Be Smart: Focus on a Healthier Lifestyle to Live a Longer Life
Whether you are in the middle of your career or embracing retirement, a healthy lifestyle is key to staying “on the go”. And it’s all about getting back to basics. Guest blogger Sarah Cummings shares research and tips that can help us all live a healthier and longer life:
In this topsy-turvy life there’s one constant. Nothing lasts forever. This certainly applies to our health.
Unfortunately the older we get the less healthy we generally become and the closer the crooked finger of death creeps. While scientists and the tech geniuses in Silicon Valley have discovered many wondrous things, the secret to immortality remains tantalizing out of their reach. So far anyway!
That’s not to say, however, that each of us can’t take certain steps to improve our odds of having a healthier, happier and above all, longer life.
Practice Portion Control
Fad diets come and go. Avoid fat, eat more fat, etc., etc. It can be hard to keep up sometimes. One piece of advice that will never go out of style, however, is this – eat in moderation.
Overeating is the curse of modern times. Our ancestors simply couldn’t really afford to overeat. Today, however, thanks to the advent of industrial scale farming, food is cheap, really cheap. And we take advantage of that to the detriment of our health. So much so, that in the US, over a third of all adults are now clinically obese. Yikes!
Generally speaking, the larger your waist becomes, the shorter your life will be. Extra pounds bring an increased risk of diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, liver and kidney disease. And the list goes on and on.
Keeping a healthy weight keeps you healthier, and will extend your life. The Japanese employ a fascinating concept known as Hara Hachi Bu, or only eating until you are 8/10ths full. Considering our friends in the Far East have the highest proportion of centenarians on the planet they must be getting something right. Time to say konnichiwa to portion control!
Get Outside More
So potent an effect does nature have on our wellbeing that it’s been found just looking at photos of outdoor scenes is enough to trigger activity in regions of the brain associated with happiness. Wow! Go Mother Nature.
Getting outside, be it an afternoon in the park or a week in the woods, has been found to be a very effective way to reduce the levels of cortisol in our bloodstream. Cortisol also known as the “stress hormone”. This powerful neurotransmitter is Public Enemy Number 1 when it comes to our health.
Raised levels of cortisol have been linked to anything from anxiety and depression to impaired immune function, raised blood pressure, increased weight gain, and even heart disease. Uh-oh!
One fascinating study conducted in 2015 followed over 100,000 American women and tried to determine the relationship between nature and longevity. The results were great new for nature lovers. Women who lived closer to parks, trees, lawns and forests showed significantly lower mortality rates than women who lived far from nature.
Get More Sleep
Getting more sleep is the single greatest thing anyone can do for their health, happiness and longevity. And the best thing is it doesn’t cost you a thing, all you have to do is roll over and hit snooze!
The importance of getting your vitamin Zzzzs is illustrated by the long list of health conditions that are made more likely when you don’t. Poor sleep has been linked to increased rates of anxiety, stress, depression and even suicide. It’s been connected to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, cancer and even Alzheimer’s. The list goes on and on.
And on top of all the physical and mental health risks to sleeping badly, it also gives you bags under your eyes and pasty skin. Urgh. No thanks!
There are a whole range of easy wins when it comes to improving your sleep. Sticking to a regular bedtime, avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the evening, banning screens from your bedroom and ensuring your bed is fit for purpose. And that’s just for starters!
Work Less, Socialize More
One thing I can guarantee that nobody has ever said on their deathbed is, “Oh, I just wish I had spent more time in the office sending emails.”
Work is obviously an unavoidable part of most of our lives. Unless you happen to have very rich parents. Lucky you! For the rest of us plebs getting the work-life balance is essential to improving our health, happiness and longevity.
The more time you spend stuck behind your desk the less time you get to spend with your friends and family. Research has shown this can be very bad for your health.
One particularly interesting study conducted by Brigham Young University estimated that not having a close social circle to be twice as harmful as obesity, worse for your health than not exercising at all and possibly even had the equivalent impact on your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Jeez! Time to get the gang back together maybe!
Well, there you have immortality seekers – nothing too complicated there. The secret to a healthier, happier and longer life, is basically all about getting back to basics and focusing on a few important things, like sleep, friends, getting into nature and eating a healthy diet. Simple really!
– Sarah Cummings is a freelance writer currently writing for The Sleep Advisor. Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your research and reminding us all how critical these basic principles of a healthy lifestyle are to our longevity.