In this series, we have focused mainly on food and suggested dietary changes that one should consider. But there is so much more to health and wellness than just making dietary changes and understanding how to make the best food choices. So, let’s talk about the other things you can do to get and stay healthy.
Have you ever heard the expression, “Anything you don’t use, you lose?” If you do not remain physically active, you will lose strength, flexibility, muscle mass, and stamina. As you age this will hasten your physical and mental decline. The current recommendation for exercise is 150 minutes (2.5 hours) a week. That breaks down to 30 minutes of exercise on five out of seven days. You can go for a walk, jog, swim, bicycle, line dance, or even do Pilates. All of these can be done at home. You do not have to incur the additional cost of joining a gym. Your task is absolutely to challenge yourself and improve over time. For example, when you first begin your regimen, it might take you 30 minutes to walk two miles. Then, simply try to increase the distance that you cover in those 30 minutes. It doesn’t have to happen overnight. But if you don’t challenge yourself and make improvements to your time/distance ratio then you will not see the health benefits that you seek. Exercise will help you maintain a healthy weight and lessen your risk of developing diseases because of your sedentary lifestyle.
Exercise also helps to decrease stress. There is good stress and bad stress. Good stress can cause you to succeed in a sporting event or solve a complex math problem. The effects of good stress are short-term. Bad stress negatively impacts your health and well-being. Examples of bad stress include worrying about your safety if you are in an abusive situation, being ill, or caring for an ill family member or friend. Something that wears on you physically and emotionally daily with little or no relief. Negative stress can trigger illnesses like migraines, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal issues, and heart problems. Stress can be reduced through exercise, listening to music, talking to a trusted confidante, or simply taking a bubble bath. It is important to find ways to relax your body and your mind so as not to suffer from a self-induced medical or emotional condition.
Sleep is also important to your health and well-being. More and more studies are linking reduced or insufficient sleep as a precursor to dementia. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, insufficient sleep can put you at risk for driving drowsy and inattention which can result in accidents and injuries. If you are having trouble sleeping, you need to talk to your doctor. There could be an underlying health problem preventing you from getting enough sleep and feeling rested.
Speaking of your doctor, regular checkups and health screenings are essential to maintaining your health and well-being. Nobody likes going to the doctor, but yearly physical and age-related screenings could prevent or catch a serious medical condition before it becomes a serious medical condition, such as cancer, high blood pressure, and diabetes. All of these, if caught early, are treatable and can have a positive outcome.
Smoking or rather quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health. There are fewer smokers today than there were 40 or 50 years ago. At one time, approximately 42% of Americans were smokers. With the Surgeon General’s 1957 report, we became aware of the fact that smokers have a higher risk of heart attack, stroke, lung disease, and throat, mouth, and lung cancer. In his 2014 book, Blowing Smoke: The Lost legacy of the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health, Alan M. Blum finds that the efforts to curb smoking in the U.S. began in 1964. The then Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Luther L. Terry, released a review based on over 7,000 articles from biomedical literature which concluded that cigarette smoking:
- Is a cause of lung cancer and laryngeal cancer in men.
- Is a probable cause of lung cancer in women.
- Is the most important cause of chronic bronchitis.
As a result of the continued research into the effects of smoking, the adoption of laws continue to this day requiring health warnings on cigarette packages, banning cigarette advertising in broadcast media, and calling for annual reports on smoking’s health consequences.
Lastly, practice safe sex. While condoms are not 100% foolproof, they go a long way to preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV, syphilis, and gonorrhea. There are regions of the country where sexually transmitted diseases have reached epidemic proportions. It is important to protect yourself. The long-term consequences of untreated sexually transmitted diseases can result in sterility, damage to a fetus, and even death to the fetus or untreated adult.
In life, there are so many things that we cannot control. So, why not try to control the things that are within our ability to control? That will ensure that we have the best quality of life for as long as we have life. Get some exercise. Manage your stress. Get some sleep. See your doctor. Stop smoking and practice safe sex. See you next month!