Upwards of 70 – 80% of a person’s life expectancy* depends on health-related behaviors or the lifestyle choices a person makes over a lifetime according to information presented in Whitney and Rolfes’ textbook, Understanding Nutrition.
Living a healthy lifestyle, making good healthy choices and avoiding poor choices can greatly increase your overall life expectancy and general well being.
How to BE HEALTHY for Life
Following these tips can help you focus on the following areas to live a healthier life, be healthy and improve the quality of your life.
Balance and Moderation
- Exercise for the Body and the Brain
- Healthy Foods
- Enough Sleep
- Aging Healthfully
- Lifestyle Choices
- Time to Unwind
- Health Checks
- Youthful Thoughts
More on the BE HEALTH Tips
Balance and Moderation
Keeping in balance means making sure that the number of calories you eat during a day equals the number of calories you use during a day; this balancing helps to maintain body weight. Balance also refers to keeping one’s professional, family and personal life being equally represented.
Moderation is eating your indulgence foods occasionally. Focus on eating healthy most of the time, but still having a little room in your daily calories for indulgences.
Exercise for the Body and the Brain
Physical Activity can be helpful for maintaining a healthy body weight and body composition. Being physically active helps in lowering one’s risk for cardiovascular diseases, improves risks of diabetes, improves mood and lowers one’s risk for depression. Being active also includes involving others whether a human or an animal companion on your walks.
The brain also needs to be kept active. Keeping the brain active involves using the brain daily by solving crossword puzzles or math equations, reading, writing, imagining and creating. Volunteering and being socially active is also a good way to keep the brain energized and active.
Focus on eating a variety of healthy foods. “Healthy Foods” include eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, cereals, breads and other grain products and legumes (beans). With dairy and meats the emphasis is on choosing lower-fat milk products, leaner meats and foods prepared with little or no fat. In addition limit the intake of salt, alcohol and caffeine.
Sleep is important for people of all ages. Getting enough sleep has been shown to increase one’s ability to fight off diseases, improve your cardiovascular health and improve mood. Sleep can also help with improving one’s ability to concentrate, learning and memory in addition to reducing irritability and impatience.
The average amount of sleep needed by people is 8 hours a night but many people can do well on 6 hours, where others need as much as 10. The absolute amount of sleep needed varies from person to person.
Perhaps the best thing for many people about getting enough sleep is having more energy to do what they like to do.
Aging healthfully includes, among others, finding ways to reduce and manage stress, being physically active, getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, making good lifestyle choices, staying socially active, watching for changes and nurturing the spirit as well as the mind.
Since 70 – 80 % of longevity depends on lifestyle choices, it is important to emphasize the good lifestyle choices and de-emphasize the poor ones.
Good lifestyle choices include eating healthy food, participating in daily physical and mental activity, getting enough sleep and minimizing stress.
Poor lifestyle choices to de-emphasize include limiting or reducing high fat foods, limiting the number of empty calories – those from sugar, fat and alcohol, quit smoking and using tobacco and limiting the amount of inactivity.
Time to Unwind
Stress can impact a person over a lifetime. Whether the stress comes from the environment or personal sources all forms cause a stress response in the body, which over time drains the body reserves making the person more susceptible to illness and disease.
Taking the time to unwind and reducing, removing and de-stressing helps lessen the negative impact on the body and improves overall health and well being.
Yearly routine exams are an important part of monitoring for potential diseases. Getting blood pressure checked, cholesterol and lipids screenings, being evaluated for risks of osteoporosis and getting basic cancer screenings (mammogram, colonoscopy and prostate exams) can to help a person “BE HEALTHY.”
In addition, it is important to watch for any changes and signs of disease and seek prompt treatment if something arises.
Author Ellen Glasgow once noted “Though it sounds absurd, it is true to say I felt younger at sixty than I felt at twenty.” There is a lot of truth in the expression, “You’re as young as you feel” so to feel young, remember to think young thoughts.
Remember that following these simple tips, making daily healthy food and lifestyle changes over a lifetime can greatly improve a person’s longevity* or your total years of life lived and also the quality of living.
To Stay Healthy as you age, you have to BE HEALTHY for life.
Words Used Defined
Life expectancy is the average number of years lived by people in a given society.
Longevity is having a long life span.
© 2008 Kirsti A. Dyer MD, MS, CWS.