How to Make 2019 Your Healthiest Year Yet
It’s that time of year again – time to assess what’s working well in your life and what things you can change to improve your overall well-being.
Exercise your body and engage your mind
We’ve all heard that physical activity is important for maintaining optimal health. But it can’t be overstated – exercise is one of the most important ways to keep both body and mind in shape. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), exercise can help maintain health in a number of ways:
- Losing weight
- Reducing your risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers
- Strengthening bones and muscles
- Keeping the brain healthy and the mind sharp
- Extending the length and quality of your life
The good news is that you don’t need to become married to the gym or spend lots of time or money to get fit. The U.S. Government’s Physical Activity Guidelines recommend just 30 minutes of physical activity a day, which can include walking, jogging, biking, or playing sports. The American Heart Association says 30 minutes a day just five times a week will help. And you don’t even need to do all 30 minutes at once. A study conducted by the University of Utah School of Medicine found that getting up and moving (which could include something as simple as walking) at least two minutes for every hour of sitting results in a 33 percent lower risk of death.
Numerous studies show that physical activity also helps the brain and may reduce cognitive decline. But don’t stop with physical activity. Mentally exercise your mind by learning a new skill. Engaging in mentally stimulating activities may help protect your brain from the effects of beta-amyloid deposits, which are destructive proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Adopt a more healthy diet
The US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that unhealthy eating and inactivity cause between 310,000-580,000 deaths every year, more than any other single cause. We just talked about the importance of exercise. Healthy eating is just as important to staying healthy and aging well. According to the CDC, good nutrition can help lower the risk for many chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis and some cancers. Here are some tips on how to eat a more healthful diet:
- Load up on fruits and vegetables.
- Reduce your intake of processed meats.
- Trade in “bad” fats for “good” ones – switch from trans fats and fatty red meats to olive oil, avocados, fish and walnuts.
- Eat foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as wild salmon, sardines, herring and flax seeds.
- Reduce the amount of processed sugar you consume.
Get enough sleep
Finally, make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Numerous studies have demonstrated the importance of sleep for forming memories, reducing depression, and maintaining both emotional and physical health. Another benefit of sleep is that it allows the brain to flush out toxins. A study conducted by the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York discovered that “sleep changes the cellular structure of the brain.” The study found that the space between brain cells in mice increased during sleep, allowing toxins to be flushed out. In a separate study, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley discovered that poor sleep can cause the buildup of beta-amyloid deposits. The bottom line: A good night’s sleep is essential for maintaining health.