Often, the most important actions to follow are ones you know, ones you’ve read and heard time and time again. They are the everyday garden variety recommendations. This goes for my top five habits to improve your health and longevity. I’m going to ask you to read them not in search of the new and sexy, but rather read in search of opportunities to adjust and improve your own health habits. Ultimately, it’s not so much what we know that influences our lives, but rather what we act on and what we habitually do. Where can you improve?
Eat Plenty of Produce
Produce is the food category that has both the largest limits, meaning we’d benefit by eating more, but many eat them in fewer quantity. Produce is unique because it possesses high amounts of high value, health protecting nutrients found less often or not at all in other food groups. I don’t mean just the fiber, vitamins and minerals, but the phytonutrients, or plant nutrients of which there are many thousands of. Some phytonutrients have antioxidant properties like flavonoids and carotenoids found in winter berries and carrots. Antioxidants are invaluable because they protect us from the free radicals that we continuously generate and are exposed to. They protect the integrity of our DNA, cell membranes, and our arterial walls to name a few. Other phytonutrients include sulfur-containing compounds like glucosinolates. Sulforaphane is the best example. These compounds support the immune system and have anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and antimicrobial properties. You’ll find them in garlic, onions, and cruciferous vegetables.
Get Enough Good Sleep
The consequences of regularly getting inadequate sleep run deep and can easily override our favorable health habits. To prevent inadequate sleep from squandering away the benefits of your exercise routine and a nutritious diet, aim for around eight hours of sleep each night. And as important as it is to get enough quality sleep, it’s equally important that bedtime is set for closer to 9 PM. Not only does proper sleep impact how we feel and function like improving our mood, attitude, and energy; but studies show that enough good sleep most importantly helps decrease our risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer, effectively helping address three top causes of mortality. Adequate sleep also has a profoundly positive impact on our physique by dampening excess hunger, reducing food cravings and by supporting a more robust metabolism.
Maintain Medical Care and Get Your Labs Tested
Occasionally, people tell me they haven’t been to their doctor or had testing done in several years because they don’t like going. Some even say they don’t “like” doctors. On questioning, they explain that they just don’t find the advice all that helpful and are tired of just being prescribed medications. Many further explain that with conventional care they never receive advice on food and nutrition as it relates to their health. I understand the frustration, but there is a big problem with forgoing medical care. Often chronic diseases run silent and go unrecognized without screening and testing. They cause more organ damage and become more challenging to treat as they smolder along.
To make the most of your healthcare options search for and add the care you need. Many individuals enlist the care of naturopathic doctors, not only for a different perspective on their health, but for an approach that focuses on addressing the root causes of disease. Individuals benefit from naturopathic doctors by receiving innovative laboratory testing routinely overlooked by conventional practitioners. Thorough testing affords more insight on your unique health risks and helps inform the best preventative strategies to take to optimize your health.
Avoid Excess Calories
As Americans, we are exposed to an excessive amount of easily accessible calories. According to many evolutionary biologists, we are designed to store energy in the form of fat to survive times of scarcity. The consequences are many, excess calories increase obesity rates, decrease our mobility, and increase inflammation and pain. Excess calories are also associated with increased risk of a host of diseases like diabetes mellitus type 2, some cancers, osteoarthritis and sleep apnea. Preliminary research links exposure to less calories and less frequent feeding to decrease rates of most of these chronic diseases along with better overall health and longevity. A good starting place is to make sure you aren’t overeating. If you routinely have second helpings, frequently eat between meals and often eat late at night, you are probably overfeeding. Avoiding these behaviors is the most important step in bringing your calories into balance and easing your pathway to health.
Exercise Several Times Each Week
Our excessive exposure to calories is compounded by our sedentary culture and lifestyle. Consider how the typical career is more commonly sedentary. If your job requires a good bid of physical activity or you’re physically active in your retirement and you already have established a steady and consistent exercise routine, you’re ahead of the curve. Exercise and fitness help treat and prevent many of the most common, chronic diseases, notably obesity and diabetes. Exercise also helps improve how we function by improving our mood, sleep, and energy. Exercise even decreases inflammation, addressing a common denominator of most every chronic disease. Exercise also improves flexibility, balance, strength and our physique. If you have yet to commit to regular exercise this is your friendly reminder. Moderately paced daily walks are a good place to start if you haven’t been physically active. Plan to progress to more intense activity over time.
These five habits to improve your health and longevity, when collectively followed, can help prevent and ease treatment of chronic disease and promote a longer healthier life. No one habit is more important than another, but any habit you have not included in your lifestyle would be the one to consider prioritizing. Information does not need to be new or exotic to be high value and impactful. Eating at least five to seven servings of produce each day, getting enough good quality sleep, maintaining routine medical care, avoiding excess calories and exercising are five of the most important habits to improve your health and longevity.
Dr. Ayo Bankole is a state licensed doctor providing Regenerative Medicine for over a decade. He has advanced training in the technique and is a member of the American Osteopathic Association of Prolotherapy Regenerative Medicine, www.prolotherapycollege.org, and American College for Advancement in Medicine, www.acam.org and the California Association of Naturopathic Doctors, www.calnd.org.