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Create and Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle for the New Year

Create and Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle for the New YearAccording to a recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, very few adults actually meet the criteria for a healthy lifestyle.  Only 3 percent of American adults received a perfect score on what the authors state are the four basic criteria for healthy living, while 13.8 percent met three of the criteria, and 34.2 percent met only two.  On average, women scored slightly better than men.

Aside from occasional short comings, most people think they do a fair job of maintaining their health with good (or at least adequate) eating habits, and moderate physical activity.  But is that enough to be considered “healthy?”

The four criteria commonly used to measure
healthfulness are:

1. Are you a non-smoker?

2. Are you able to maintain a healthy weight (a BMI of 18-25), or are you successfully losing weight to attain a healthy weight?

3. Do you eat a well-balanced diet that includes at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily?

4. Do you exercise 30 minutes or more, 5 times a week?

While these four habits are indisputably important for a healthy lifestyle, there are numerous additional factors that also should be taken into consideration.  Beyond the four basics, there are many healthy behaviors that contribute to wellness and satisfaction with one’s lifestyle:

• Brush and floss daily to keep teeth and gums healthy and free of disease.

• Get a good night’s rest.  Well-rested people not only cope better with stress, but also may have better control of their appetites.  Research has shown that a lack of sleep can put “hunger hormones” out of balance – and possibly trigger overeating.

• Enjoy regular family meals.  This allows parents to serve as good role models, can promote more nutritious eating, and sets the stage for lively conversations.  Being connected to family and/or friends is a powerful aspect of a healthy life.

• Eat a variety of foods daily to get the energy, protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber the body needs.  Include plenty of vegetables and fruits (preferably raw) and whole grains.

• Hydrate.  Drink at least 8 glasses (64 oz.) of water per day, or more for those who exercise regularly.

• Eat pure, natural foods.  Moderate intake of fat, cholesterol, sugars and salt.

• Set a “5-meal ideal.”  What, when, and how much a person eats can keep both the metabolism and energy levels steadily elevated, so as to provide more all-day energy.  A “5-meal ideal” will help manage weight, control mood, maintain focus and avoid cravings.

• Smile and laugh out loud several times a day.  Laughter can keep individuals grounded, and help them cope with situations that would otherwise cause possible irritation.  Read the comics, watch a sitcom, or tell jokes to bring out those happy feelings.

• Meditate, pray or otherwise find solace for at least 10 to 20 minutes each day.  Contemplation is good for the soul, helps people cope with the demands of daily life, and may even help lower your blood pressure.

• Get a pedometer as a motivational tool.  Forget about how many minutes of activity is recommended; just make necessary adjustments to fit more steps into each day.  No matter how it is achieved, physical activity can help defuse stress, burn calories and boost self-esteem.

• Stand up straight.  You’ll look five pounds lighter if you stand tall and tighten your abdominal muscles.  Whenever you walk, think “tall and tight” to get the most out of the movement.

• Try various exercises such as yoga, pilates and swimming.  These help increase strength and flexibility and improve balance.  These are critical areas, especially for older individuals, and both men and women can benefit.

• Power up the protein.  This nutrient is an essential part of a healthy eating plan, and can make up 10 to 35 percent of your total daily calories. Protein remains in the stomach longer; combine it with high-fiber foods to feel full with fewer calories.  Enjoy small portions of nuts, low-fat dairy, beans, lean meat, poultry or fish.

• Have a positive attitude.  Being optimistic and believing in oneself, while being surrounded by good support systems, helps lead to success.

Each individual’s list of healthy lifestyle behaviors may be different.  The most important thing to remember is that everyone can make a difference in their personal health and well-
being.  Take charge of life, and be mindful of small behavior changes that can make a lifestyle a healthier one.

Licking Memorial Health Systems