Can the choices you make really affect your health and wellness? Absolutely! Cancer, heart disease, lung disease, stroke, and injury, the major causes of death and health problems, can all be prevented by choosing a healthy lifestyle. Consider adopting one or many of the suggested health changes below:
The Top 10 things You Can Do To Promote Personal Health and Wellness
- Choose not to smoke. Of all the healthy lifestyle choices you make, this one could be the most important. Smoking causes emphysema, cancer, and heart disease and is responsible for 440,000 American deaths every year.
- See your doctor regularly. "Everyone should see their doctor for regular blood pressure checks as well as cancer screening and immunizations. It is important for people over 50 to be screened for colon cancer and women over 40 to be screened for breast cancer. Women should also have a yearly PAP smear up until age 65," advises John Spangler, MD, professor of family and community medicine at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC. "Children under age 18 should be seen regularly for checkups and also for counseling on health choices regarding smoking, drugs, and sexuality." Dr. Spangler also stresses the importance of immunizations: "Tetanus should be updated every 10 years and there is really no good reason not to get a flu shot. Flu shots for children decrease the impact of flu on the entire community. Updating pertussis immunization is also becoming more important. For people over age 65, the shingles vaccine is a good idea."
- Choose a healthy diet. What you eat is a big part of your health and wellness. Heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers are linked to what you eat. "You should reduce your intake of red meat and animal fat. Eat plenty of whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Substitute fish for red meat at least once a week. It's also important to drink enough water to promote healthy digestion," advises Spangler. Try replacing soda or coffee with a glass of water. If you want to eat more, feel full, and gain less, include a lot of fiber in your diet.
- Choose to exercise regularly. Exercise is the answer for health and wellness as well as stress relief. Says Spangler, "Depending on your age and condition, you should start low and go slow, but try to work up to 20 to 30 minutes at least three times a week." If you are able, you should try to get 30 to 60 minutes of exercise 4 to 6 times per week to prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, and depression.
- Get enough sleep. "Most people need about 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Sleep is right up there with diet and exercise as an important part of health and wellness. Sleep is natural, healing, and restorative. Unfortunately, many Americans skimp on sleep to be more productive," notes Spangler.
- Limit your alcohol. Drinking too much is a sure way to interfere with a healthy lifestyle. Alcohol in excess can cause liver damage and contribute to head and neck cancer. Alcohol is a major factor in traffic deaths, violence, and suicide. "Anything more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women is too much," advises Spangler.
- Watch your weight. For many Americans, being overweight interferes with health and wellness. Carrying too much weigh increases all the common disease risks and also puts stress on your weight bearing joints that contributes to arthritis. "It's hard to lose weight, but I tell patients to take the focus off the scale," says Spangler. "Start getting active, and make the right diet choices. Even if you don't see the results at first, everything you are doing to lose weight is contributing to a healthier lifestyle."
- Take care of your teeth. You only get one set of permanent teeth. Poor dental heath can be expensive, painful, and interfere with overall wellness. Brush your teeth twice a day, floss every day, and see your dentist regularly.
- Get educated. People who take an active role in their own health care experience better health and wellness. Good health consumers do their own research and become good advocates for themselves. "You should know what your blood pressure is, what your weight is, and what your cholesterol is," says Spangler.
- Don't forget your emotional health. Health and wellness also means a healthy emotional and social life. "Take time for yourself. Women especially may get so wrapped up in their work and home responsibilities that they neglect their emotional needs. People are social animals and we need to maintain supportive social relationships. That doesn't mean just sitting in front of the television together," says Spangler.
Understanding the importance of health screening and prevention, making good choices in your diet, and being actively involved in promoting your own physical and emotional well-being are all part of a healthy lifestyle.
By Chris Iliades, MD for Everyday Health