“No one should have to choose between good health and other life”
Happy World Health Day!
Today, April 7th is the World Health Day, so let’s celebrate it accordingly and embrace a healthy lifestyle together.
The health situation in today’s world is difficult, to say the least. While one of the challenges for many of us in Ireland is to be seen by the GP and then get seen by a specialist if required because of the long waiting lists, for over ½ of our world’s population the challenges are much-much worse. With GP and procedures fees, with insurance costs through the roof, for at least ½ of our population health care is not available at all. The cost of health care pushes people into poverty and health expenses are only rising.
Of course, it is sometimes impossible to eradicate all diseases by doing certain things one way or another, but there are aspects to a lifestyle that are known to reduce your chances of getting a disease and help you to stay healthy.
If you want to support the WHO’s work on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by raising awareness, you can visit their website.
If you are looking for ways to improve your own health and embrace a healthier lifestyle, stay with me.
We need a proper health care, not a sick care.
5 PRINCIPLES OF HEALTH
There are 5 things that define our lifestyles as either healthy or unhealthy. Although more things can probably be added, these 5 make the most impact on your health and well-being. They are
- Healthy Diet
- No smoking, drugs or alcohol
- Be Positive
A lot can be said here as everybody has a different definition of a healthy diet. There are many dietary patterns, too, all competing for the 1st place prize, but in reality every diet that emphasizes whole foods is a healthy diet compared to the standard diet high in processed foods. Moreover, when different diets are compared for weight loss and health benefits, the majority of them perform more or less the same. What’s worth adding is that on any dietary pattern care should be taken to ensure that all essential nutrients are abundant. If you’re trying to follow a particular diet plan, pay attention whether the author of the plan promotes the use of supplements. A truly healthy balanced diet will not emphasize the use of nutritional supplements as ideally all essential nutrients should be consumed from food.
One of the most praised among the doctors and nutritionists dietary patterns would be the Mediterranean diet. And ideally any diet should resemble the Mediterranean diet. It should be:
- Plant-based – or based around vegetables, fruit, cereal grains, nuts and beans, with moderate meat consumption.
- Rich in fruit and veg. Aim to fill at least ½ of your plate with vegetables at each meal and have a fruit as a snack or at breakfast.
- Whole grains instead of processed white. That means switching to whole grain breads, pasta and rice. You can also try other grains and pseudo-grains as quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat – they are naturally gluten-free and offer quite a bit of protein and other nutrients. Aim to fill ¼ of your plate with grains and starches. Potato would count towards this goal.
- 30 g of nuts a day or 2 tbsp of nut butter. Nuts and seeds are healthy. They contain protein, essential fatty acids and some carbohydrates as well. They are rich in vitamins and phytonutrients. You can consume them as part of a meal, as a topping on your porridge or salad or as a snack.
- Beans and lean protein should make up another ¼ of your plate. Skip the red meat (could be consumed only occasionally), consume fish, poultry and eggs in moderation. Or go veg and skip the meat altogether in favour of more beans. Vegetarian and vegan diets have undisputed benefits, too.
- Olive oil all the way. Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acid Omega-3 that is healthier for your heart than the majority of other oil. Forego the butter and animal fats and use olive oil in cooking, salads and even spread it on toast as Mediterranean cultures do. Use it sparingly though.
- Choose low fat dairy and enjoy it in moderation. Calcium could be found in a variety of other foods, such as spinach and broccoli, so it is not necessary to consume dairy for calcium. Read the article from Harvard School of Public Health to learn more.
- Enjoy red wine in moderation and drink plenty of water. If you’re not a drinker at all, red grape juice may be a good alternative for you. Beverages made of red grapes are high in antioxidants. Alternatively, you could just include red grapes in your diet.
I doubt there is anyone who hasn’t heard about the benefits of exercise. Regular exercise assists weight loss or weight maintenance, it helps prevent disease, manage it or even reverse in some cases. Exercise helps boost your mood and prevent depression; it is of great benefit to people with various mental health illnesses. It improves your energy levels and is known to boost brain function. It is a widely known fact that people who are active perform better in school. It also helps you sleep better, so it’s worth starting an exercise routine if you have trouble with falling asleep.
Ideally, we should be active throughout the day and walk at least 5,000 steps a day. For additional benefit, aim to walk 10,000 steps on a daily basis. It is also advised to get 150 minutes of moderate activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity.
If you are a stranger to exercising, start with a brisk walk 20-40 min a few days per week or cycling/swimming instead. Once you build your stamina you can start including a more vigorous activity, eventually alternating between steady state, vigorous and resistance training. Another good type of exercise is yoga and it could be done any way – slow and calming or fast and intense. Whatever you choose, start slow and pick up your pace as you build stamina. Check with your doctor if you’re dealing with any medical condition.
No smoking, drugs or alcohol
This should be obvious, of course. Excess alcohol hurts your body on every level, from brain to liver and heart. Smoking proves not only harmful to the smokers themselves but also to others around them. Inhaling the fumes hurts the lungs making a person more likely to develop lung cancer as well as other cancers. Mouth and throat cancers are particularly prevalent in those who smoke and drink very hot beverages.
If you are a smoker or regular drinker, try to cut down on the amount. Talk to your doctor or an addiction consultant in your area to figure out the best plan for quitting.
Other addictive substances beside drugs include sugar, fat, salt, meat and dairy. All of them are harmful to the body when consumed in excess, so once again it is very important to get your diet on point.
Consuming less calories leads to longer life.
But it is essential to consume enough.
Rest when you need it. There’s nothing wrong with giving yourself some time to rest. In a world where efficiency is much appreciated, we tend to take on too much. Chronic lack of sleep and inability to rest and relax throughout the day leads to chronic stress, which is just as harmful to the body as the actual disease. Stress is a major cause of different diseases.
Use these 15 ways to de-stress if you find yourself on edge. Practice mindfulness, meditate, do restorative yoga or tai-chi. And don’t forget you 8 hours of sleep – it’s not just a beauty sleep, it’s a healthy sleep.
In my previous post about listening to your body I wrote a bit about how our thoughts and emotions change the chemistry of our brains and affect the entire body. Being negative or pessimistic may trigger disease, both mental and physical. Negative people are more prone to aches and pains as well as depression which, in turn, makes pain even worse. Having a more positive outlook in life may significantly improve your health and well-being and those of people around you.
Practice gratitude, repeat daily affirmations and other tools that can make you identify negative thoughts and change them. My favourite app to use is MoodSpace. It is absolutely free, beautiful and easy to use.