With the new year comes a renewed commitment by many to improve our overall health. Some factors, most notably our genetics and age, are beyond our control. But most health experts point to these 4 areas as essential factors we can control, to improve our physical well-being.
Nutrition — Healthy diets help folks reduce the likelihood of chronic diseases, including heart disease, some forms of cancer and diabetes. A balanced approach that emphasizes vitamins and minerals, and covers all 5 food groups — fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins and dairy — is the way to go. When possible, reduce reliance on saturated fats, sugars and sodium.
Lifestyle — This area covers a lot of ground, including an emphasis on fitness and physical activity. Even avoiding sedentary time when stuck at a desk or watching TV, by moving around, can have a positive impact. Conversely tobacco usage, overconsumption of alcohol and obsesity are significant contributors to dramatically shortening the quantity and quality of life.
Sleep — Quality sleep is as important a health factor as exercise and nutrition, and a chronic lack of sleep is actually one of the strongest obesity risk factors. Several studies also find sleep deprivation to be a leading contributor to heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes and depression. On the other hand, individuals who consistently get the prescribed amount of proper sleep, benefit from improved workplace productivity, focus, physical performance and immune function.
Stress — This often overlooked health factor deserves greater attention. Our bodies are well-equipped to handle small amounts of stress. In fact, your ability to react in stressful circumstances can often protect you from harm. The problems arise when stress is an ongoing companion, and leads to negative impacts on heart rate, blood pressure and overall wellness. Learning how to take a brief mental, physical or emotional break in stressful times can make a big difference.
Are you neglecting one or more of these healthy building blocks? If so, consider focusing on one at a time, and begin the pathway to overall improved health.