The 5 Healthiest Habits
There has been way too much focus over the past few decades on weight loss diets and body weight and not enough on overall general health.
Indeed, our very own website is also guilty of this, hosting a whole bunch of articles on weight loss diets.
However, of late, our focus is changing. Having looked at the role of diet in diseases, it is clear that ongoing healthy eating and living is the way forward.
Add to this some other lifestyle changes that lead to a more healthy way of being and living and you will have a chance at enjoying those extra years that you will earn.
And guess what? The natural side effect of concentrating more on a healthy lifestyle is … weight loss.
The top 5 Healthy Habits
Although we all have an idea, on an intellectual level, what are healthy lifestyle habits, it seems that a lot of people do not actually put them into practice.
So, a recent study by the American Heart Association (AHA) published in April 2018 examines which habits affect premature deaths and life expectancy in American adults. The data spans many years – from 1980 to 2014.
The results are no surprise, but the statistics are quite compelling.
Firstly, let’s take a look at the top 5 low-risk (of death and disease) lifestyle habits. In other words, the top 5 healthy habits to adopt … so, in no particular order:-
- Don’t smoke (never smoking is best and be wary of those e-cigarettes too)
- Maintain a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 18.5 to 24.9 kg/m2 (find out your BMI HERE)
- Take moderate to vigorous physical activity 30 mins per day
- Limit your alcohol intake to moderate drinking
- Have a High Dietary Quality Score
Some Hardcore Statistics
The study shows that women live around 12 years longer than men.
So, for those who don’t exercise, are overweight, eat an unhealthy diet and smoke and booze:-
The average life expectancy at age 50 is:-
Men: 25.5 years OR average age at death 75.5 years
Women: 29 years OR average age at death 79 years
(Thus, all you unhealthy habit people look at the graph to right)
However, for those who don’t smoke, only drink alcohol moderately, exercise daily, maintain a healthy weight and eat a healthy diet
the average life expectancy at age 50 is:-
Men: 37.6 years OR average age at death 87.6 years
Women: 43.1 years OR average age at death 93.1 years
(All you really good healthy habit people look at the graph to the right)
1) Eat a Healthy Diet
We’re going out on a limb here and putting a healthy diet as number one of our top 5 healthy habits.
But, what exactly is meant by a ‘healthy diet’? Well, study participants reported their intake of healthy foods which were classified as:-
Fruit and Vegetables
Let’s take a look. The government health message recommends the famous ‘5 a day’ for fruit and vegetables. That is 5 portions per day or a minimum of 400g per day.
However, we ask, why limit yourself to just 5 a day? Although the message is a good starting point it does tend to imply that eating fruit and vegetables is a target to be reached, rather than a real, tasty treat.
There is no denying the health benefits of fruits and vegetables so stop counting and start indulging.
Remeber, where possible, eat organic and fresh and choose fruit and veg in season and never limit yourself.
Other Foods with a High Dietary Quality Score
- Whole Grains: Despite all the hype about gluten free diets, unless you have celiac disease, an autoimmune condition or know that you are gluten intolerant, wheat and grains are VERY good for you. Examples of whole grains include brown bread, pasta and rice; barley, bulgur, millet and oats.
- Nuts: Again, unless you have a nut allergy, nuts are a great source of protein, healthy fats, Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, plant sterols and L-arginine. Some medical studies have shown that nuts benefit heart health and lower both cholesterol levels and the risk of cancer.
- Healthy Fats: The key to a healthy fat intake is finding the right balance and type of fat. However, some examples of good sources of fats include avocado, cheese, eggs and yogurts; nuts and seeds; olive oil and coconut oil.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Suffice to say that these types of fatty acids boast many health benefits such as helping with anxiety and depression, amongst others. Top sources of Omega-3 fatty acids include seeds such as Chia, Hemp and Flexseeds; fatty fish like salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines; walnuts and soybeans.
Foods to Avoid (Low Dietary Quality Score)
So, some examples of unhealthy foods to avoid include:-
- Red and Processed Meats: Many research studies suggest an association between eating processed meat and cardiovascular disease and some cancers. In fact, the cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO) classifies processed meat as a carcinogen (cancer causing). So, ditch the bacon, hot dogs, ham and sausages. As for red meat, cut down a little and have a few days red-meat free per week. Click HERE for a guide to red meat eating and health.
- Sugar and sweetened Foods: including fizzy drinks
- Refined Carbs
- Processed Foods
- Trans-fats: Scientifically proven to be very bad for health. This type of fat increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and high cholesterol levels. Trans-fats are found in a lot of your favourite fried and processed foods. Click HERE for a full list of foods to avoid.
- Foods high in salt
2) Exercise Regularly
The study recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day.
What is Moderate Activity?
