Five Ways to Lead a Long and Healthy Life
Did you make any New Year’s resolutions this year? For those who use this time of year to set goals, many put health-related ambitions at the top of their list (lose weight, go to the gym more, eat more healthfully). More people should also schedule regular health screenings such as prostate cancer testing and colonoscopy. If living a longer and healthier life is on your to-do list this year, here are some things that will help you get there.
The need for physical activity is undeniable. Study after study has shown that exercise helps increase both health and longevity. Many people avoid exercise because it seems like too much work. Paying for a gym membership and finding the time to go may seem overwhelming. Getting up early to run or work out can cut in on precious sleep time (which is also essential for optimum health). The good news is that it doesn’t necessarily take a lot of effort to gain the benefits of physical activity. People who live in “Blue Zones” (areas where people have longer life spans than the rest of the world) do what comes naturally, engaging in such enjoyable activities as gardening, hiking, biking, swimming, and more. Find something you enjoy (walking the dog, dancing, snow skiing, beach volleyball) and staying active won’t feel like such a challenge.
Eat more nutritiously
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a poor diet and physical inactivity (see above) cause between 310,000-580,000 deaths every year and are major contributors to numerous physical ailments including diabetes, obesity, stroke, and osteoporosis. Numerous studies have shown that people who follow the Mediterranean diet enjoy many health benefits, including reduced risk of numerous diseases and mortality. The Mediterranean and similar diets (such as the MIND diet) focus on eating lots of fruits and vegetables (particularly leafy green vegetables), relying on fish and poultry for your main protein sources, eating healthful fats and oils (like avocados and olive oil) and limiting intake of red meat and sweets. You can even enjoy a glass a red wine with your meal!
Engage your mind in learning new things
Every time you learn a new skill, your brain grows a little bit stronger and may even be building up defenses to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. According to the late Arnold Scheibel, who headed up UCLA’s Brain Research Institute, “anything that’s intellectually challenging can probably serve as a kind of stimulus for dendritic growth, which means it adds to the computational reserves in the brain.” Simply put, stimulating the mind encourages brain cells to grow, which may ward off the effects of dementia. Brain autopsies have shown that many people who have high levels of beta-amyloid plaques – an indicator of Alzheimer’s – never show any signs of the disease. Many scientists believe this may be because of regular exposure to new activities.
Become more spiritual
People of faith – and this is a very broad tent, including those who simply believe there’s more to our existence that what we can experience with the five senses – appear to live longer and lead healthier lives than those who aren’t spiritual. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association/Internal Medicine showed that women attending a religious service more than once per week had a 33 percent lower all-cause mortality rate compared to women who never attended religious services. In a study conducted at Columbia University, researchers reported that a spiritual practice was associated with a thicker cerebral cortex, which may protect against depression.
Find a purpose in life
Having a reason to get up in the morning goes a long way to increase health and well-being. This can be as simple as walking the dogs to as complex as wanting to make the world a better place to live. Whatever motivates you can provide the fuel for good health and a longer life. A study published in Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine showed that possessing a purpose in life is associated with a reduced risk for both mortality and cardiovascular disease. If finding purpose is a challenge for you, consider volunteering. This is a powerful way to create purpose and comes with many health benefits. According to the Corporation for National & Community Service, those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability and lower rates of depression later in life that those who do not volunteer.
See how you can live an active lifestyle and lead a long, healthy life at an Era Living community.