. The mantra for skin care is and has always been to drink plenty of water throughout the day and stay hydrated.
An easy way to ensure you get enough water is to drink one glass every hour throughout your waking hours without fail, wherever you are. Three liters of water is said to be very good for your skin and overall health.
5. Pursue a Healthy Activity Everyday!
You hear it all the time! Exercise is as essential to your health as food and sleep are. Although, one hour would be perfect, you can at least take out 30 minutes to keep yourself fit and healthy, can’t you?
It can be a stroll with your friend, an outdoor game with your children or a bicycle ride in your neighborhood. Think of ways you can pursue a healthy activity each day and get your much-needed exercise. Exercise lowers your risk for all sorts of health problems, right from obesity to heart disease to depression.
Make sure this is on your must-do list and comply with it. Such activities will be helpful if you feel guilty that taking time out for the gym on a regular basis may mean giving less time for your kids. Prepare what you will be doing each day of the week in advance. Explore different options to bring in variety, such as swimming, building sand castles with your kids or jogging through your neighborhood. Ensure you stick to the schedule.
6. Avoid Computer Fatigue!
For many, work involves using a computer all day. If you happen to work on a computer for more than four hours in a day, you are prone to eye fatigue. While it may not be possible to cut down on work, it is possible to take a few precautions to keep related health issues at bay.
- Keep your monitor at least about 80 cm away from your eyes to reduce computer radiation. Get one of those radiation filters to use on your computer screen.
- Set your computer screen in the “power saver” mode, as this lessens the glare. You can also adjust the brightness of the screen to what is comfortable for you. Bright light shining directly at your eyes for long periods can trigger tension headaches. The light should be neither too bright not too dim. Turn off any color enhancements.
- Learn to blink often as it helps keep your eyes moist and reduces irritation. After every 30 minutes, move your eyes away from the computer and exercise them by looking straight and turning your eyes in all four directions. Then close your eyes and place your palms on your eyes for a few seconds. This will prevent eye strain.
- Where possible, make sure your work area is well-lit and ventilated, with plenty of air circulating.
- Although, there is no concrete evidence yet, it is said that certain plants like cacti absorb radiation. Placing some potted plants on your desk or in the surrounding areas.
7. Get Enough Sleep!
In a paper published in the “Journal of Hypertension,” it was revealed that people who sleep an average of seven hours a day have less chance of developing hypertension than those that get only six hours of sleep. They found that just one hour of extra sleep per day can make a significant difference to physical and mental health.
One of the most common reasons attributed to stress and obesity is sleep deprivation. Stress is not something that is there today and goes away tomorrow, as most of us seem to think. If you feel stressful today but feel good tomorrow, you may think everything is fine. This is not true! Stress can have long-term impact on your health. Scientists have always reasoned that stress does not affect only those living hectic lives, but others too.
Why do some people cope with stress better than others? Because they have better mechanisms for dealing with it – taking a nap, meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, and even praying can act as effective stress busters and protect the body.
Change your sleeping habits today. Resolve to establish a regular bed-time schedule. Don’t make drastic changes like setting your bed-time too early; especially if you are in the habit of sleeping in the early hours of the morning. Shift your bed-time to just half-hour earlier each month and in a few months your body will get used to sleeping earlier. This can have a big impact on your health.
If you feel you are giving up on something you have always loved, make sure you replace that need. If watching TV was your method of relaxation, you could now take up yoga or meditation to replace that need. This makes it easier to make changes to your lifestyle.
Here’s to your good health!