Well, it seems that any physical activity that makes you breathe harder and develop a light sweat after 10 minutes counts as ‘moderate’. A good indicator of moderate activity is that you are able to speak but not able sing.
Examples of moderate activity include walking, light gardening, housework such as washing windows, hoovering and mopping, water aerobics, badminton
What is Vigorous Activity?
Vigourous activity is harder, you should develop a sweat after only a couple of minutes and your breathing will be deep and fast. You can only manage a few words of speech.
Examples of vigorous activity include, jogging, swimming laps, aerobic dancing, cycling and heavy gardening.
Again, a fitness app may add interest and help you monitor levels of exercise for ultimate health benefits. This way you can check your heart rate and stay below your maximum heart rate.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine adults should take:-
- 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week (that is around 20 minutes per day) OR 90 minutes of vigorous exercise per week (that is around 13 minutes per day)
- PLUS strength training exercies 20 to 40 minutes twice a week.
3) Only Drink Alcohol Moderately
Wow! This is a big one and before you think,
‘Oh, that’s okay I don’t drink too much.’
That’s not all foks, the survey also found that a whopping 38 million Americans were drinking too much. We all know that America is not alone on this issue.
- Men: No more than 4 drinks on any given day and no more than 14 drinks per week
- Women: No more than 3 drinks on any given day and no more than 7 drinks per week
By the way, here are some approximate alcohol measures:-
- Standard glass of wine (150 mls of around 13%): 1 unit
- Bottle of wine (750 mls): 10 units
- Pint of regular lager/cider: 2 units
- Pint of strong lager/cider: 3 units
- Can of regular lager/cider: 2 units
- Single shot of spirits: 1 unit
We are not going to go into too much detail about the health risks of drinking alcohol excessively but, very briefly, here they are:-
- Liver Disease
- Heart Disease
- Anxiety Disorders
- Lowers the immune system
- Cancer of the: breast, oral cavity, esophagus, larynx, pharynx, liver, colon and rectum
- Social issues such as unemployment, family problems, unprotected sex and violence
4) Don’t smoke
I know, I know, this one speaks for itself. However, just to remind you people hanging on to that habit and trying to ignore the facts … here we go.
Cigarette smoking causes a whole host of illnesses and badly affects general health.
A shocking statistic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states,
“More than 10 times as many U.S. citizens have died prematurely from cigarette smoking than have died in all the wars fought by the United States.”
Furthermore, smoking causes:-
- Respiratory diseases: COPD, chronic bronchitis and emphysema
- Cardiovascular disease: including heart disease and stroke
- Cancer: Smoking causes cancer all over the body, especially lung cancer
- Increased Inflammation and reduces immunity
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
- Deterioration of the teeth, gums and eyes
- Reduction in bone health
- Fertility problems
- Problems in pregnancy and with baby’s health
It’s SO difficult.
5) Maintain a Healthy Weight
Now, the fifth healthy habit does not need a lot of explanation.
Basically the advice is to keep your Body Mass Index (BMI) within a healthy range, that is between 18.5 to 24.9
Let’s take a look at the Body Mass Index ranges:-
According to Halls.md BMI ranges
|in normal range ideal weight||19.1-25.8||20.7-26.4|
|very overweight or obese||>32.3||>31.1|
|severely obese||35 – 40|
|morbidly obese||40 – 50|
|super obese||50 – 60 kg/m2|
OR according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- BMI less than 18.5 = underweight
- If your BMI is 18.5 to <25 = normal
- BMI of 25.0 to <30 = overweight
- If your BMI is 30.0 or higher = obese
If you are either underweight or overweight, simply following our above advice on diet, exercise and alcohol may well be enough in itself to get you back to that ideal BMI range.
Final Words on Healthy Habits
Well, there it is. Now, we know that breaking bad habits, such as smoking or drinking too much, is no easy task.
Now, most of us probably only need to address two or three of the areas above. However, each healthy habit you adopt will reduce the risk of illness and add years to your life.
Breaking bad habits is not always easy but there is plenty of help out there.
One tip from us is do not try to change all aspects of your life at once. Start with one specific area, such as cutting down on sugar or white carbs and continue for a couple of weeks before adding another.
Next, add in 10 to 15 minutes of exercise per day. Then, continue adding in other healthy changes.
- Food Addiction: The Controversy and the Claims
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- Lose Weight Fast
- Weight Loss Motivation
- Anxiety Diet: Which foods help and Why?
All Posts on halls.md
- Index of Weight Loss Posts
- All our articles on Body Mass Index and Calculators
- Height and Weight Articles
- Index of our articles on Anxiety
- Weight Loss Diets
- Diet for Diseases
Return to Homepage
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- Aune D, Keum N, Giovannucci E, Fadnes LT, Boffetta P. (et al). (2016) Nut consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer, all-cause and cause-specific mortality: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMC Med. 2016 Dec 5;14(1):207. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27916000
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