As an internal medicine physician, I am often asked by patients to boil down the keys to healthy living to an easy-to-follow list. The “Ten Commandments” listed below are my attempt to do just that. Genetics and uncontrolled environmental factors certainly play a role in a person’s health but adhering to these Ten Commandment as best as possible will certainly go a long way towards putting the odds in your favor.
While everyone thinks of lung cancer or emphysema as the major health risks of smoking, smoking is also a major risk factor for stroke, heart attacks, heart failure and cancers of almost every other part of the body. And it’s never too late to quit. Risks of certain smoking-related conditions might not return all the way to baseline but they will certain decrease significantly.
Everyone should know their Body Mass Index or BMI – a scoring system that lets you know if you are at a healthy weight or not. Once you know your height and weight, simply enter them into one of the many online calculators available. If your BMI indicates you are overweight or obese, diet and exercise will be your main areas of attack.
What’s typically in the center of the grocery store? Processed foods with lots of preservatives and simple carbohydrates! What’s typically in the periphery of the store? Fresh vegetables, fruits and lean meats/fish which should be the main staples of your diet.
We are unfortunately a sedentary society, often sitting at desks all day and relying too heavily on automobiles, escalators and elevators to get around. Most people think of exercise as only being done in a gym or on high-tech exercise machines, but staying active can be achieved by incorporating small changes in your everyday routine. For instance, why not schedule a ½ hour a day to walking outside or through the halls of your workplace? Why not take the stairs? Why not park a little farther from the entrance to the shopping center? In the long run, these little changes will add up to an overall improvement in your health and well-being.
For most people, a glass of wine per day (if your doctor approves) is probably fine and has some evidence-based health benefits. However, an average of 2 or more alcoholic drinks per day for a man or 1 or more alcoholic drinks a day for a woman is considered excessive alcohol use. This means that the health problems associated with alcohol such as liver damage, stomach ulcers, and high blood pressure begin to rise once these amounts are surpassed. Of course, these are general guidelines and there is some leeway but these numbers should be kept in mind in regards to alcohol ingestion and how it might possibly affect your health.
Good oral hygiene and regular cleaning are key to keeping your mouth in good shape and avoiding tooth loss and gum disease. It might also reduce your chances of heart disease, given a recently discovered link between the two.
Motor vehicle accidents are a major cause of death and life-changing injuries in our country. Fastening your seatbelt is the single most important measure you can take to improve your chances of surviving or reducing the injuries from a collision.
Meditation is not just for practitioners of Yoga but can be enjoyed by anyone with a few minutes to spare. It simply involves clearing the mind of all concerns and worries and focusing on a single relaxing thing for a set period of time. We do this when we are enjoying a favorite hobby or past-time like gardening or knitting or even in the midst of exercising. And never underestimate the power of a positive outlook: the “glass half full” mentality has been strongly linked to longer life spans.
Strong supportive relationships with friends and family are not only enjoyable but also strongly linked to better health outcomes and longer life spans.
An excellent website with more information about healthy living is http://www.cdc.gov/healthyliving/.