Ten Ways to Live Longer
"It’s not the years in your life that counts. It’s the life in your years." Abraham Lincoln. You may be able to extend your lifespan – and bring more vitality to each day – with the following tips. Your health partners at Beloit Health System want you to live a long and productive life. How many of these tips are you implementing?
"Cigarette smoking accounts for nearly one of every five deaths in the U.S.," states Dr. Prakshep Bhatt, Internal Medicine at Beloit Health System. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that tobacco use causes more deaths each year than human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides and murders combined. If you currently smoke, talk to your doctor about smoking cessation programs, or visit www.smokefree.gov.
"Being overweight or obese raises your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain kinds of cancer, hypertension and stroke. All very serious conditions," reminds Dr. Bhatt. As we age, our metabolisms slow, making it more difficult to prevent unwanted weight gain. Control your portion sizes and the number of calories you consume, and get adequate physical activity, to help you achieve your goal.
"Getting enough exercise is one of the best steps you can take to protect your health," Dr. Bhatt adds. People who are physically active for about seven hours a week have a 40% lower risk of dying early than those who are active for less than 30 minutes a week.
A mix of cardiovascular exercise (such as walking briskly) and balance/muscle-strengthening activities (such as yoga) can help protect your joints, alleviate arthritis symptoms, prevent falls and lower your risk of a fracture, should a fall occur. Exercise can also help you prevent unwanted weight gain, depression and insomnia. Talk to your doctor to help figure out what forms of exercise might be best for you.
"Inadequate sleep makes it more difficult for the body to fight infection and maintain a healthy metabolism. Fatigue and sleepiness also raise the risk of being involved in an accident. If left untreated, sleep disorders raise the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes," he states. Try to carve out enough time to unwind and get more sleep. If you still struggle to feel rested, talk to your doctor about whether you may suffer from a condition such as sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome.
Over time, our tastes can change. In some cases, medication side effects, chewing problems, financial concerns or cooking for only one or two people can take the enjoyment out of eating well. But it’s always important to follow a nutritious diet. Strive to eat vegetables and fruits of different colors and types, and opt for whole grains when possible. Try to limit your intake of foods high in sugar, saturated fats and trans fats.
Screenings may help find diseases or conditions early, when they are easier to treat and before symptoms begin. Immunizations such as a yearly flu shot (and/or appropriate vaccinations before traveling overseas) can greatly reduce your chances of becoming ill, and – in the event that you do get sick – minimize your symptoms and risk of complications.
To lower your risk of being injured or killed in a serious car accident, remember to always wear your seatbelt and know the rules of the road. You can also lower your chances of being in an accident if you avoid driving at night, in heavy traffic and on unfamiliar roads. Consider taking a driving refresher course, and talk to your doctor and/or a loved one about finding alternative transportation if you ever question your ability to drive.
"Everyone experiences occasional stress," Dr. Bhatt says, "but long-term stress can increase your risk of heart disease, depression and other conditions." Embrace healthy ways to relax and recharge, such as going for a walk, talking about your feelings, listening to soothing music, writing in a journal or watching a comedy. If necessary, talk to your doctor about counseling and/or medication.
Water is essential to good health and is vital for the body to function properly. To prevent dehydration, consider drinking a glass of water (or other low-calorie beverage) with each meal, between each meal and before, during and after exercise. Your hydration needs may vary depending on your activity level, health condition, the climate where you live and other factors. Experts suggest either avoiding alcohol, or only drinking it in moderation – up to one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men. Talk to your doctor for more information.
Researchers found that people with poor social connections had a 50% higher chance of death, on average, than people with stronger social connections. Contact someone you care about and reconnect. If you’re looking for ways to make new social connections, consider volunteering, taking a class and/or joining a community organization.
Whether you’re looking for a physician or want to find ways to put some of the tips above into action, we can help. Visit www.BeloitHealthSystem.org for free educational seminars or a physician.
We Can Help
10. Build and Maintain Social Connections
9. Look at Your Liquids
8. Manage Stress
7. Be Safe Behind the Wheel
6. Get Regular Screenings and Immunizations
5. Eat a Healthy Diet
4. Get Enough Sleep
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight
1. Don't Smoke
10 Ways to Live Longer