Top 6 Health Behaviors For a Healthy YOU
Updated: Jan 3
There is always controversy about the best diet, exercise regiment, supplements, etc., leaving us wondering what the best or healthiest choices are for us. While you can’t change your genes, or even much of the environment around you, there are some lifestyle choices you can make to boost your health and well-being.
There is overwhelming evidence that lifestyle habits such as smoking, diet and physical activity influence health and longevity. Daily habits, such as what you eat or drink, the number of hours you sleep and the amount of physical activity you engage in, have an influence on your well-being. Each behavior affects you either in a positive or negative way, and this dictates your overall heath state. Being informed and intentional about diet, physical activity, sleep, and alcohol/smoking can reduce your health risks and potentially add years to your life.
1. Getting enough sleep
Getting the right amount of sleep is as important as diet and exercise in healthy lifestyle factors. The link between sleep and life expectancy, as well as good health, is supported by research that finds 25% of people slept less than what is recommended for their ages.
A good night's sleep is important to recharge both the body and mind. It helps the body repair cells and get rid of wastes. It is important in making memories and lessens sleep deprivation, which leads to forgetfulness.
2. Being physically active
Opportunities to walk are everywhere we turn―whether that means taking a 10-minute walking break at the office or choosing stairs over elevators. Even short increments of activity can increase blood flow; releasing hormones that help us manage stress, increase alertness, and burn calories.
Thirty minutes a day of physical activity protects heart health. It also lowers the amount of bone loss as you age, lowering the risk of osteoporosis. Physical activity is a low-cost way to boost your health. Even by just washing your windows, mowing your lawn, sweeping a sidewalk, and doing other basic tasks, you’re racking up physical activity time.
3. Maintaining healthy body weight
Obesity is associated with a shorter lifespan and a higher risk of many diseases. A 2018 study looked at body mass index (BMI) and mortality over a period of 24 years found that those who were obese, a BMI of 30 to 35 meant a 27% increase in mortality. While a BMI of 35 to 40 was linked to a 93% increase.
There isn't any real magic when it comes to keeping a normal body mass index (BMI). Eating a healthy diet and exercising daily are the true "secret" for most people.
4. Not smoking
Smoking accounts for some 480,000 deaths per year in the United States alone. If you do smoke this will likely be the hardest behavior to change. If you want the chance to live well for however long you live, do not smoke or chew tobacco. Resources for help can be found through the American Lung Association.
Despite the hype over the benefits of red wine, it should be used in moderation. While it has been found to offer protective health benefits through flavonoids such as resveratrol, you can find that in red grapes and even peanuts. Women who have three drinks per week have a 15% higher risk of breast cancer and the risk goes up another 10% for every additional drink they have each day. Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest no more than 1 drink a day for women and no more than 2 drinks a day for men. That equates to 12-ounces of beer, 5-ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor. Excessive use leads to long-term health risks.
6. Eating a healthy diet
A healthy diet gives you energy and lowers your risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other diseases. Start with filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables. ChooseMyPlate.gov has suggestions of serving sizes, health benefits and food choice tips.
One place to begin is with the well-regarded Mediterranean diet. It's rich in many of the healthiest foods and naturally limits less healthy choices. The more you follow the Mediterranean diet, the lower your risk of a host of diseases. Research has found that people who chose a Mediterranean diet lowered their risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and other diseases.
All of these behaviors may seem like common-sense advice that you've heard many times, and there's a reason for that. They are all backed by data, and new medical research continues to point in the same healthy direction. Developing healthy lifestyle behaviors is not just about focusing on specific behaviors that address a certain health problem, but by devoting yourself to daily healthy habits to ensure complete well-being.
Written by Tiffany Dean, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern
5. My Plate