Health & Medicine

Lifestyle changes can put you more in control of your health

Debbie Scarberry
Debbie Scarberry

Abundant research confirms the power of a healthful lifestyle on the quality and longevity of life.

According to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals who do not smoke, eat a healthful diet, drink alcohol in moderation and have adequate physical activity were 63 percent less likely to die in the next 20 years.

The concept of a healthful lifestyle is often viewed as too time-consuming, difficult and expensive. Putting the power of a healthful lifestyle to work for you can be achieved with these simple and inexpensive changes.

▪  Weight. Research has shown that as little as 5 percent weight loss can have significant benefits. A reasonable goal is 5-10 percent to impact health. A good weight is having a body mass index of less than 25.

▪  Eating smart. Consume meals that are rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains. Use fatty red meats and processed meats sparingly. Increase your intake of poultry and fish. Also, try plant-base protein, such as dried beans and soy. Use small amounts of healthful fats such as olive and canola oil, as well as low-fat dairy products. Limit salt and sodium by eating fresh foods and limiting processed foods. Sea salt, often assumed to be healthier, has basically the same amount of sodium as table salt.

▪  Physical activity. Studies have consistently shown that 150 minutes each week of moderate activity, such as brisk walking, has significant health benefits. The CDC recommends five hours per week of moderate activity or two and a half hours of vigorous activity, such as jogging, for maximum health benefit. Physician approval and slowly advancing physical activity is a must.

▪  Smoking. If you smoke, quit. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, and heart disease risk is cut in half after one year of quitting. Say no to e-cigarettes. The long-term effect on health is not known, and the FDA has warned some may contain toxic substances.

▪  Alcohol. Use alcohol in moderation, if at all. Moderation is defined as two drinks a day for men, and one drink a day for women.

Maintaining a healthdul lifestyle requires conscious and consistent effort. Behavioral research is showing that knowing what to do is only half the battle, and shifting the mindset can provide the edge for long-term success.

American speaker and author Jim Rohn gives great advice: “Motivation is what gets you going, habit is what keeps you going.”

Debbie Scarberry is clinical nutrition manager of nutrition services at Baptist Health Corbin.