The Health and Wellness Habits That Could Save Your Life

One of my greatest assets is my healthy body.

Without my health, I am of little use to anyone; my family, my company, my community, and the list goes on. So, I have a big responsibility and interest in staying healthy.

Much of what causes illness is within our control. The top causes of death are: coronary heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. The more important question is; ‘What causes the causes of death?’ The five most common causes are; stress, smoking, overweight, lack of exercise and excessive drinking.

Some things can’t be controlled (your age, family history of diseases, gender). But others can. And those things aren’t a huge surprise — you already know not to smoke, skip your exercise routine, drink too much, or eat crappy food.

It’s interesting, though, how all of the major diseases are caused by the same things: smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise, excessive alcohol and stress.

Here is a list the habits you may need to change, and a simple way to go about changing them.

The 5 New Habits You May Need to Form

1. Reduce stress. Stress is a risk factor for heart disease and high blood pressure, which is in itself a risk factor for stroke. Learn to be efficient with your time and delegate or eliminate whenever possible those tasks that stress you out. Exercise every day to relieve stress.

2. Exercise. You don’t need me to tell you to exercise, but listen to this: lack of exercise is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, colon & rectal cancers, diabetes, breast cancer, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. If you don’t exercise, you’re just asking to get a major disease. It’s almost a magic pill: do a bit of exercise every day, and you will be healthier. You don’t need much — start with 5 minutes every morning.

3. Drink more water.  Most people don’t drink enough water. Keep water on your desk or at your side at all times and you will find you will be reaching for it more often. Like the old saying goes…”Out of sight, out of mind.”

4. Eat more fruits & veggies. This is obvious, but it’s amazing how few veggies most people eat. Try substituting the pasta or potatoes with broccoli or cauliflower. Eating fruits and veggies reduces your risk of several leading diseases, and it’s one of the easiest habits to form. Eat a salad for lunch. Eat fruits with breakfast and as snacks.

5. Monitor your own blood pressure. Keeping an eye on our own blood pressure is like watching the oil pressure gauge in your car. It can prevent many major illnesses before they get out of hand. Take responsibility for your own health.

The 5 Old Habits You May Need to Break

1. Stop smoking. This is by far the most important habit to break, as it affects almost every single one of the leading causes of death. It’s also the hardest of these habits to change.

2. Eat less. (if you’re overweight). The best habit to form to lose weight is to eat less. Or eat more of things that don’t have a lot of calories, like fiber, fruits and veggies. Being overweight is just below smoking the worst risk factor for many diseases.

3. Drink less alcohol. Heavy drinking is one of the worst risk factors for many diseases. That’s more than 2 drinks of alcohol a day for men, and more than 1 drink for women. A glass of red wine is a good thing, but too many and you’re greatly increasing your risk of disease.

4. Eliminate processed foods. Eating red meats, and processed meats like sausages, bacon, canned meats and so on, is a risk factor for colon/rectal cancer, stomach cancer, and high cholesterol, which in turn is a leading risk factor for coronary heart disease and stroke. Try eat stuff that grew on a plant, not stuff that was processed in a plant.

5. Reduce salt, and saturated/trans fats. Salt and saturated or trans fats are found in so many processed or prepared foods, and they increase risks of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which increase risk for heart disease and stroke.

How to Form or Break Habits

This might seem like a lot to change, if you’re not already doing these things. However, it is possible!

Here’s how to get started:

  • Change just one habit at a time. It doesn’t matter which one. Just choose one. You’ll want to do more than one, but don’t.
  • Create positive habits you enjoy. If you enjoy it, the habit change will be easy. Replace smoking with positive habits you enjoy that fulfill the needs that smoking now fulfills. Replace TV time with a walk around the block.
  • Start small. Just do 5 minutes the first week, and try to be consistent as possible. Small change is by far the most effective method for changing habits. Gradual change lasts because it becomes your new habit.
  • Make it known. Find a partner or group to change the habit with you. That way you’re more likely to stick with it.

Disease is not caused by a single day of unhealthy living. Neither is wellness the result of one day of healthy living.

Healthy living is possible. It’s just doesn’t happen overnight.

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