We’ve been hearing doctors talk about the benefits of diet and wise lifestyle choices our whole lives. It’s never too late to listen!

Diet and lifestyle are the most important factors in determining our levels of health and wellness. They are directly connected to heart-health and, by extension, longevity.

Exercise

The benefits of exercise are well known and fairly intuitive. Raising your heart rate during exercise benefits that muscle just as much as other targeted muscle groups. This builds strength and endurance, which contribute heavily to overall health.

The AHA recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of strenuous exercise per week to reduce your risk of developing life-threatening illnesses such as heart attack or stroke, as well as keeping blood pressure in check.

Smoking

The (now) obvious consequences of smoking are related to lung health. Inhaling toxic fumes causes damage to your lungs.

However, smoking is also a factor in cardiovascular disease (heart disease or CVD). Smoking or inhaling second-hand smoke regularly causes the cells that line the blood vessels to become inflamed, which narrows their diameter, resulting in any number of variations in CVD.

These include Coronary Heart Disease (narrowing of the vessels that carry blood to the heart itself), Stroke (narrowing of vessels that carry blood to the brain), Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD, or narrowing of vessels that carry blood to the extremities), or Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (bulging of the section of the aorta located in the abdomen). All of these illnesses are potentially fatal.

Diet

The AHA makes many recommendations on diet, in conjunction with the basic lifestyle choices we make. They emphasize diet as your best preventative tool against development of CVD.

Healthy dietary patterns require regularly eating a varied diet including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry, fish, nuts and legumes, and non-tropical vegetable oils.

A healthy diet also limits your intake of sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages (particularly anything sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup), saturated and trans fats, sodium, and red meat.

Eating red meat in small quantities and at wide intervals is approved as part of the AHA’s healthy diet plan, but they recommend sticking to the leanest cuts you can find.

To paraphrase Michael Pollan, the poor state of the general health of our society is as much about what we’re not eating as it is about what we are eating. In other words, we could stand to have a few cans of soda here and there, as long as we include nutrient-rich foods in our diets. We should not live solely on nutrient-poor foods that are high in refined sugars, as so many of us do.

Many of us, however, try to sustain our bodies and live on nutrient-poor food. Often, this kind of diet has a tragic outcome. By reducing our intake of refined sugars (avoiding artificially sweetened drinks, cereal, and heavily processed foods), we can make huge gains in our individual and collective health.

Daily Decisions

When we’re standing in the aisle of the grocery store, we’re making lots of decisions about what we’ll eat and whether we’re treating our bodies with care and nurturing, or with disregard and harm.

If we are going to buy a can of beans, for example, it’s wise to look at all the options of that kind of bean that are available. Pick the cans up, look at the labels, compare the different choices. We should make the decision that’s best for our health more often.

For many shoppers, however, the can leaves the shelf and enters the cart without a moment’s pause. By taking the time to read labels, we can learn a lot. We can educate ourselves over time about what healthier choices look like, and how they taste.

In the example with the can of beans, we might see that one can is higher in sodium than another and choose the lower sodium option. We may see that one variety of breakfast cereal is sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup and choose the one that is sweetened with cane sugar instead. Or perhaps we buy an item that is completely unsweetened and sweeten it ourselves at home with a little honey, maple syrup, or fruit. Healthy options can also be creative options.

We don’t have to sacrifice everything to eat a healthier diet. It may feel that way at first, but once we begin the shift, we often come to realize that the nutrient-poor foods we’d been eating before were only triggering responses in our brain, not truly nourishing our bodies.

Once we experience the feeling of wellness that accompanies a nourished body, these decisions don’t seem as difficult. Healthy eating will not feel like a sacrifice. It will be a pleasure.

For more helpful tips or information contact our Senior Care Management company located in Oakdale and Fresno CA today!