People who follow a few simple steps to improve their health have less cancer and heart disease compared to other Americans, and their overall death rate is significantly reduced compared to other people under age 65. Here are ten choices you can make that will lead to a longer and healthier life:
1. EXERCISE FOR 20 MINUTES OR MORE AT LEAST 3 TIMES A WEEK: Exercise reduces stress, enhances sleep, strengthens your heart, and may reduce your risk of developing several types of cancer. A minimum of three 20-minute sessions of aerobic exercise each week, such as brisk walking, bicycle riding, swimming, or jogging are required for cardiovascular fitness. Remember to always check with your doctor before starting any aerobic exercise program.
2. AVOID HEAVY DRINKING: Excess daily alcohol intake (more than two ounces of hard liquor, four ounces of wine, or 16 ounces of beer per day) can raise your risk of developing cancer and make you prone to having a heart attack. Also, alcohol has nearly twice the soporific effect on women as compared to men.
3. CUT YOUR FAT INTAKE: On average, Americans consume more fat than their bodies need. This results in elevated cholesterol and higher rates of heart disease and cancer. No more than 20 -25% of your total calories should come from fat. Avoid all fried foods and fatty meat. The fat found in nuts and ocean fish is healthy.
4. INCREASE COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES: Pasta, baked sweet potatoes, fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads, oatmeal, and other cereals are proven to lower cholesterol levels while reducing chances of colon cancer. Especially avoid “simple” sugars such as soft drinks, candy, and granulated sugar.
5. REDUCE STRESS: Get on a regular program of meditation, exercise, or other stress reducers. Join a church. Do yoga. Allow yourself twenty minutes daily to do whatever you want to do. Sudoku, crossword puzzles and stretching are my favorite.
6. AVOID EXCESSIVE EXPOSURE TO THE SUN: Although it is important to enjoy being outdoors, exposure to the sun can cause deadly melanoma or other skin cancers. Make sure you wear a sunscreen of at least SPF 15 when you are going to be outdoors in sunny weather.
7. GET LEAN: Slightly overweight women (5-14% overweight) increased their risk of a heart attack by 30%. Those women 15-29% overweight increased their risk by 80%. Similar statistics are assumed for men. Abdominal adiposity increases the risk of diabetes.
8. WATCH YOUR CAFFEINE: Too much caffeine can give you the jitters, cause insomnia, and initiate an irregular or fast heart rate. Know what is in your favorite beverage (e.g. caffeine, sugar, and other additives.) Water is always the best, but herbal tea or decaffeinated coffee or tea are fine.
9. DO NOT USE TOBACCO: A recent study revealed that this single step could add an average of 18 years to a 30 year old’s life. Second-hand smoke also causes 3,800 lung cancer deaths per year. The effects of smoking kill 390,000 Americans every year. The risk of a heart attack is lowered by half after only a year of abstinence.
10. TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR HEALTH: Remember to exercise, eat right, reduce stress and get plenty of rest so you can live a happy, healthier life. Get a physical exam yearly and “Know Your Numbers” (e.g. blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure). Have a vision of yourself in the future as a healthy, happy, and active individual.