My dad is one of the most health conscious people that I know. He’s approaching 60 but his skin looks at least fifteen years younger, so his methods are apparently working for him. These are just a few of the “fountain of youth” secrets he adheres to that I’ve observed over the years:
Eight glasses of water a day (for the past 30 years).
Healthy eating (read: lots of salmon and salads). When he goes to McDonalds, he orders oatmeal, milk and yogurt parfaits.
He doesn’t drink alcohol, and hasn’t since college. He doesn’t drink caffeine.
He exercises with cardio and light weights at few times a week.
He stays in touch with people he admires and sets up regular networking meetings. He does cross-word puzzles to keep his brain sharp and I’ve seen him with a Spanish dictionary for the same reason.
He wears sunblock and always a baseball hat if he’s outside. He says he’s making up for his high school summers spent caddying, but still, he’ll be 60 next month and has practically no sun damage.
Given his proven regime, I asked him to share the principles and resources he lives by through some top tips for staying healthy. Here’s what he listed…
1.) Exercise is Important
“Burning less than 500 calories a day through some sort of exercise makes your risk for death from any cause extraordinarily high,” says Keith Roach, MD. Getting little to no exercise directly increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other health problems. The good news: You’re never too old or out of shape to start exercising. Always consult your doctor before starting a new exercise program. One way to get started: Walk 10 minutes a day and gradually build up to 10,000 steps.
How much exercise each week?
The more you move your limbs, the better. Walking for 20 minutes 5 days a week can help reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, heart disease and diabetes.
2.) Healthy Eating and Drinking the Right Amount of Water
Do your heart a favor by eating more lean protein (like chicken or fish), fruits and veggies. ChooseMyPlate.gov recommends that most people get four to five cups of fruits and veggies a day. And don’t forget the whole grains. A diet rich in whole grains can help you avoid diabetes, heart disease, gum disease and belly fat.
To eat healthy, pick foods that are the colors of the rainbow, and watch your portion sizes. Eating foods that are colorful-red apples, orange carrots, yellow squash, green salad, tomatoes, blueberries and purple eggplant-helps you add fruits and vegetables to your diet.
Processed foods contain too much saturated fat, sodium, sugar, and calories, which can be unhealthy. Oftentimes busy parents rely on consuming processed foods daily to feed their families. If this is your family, you can improve your family’s eating habits by making healthier food selection and preparation choices on most days. Start with 1 day a week and gradually increase to at least 4 days a week. You should try to make gradual changes that your family can learn to adopt, which increases the chances the healthy eating changes will become permanent.
Select more fresh and frozen meats vs processed meats
Select more fresh fruits and vegetables vs canned vegetables
Select more whole grain starches vs processed starches
Select more 100% fruit juices vs fruit drinks or sodas
Select more low fat or non-fat dairy vs dairy containing whole milk
3.) Don’t Smoke
Smoking cigarettes is one of the worst things you can do for your health. “Smoking has a detrimental effect on almost every cell in the body,” says Mehmet Oz, MD. Smoking increases your risk for heart disease and stroke, as well as lung, blood, bladder, esophageal, kidney, mouth, throat, stomach and uterine cancer. The good news: The health benefits of quitting smoking are almost immediate. Within just 20 minutes after quitting the American Cancer Society says your heart rate and blood pressure drop. As more time goes by you also lower your risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.
4.) Less Stress
We all get stressed out from time to time. Memory loss, high blood pressure, weight gain and a weakened immune system are just some of the ways your body responds to high, chronic stress. Your skin suffers, too. Stress causes free radicals to run wild, breaking down collagen and creating wrinkles. The solution: Find ways to stress less. Regular exercise and relaxing with yoga or meditation can help.
If you want to give meditation a try, follow this 4-step meditation plan:
Set aside 12 minutes a day to meditate, and keep that time in your schedule sacred.
Go to a quiet place. No phones, no music, no Internet. Turn it all off so you can tune in.
Sit in a comfortable position with good posture. Breathe in through your nose slowly for 4 seconds and exhale slowly through an open mouth for as long as you can. Build to 8 seconds.
Repeat the breathing rhythm while you let your mind drift. Recognize thoughts as they appear and let them go. Silently repeat a word, sound, prayer, or phrase, such as “peace,” or “breathing in calm” and you’ll feel clearer and stronger.
5.) Too Much Sitting Can Be Harmful
Long hours sitting on a chair at work and later on the couch at home can add up to big health problems. Research has linked prolonged sitting to cancer, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Spending time sitting also negatively affects your blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure and appetite hormone leptin, all of which are biomarkers for obesity and cardiovascular disease.
Breaking up endless time sitting breaks up the bad body effects. Key enzymes move, blood flows, mind and muscles flex. This is all it takes:
Get up and move at least every 30 minutes. Get more water or coffee or the mail. Pace when you’re on the phone. Stand and stretch. (Just standing or even fidgeting helps.) Watch your favorite shows while cooking, folding laundry, emptying the dishwasher, or riding a stationary bike.
Is the TV thing that important? This research found that staring at the TV for an average of six hours a day (versus none) shortens your life by 5 to 10 years.
6.) Drinking Can be a Problem
According to Dr. Roach, downing more than two drinks daily (for men; more than one drink for women) puts pressure on your vital organs and can cause health problems like liver disease, high blood pressure and weight gain.
7.) The Importance of Good Sleep
Are you a chronic sleep skipper? If you get less than six to seven hours a night, your body will let you know. It throws off your appetite-regulating hormones in ways that make you eat more and gain weight. It’s also been linked to heart disease and stroke. Too little sleep doesn’t do your brain any favors, either. General brain fog means you’re more forgetful, less alert and apt to make poor decisions.
8.) A Healthy Marriage
Wedded bliss can keep you happy and healthy, including lowering your risk of heart disease, cancer and high blood pressure. “It likely has to do with less stress, from the emotional support of a partner to sharing affection and intimacy,” says Dr. Roach.
What is it about being happily married that’s so healthy? You encourage each other to see a doctor when you should. You give each other emotional support through good times and through bad, in sickness and in health, which makes your bodies run better and boosts your overall health. You often laugh together.
9.) Good Communication
A strong social network nurtured by face time with family and friends has been shown to boost your mood, improve your ability to cope with adversity and can strengthen your immune system says Dr. Roach. If your circle of friends is lacking, consider ways to forge new connections, whether it’s volunteering in your community, joining a book club or teaming up with a group of walkers.
10.) Good Dental Care
Neglecting good care of your teeth can lead to gum disease and tooth loss, factors that can lead to inflammation. “Chemicals, bacteria and inflammation in your mouth can predispose you to developing heart disease,” says Dr. Roach. Good oral care (brushing and flossing daily and getting regular dental checkups) can boost health.
Bonus: Challenge your mind daily
Joseph Mercola, MD, Family Medicine, recommends that now is the time to start taking action to keep your brain healthy and preserve your brain function. He believes that it is important to challenge your mind daily. Mental stimulation, such as traveling, learning to play an instrument or doing crossword puzzles, is associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s. Researchers suspect that mental challenge helps to build up your brain, making it less susceptible to the lesions associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
And there you have it! Top ten tips on staying healthy for a long life. I guess I better start doing at least a few of these…