4 Habits for Healthy Living

October 19, 2015

One factor that affects your body’s aging process is how well you live daily—the choices you make, not the genes you’re born with. Not convinced? A recent study published in the British Medical Journal shows that you can cut your risk of having a stroke in half by doing these four things daily: be active, eat and sleep right, make good choices, and maintain the right attitude.

Move around. “Evidence shows that in societies where people stop working abruptly, the incidence of obesity and chronic disease skyrockets after retirement,” says Dr. Luigi Ferrucci, director of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study on Aging. The Chianti region of Italy, which has a high percentage of centenarians, has a different take on leisure time. “After people retire from their jobs, they spend most of the day working on their little farm, cultivating grapes or vegetables,” he says. “They’re never really inactive.” Those who see the biggest payoffs are the ones who go from doing nothing to simply walking around the neighborhood or local mall for about 30 minutes a day. Building muscle with resistance training is also ideal, but did you know that yoga classes can give you similar strength-training effects if you’re not into weight lifting?

Sleep a solid six to eight hours. Instead of skimping on sleep to add more hours to your day, get more to add years to your life. “Sleep is one of the most important functions that our body uses to regulate and heal cells,” says Ferrucci. “We’ve calculated that the minimum amount of sleep that older people need to get those healing REM phases is about six hours.” Those who reach the century mark make sleep a top priority every day.

Choose wisely. Infusing life with frequent doses of humor may work for comedians to combat stress, but the rest of us need to find a new way to deal with difficulties and troubles that weigh us down. “Centenarians tend not to dwell on their troubles,” says Ferrucci. “They are great at rolling with the punches.” If this inborn trait is hard to overcome, find better ways to manage when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Yoga, exercise, massage, meditation, tai chi, or just deep breathing for a few moments are all good. Smoking, drinking in excess, eating poorly, worrying and exhibiting anger work against your desire to be more relaxed and tranquil.

Attitude of gratitude. Perhaps the best personality predictor of a healthy lifestyle is conscientiousness—that is, being prudent, persistent and well organized, according to “The Longevity Project,” coauthored by Howard Friedman and Leslie Martin. The book details the process of collecting exhaustive demographic and psychographic information, including personal histories, health, activities, beliefs, attitudes and families, about 1,500 children for eight decades. Friedman says, those who were cautious and dependable lived the longest, likely because conscientious types are more inclined to “follow doctors’ orders, take the right medicines at the right doses, and undergo routine checkups.” They’re also likelier to self-report happier marriages and more satisfying work lives than their less conscientious peers.

Start small and gradually increase your efforts to be a healthier you. For example, print this article and hang it on your fridge to remind you to do better. In time, good choices will become a natural part of your life, so you can make it a happy one.

Source: U.S. News & World Report Health

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