We all know the old axiom, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” (Benjamin Franklin, 1736), and though cliched and banal, it remains no less true. On the other hand, we too know the story of someone in our acquaintanceship or family who lived to a ripe old age and religiously drank pop, ate biscuits with nary a vegetable in sight, and smoked a pack of cigarettes per day. That is called an anecdote, and in this instance, a bit of an aberration in the normal distribution within the population.
In general, persisting with chronically poor lifestyle choices will invite bad outcomes. We all want more time, to live just a bit longer, and though we may not be able to control many things in life, incorporating positive lifestyle changes are pivotal to the quest for longevity and maintaining a quality of life.
The body is completely dependent on the macronutrient and micronutrient components within. They provide our cells and tissues with the structure and energy they require to subsist and keep us alive. Therefore, feeding your body healthy foods, can promote its optimal physiological functioning and help to stave off disease.
1) Limit the consumption of ultra-processed foods, baked goods, red meat, sugary drinks (flavored teas and coffee, juice, and sodas) and refined carbohydrates laden with salt, fat, sugar, and saturated fats.
2) Increase the consumption of healthy fats found in nuts, seeds, cold water fish, avocado and olive oil, which are low in saturated fat and rich in monounsaturated, and the essential polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega 3 and omega 6).
3) Focus on consuming complex carbohydrates rich in fiber from foods such as beans and other legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and fruits and vegetables such as bananas, citrus, apples, and cruciferous veggies (kale and broccoli). Fiber is an indigestible food component that promotes regular bowel movements, lowered cholesterol levels, satiety and weight management. Fiber also promotes a healthy microbiome, improved bowel health, intestinal mucosal integrity, and reduces the incidence of certain cancers.
4) Incorporate more vegetables and fruits which are colorful, varied, and diverse. These whole foods are rich in fiber, antioxidants such as anthocyanin, lycopene, vitamins C, A, E, in Vitamin K (necessary for proper blood clotting proteins), and many other vitamins and minerals such as zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium. They are also packed with B vitamins such as folate, which is needed for DNA and RNA replication, maintaining nervous system health and the formation of blood cells.
5) Avoid charred, smoked or preserved meats high in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, nitrates and salt. The former two of which are known carcinogens, and the latter in abundance is a risk factor in hypertension.
6) Include more plant-based proteins, such as legumes, soy products like tofu, soy milk and edamame, and lean animal proteins such as shellfish and fish, poultry, low fat dairy, yogurt and eggs.
7) Decrease the amount of alcohol you enjoy, as an excess of such is a risk factor for various cancers, heart disease, cirrhosis, and nutritional deficiencies.
8) Take a daily multivitamin if your diet is deficient in key nutrients, you have underlying disease or malabsorption issues or are pregnant. Consider other supplements for joint care if you have arthritis to reduce inflammatory damage and joint destruction with JointFuel360, which contains collagen fibers, hyaluronic acid and the antioxidant/anti-inflammatory Boswellia serrata, turmeric and resveratrol.
Incorporate more activity into your daily life, in the form of deliberate exercise such as weight lifting or aerobics, gardening, housework, walking, jogging, hiking, dancing or sports pursuits. Choose activities you enjoy so that exercise becomes a frequent or daily regimen. Weekly exercise amounting to 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of intense exercise, is recommended to improve weight, metabolic health, cardiorespiratory health and capacity. It also promotes sleep, good mental and cognitive function, flexibility and strength.
For the adult population, we should aim for between 7-9 hours of sleep every day. Sleep is a vital biological function that is ubiquitous in terms of the systems it impacts from brain health to immunity, metabolism, mood, disease, as well as lung and heart health. This may be difficult in our busy lives and for those who have kids or work alternating shifts, but some tips for adequate sleep include:
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon/evening.
- Have a bedtime regime and go to bed at the same time every night.
- Remove screens at bedtime.
- Nap when you can.
- Avoid exercise 2 hours before sleeping.
Stress is imperative when an imminent threat necessitates prompt response, but chronic stress results in high cortisol levels. It can negatively impact cardiac and metabolic health (hyperglycemia), promote obesity, and poor mental health (depression and anxiety). Avoid stressful situations, decrease social media consumption, practice meditation, yoga and mindfulness. Try to get more exercise and spend more time outdoors to benefit your mental and physical health.
Personal and systematic improvements in societal hygiene have been critical in decreasing disease burden and prolonging life. Washing hands often, sneezing into your elbow or tissue and staying home when ill, are pivotal to decreasing the contraction and transmission of communicable diseases. Daily hygiene behaviors such as brushing and flossing your teeth are not only beneficial to your social life but can decrease the incidence of gingivitis and periodontitis. Which in turn, reduces the chances of needing painful dentist visitations, and systemic infections or bone loss from acute or chronic gum infections and inflammation.
Get regular STI checks, especially if you have a new partner or are pregnant and remember that condoms are the only contraceptive barrier to STI’s. Whether you are male or female, you should regularly check yourself for changes in your genitals and breasts and seek regular exams from your GP or gynecologist.
Try to attend regular clinical visits and promptly seek care if you have any concerns or symptoms. Get your blood pressure checked or consider purchasing a blood pressure cuff to diagnose early increases in blood pressure. Take a proactive approach to quit smoking. If you have existing diseases or conditions, taking your medications and making the prescribed lifestyle changes is important to lessen the symptoms, progression, and complications of diseases. Stay up to date with vaccinations and that of your dependents to prevent illness and death.
101 health and Wellness Tips for college students. 101 Health and Wellness Tips for College Students – Student Wellness Center. (2021). Retrieved February 26, 2022, from https://wellnesscenter.camden.rutgers.edu/101-health-and-wellness-tips-for-college-students/
The nutrition source. (n.d.). Retrieved February 26, 2022, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/
Polasek, K. (2021). Clearing the air on cancer risks of smoked or grilled meats. Moffitt Cancer Center. Retrieved February 26, 2022, from https://moffitt.org/endeavor/archive/clearing-the-air-on-cancer-risks-of-smoked-or-grilled-meats/
World Health Organization. (2020). 20 health tips for 2020. World Health Organization. Retrieved February 26, 2022, from https://www.who.int/philippines/news/feature-stories/detail/20-health-tips-for-2020