Top 10 to a Disease-Proof Lifestyle
Here are 10 key things you can start doing right away to help keep you healthy
and feeling young.
Toss the smoke. Lung cancer,
high blood pressure,
osteoporosis. The list of age-related diseases that smokers are at higher
risk for goes on and on. Not to mention the
stained teeth that make you look far older than your years. If you don't
smoke, raise your right hand and swear you never will. Then give yourself a
pat on the back. If you do smoke-stop. Within minutes of puffing your final
cigarette, your blood pressure and pulse rate drop to normal. And after just
24 hours, your risk of having a heart attack decreases.
Add activity. Close to five million adults say they don't do
anything physically active in their leisure time. Now that's a lot of couch potatoes. And it
turns out that more women are inactive than men. Everyone knows exercise is
good for you–so why are so many women still stuck on the sofa? Perhaps you
haven't found a fun activity that keeps you coming back for more. Or maybe you
think you don't have the time. But it takes a lot less time than you probably
The current recommendation for physical
something that virtually all of us can do. That's 30 minutes of accumulated
moderate physical activity most days of the week. Walking the dog, gardening,
housework-they all count. In fact, regular exercise helps prevent everything
from heart disease and diabetes to breast cancer and
Control your weight. It's no secret that we tend to put on pounds
as we grow older. A growing middle may seem like a harmless, natural part of
aging, but it's
not. That add up fast. If you weighed 125 at age 20, that means you'll tip the
scale at 160 by the time you're 70. That rate of
weight gain puts you at
risk for a number of diseases including
diabetes, heart disease,
arthritis, and even gallstones.
Losing weight isn't
easy. So your best bet is not to gain it in the first place. Focus on
maintaining your weight rather than trying to lose the extra pounds after
you've already gained them. If you've already put on some pounds, try losing
just 10. Even small reductions can go a long way in helping improve your
condition if you have a problem like arthritis or high blood pressure.
Pile your plate with fruits and veggies. That's right. One key to
living a long, disease free life can be found in the produce section of any
grocery store. In fact, a study of 52 Italians aged 70 and older found that
the healthy one hundred and some things ate more than twice as many vegetables
as the younger folks. Eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day is
associated with lower risks of several diseases, including cancer and stroke.
Researchers have identified all sorts of healthy components in our produce.
Not only are fruits and vegetables a natural source of
fiber-they also contain
phytonutrients like quercetin, lycopene, flavonoids, and ellagic acid,
which are potential heart protectors and
Eat a low-fat diet. Too much fat does a lot of nasty things to our
bodies. First, it can clog up the arteries in our hearts and block blood
vessels in our brains, putting us at risk for heart disease and stroke.
Excess fat can also
over stimulate our gallbladders and create the right conditions for painful
gallstones. And of course, too much fat can make us, well,
which increases our risk for other diseases like cancer and diabetes.
Most experts agree that a
should get no more than 25 percent (and preferably less) of
its calories from fat. But not all fats are bad. The main one to limit in your
diet is saturated fat, found in foods like meat, butter, and dairy products.
Researchers say that the best way to cut down on
saturated fat is to limit meat servings to 3 or 4 ounces a day, use little
or no butter, switch to low-fat dairy foods, and cook with corn, canola, or
olive oil. Other fats to be wary of include the
trans fatty acids
found mostly in margarine and prepackaged snacks. They may be just as
unhealthy for our hearts as saturated fat. You can cut your trans fatty acids
by using trans-free margarine instead of regular margarine and by
limiting the amount of snack foods you eat that contain partially
Fill up on fiber. Eating a high-fiber diet may lower your risk for
several diseases, including
high blood pressure,
diverticulosis. Several small studies suggest that filling up on fiber can
lower your risk of colon cancer. How does fiber protect against such a variety
of diseases? For one thing, it acts like a sponge as it passes through our
bodies, soaking up potentially harmful substances like
cholesterol and binding to extra estrogen in the digestive tract, then
removing them in our stool. Fiber also fills us up so we eat less. The problem
is that most people only get 11 to 13 grams of fiber a day-that's about half
of the 25 to 35 grams experts recommend. To give your plate a
fiber face-lift, add
more foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole-grain breads, cereals,
rice, and pasta.
Supplement your diet.
Our bodies need vitamins, minerals, and other
important nutrients to function at their best. And if we all ate a low fat
diet high in fruits
and vegetables every day, we'd probably get enough of these vital
nutrients. But many of us don't. That's why it's important to take a
multivitamin/mineral that provides the Daily Value for most nutrients. Think
of it as an insurance policy for those days when our diet isn't up to snuff.
Another good reason to take a multi is the mounting evidence that
supplementing your diet in this way may help you ward off disease. That may be
because nutrients like
vitamin E, and
all been found to promote heart health. Folate may also help prevent
cancer, cervical cancer, and
Vitamin D lowers your risk for colon
cancer, cervical cancer, and strokes. Vitamin D lowers your risk for colon
cancer and osteoporosis.
Calcium may reduce rectal cancer risk along with
preventing osteoporosis. Vitamin C and magnesium can help strengthen your
bones and keep your blood pressure in check. The trace element selenium can
protect a man's prostate from cancer. And
beta-carotene has been shown to
prevent cancer in lab animals.
Limit yourself to one drink. While having one alcoholic drink a day
may lower your risk of death, especially from heart disease, more than one may
put you at risk for a whole host of other diseases including breast cancer,
stroke, and osteoporosis.
Most women get a Pap smear once a year as part of
their annual gynecological exam. But that's not the only potentially
lifesaving test a woman should regularly have done. After age 40, a mammogram
(earlier if there's a family history of
and skin-cancer screening, for example, should also be included in every
woman's yearly checkup.
Know your risk factors. Many diseases run in families. So it's wise
to know what that means for you. If a parent or sibling has had a condition
like colon or breast cancer, for example, you should get the recommended
screenings even at a younger age. The same goes for breast cancer or diabetes.
No matter what your family history, you should have your blood pressure and
cholesterol checked regularly. For cholesterol, that means every 5 years if
your levels are normal. “Normal” is defined as having a total cholesterol of
150 or lower, with a total/high–density lipoprotein (HDL) ratio of 4.0 or
lower. That ratio, which tells you how much of your total cholesterol is HDL,
or “good” cholesterol, is a better predictor of heart disease . If your
cholesterol numbers are high, you should have them taken again in 4 months.
When it comes to your blood pressure, the American Heart Association suggests
that you have it checked at least once every 2 years. An optimal reading is
less than 120 over 80, and normal is less than 130 over 85. If you've had a
higher reading, decide with your doctor how often you should have it checked.
You could be eating
healthy diet but still have high cholesterol, if it runs in your family.
That's why you should have both your
and cholesterol checked regularly. High BP levels are associated with
increased risk of serious conditions such as heart disease and stroke. If your
levels are high, there are things you can do to lower them-like exercising and
switching to a low-fat diet. In some cases, your doctor may want to put you on
medication to help lower your levels.