COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the world as we know it – possibly forever. While there’s virtually nothing good that’s come from this pandemic – a pandemic that’s now killed over 1 million people worldwide and crippled world economies – perhaps the only encouraging change is that COVID-19 has made people far more health conscious. There’s data to back this – Vida Health reported findings on more than 10,000 users that shows people have become far more health conscious since the pandemic started, and that’s always a good thing. It’s important to keep in mind that while the world focus currently lies on COVID-19 – the virus isn’t the only health concern. Heart disease and cancer remain the two biggest global killers, and obesity is its own epidemic. With that in mind, here are five things related to health people can do to reduce the chance of disease.
Eat Right & Maintain Healthy Weight
Unhealthy eating habits lead to obesity, which is one of the nation’s bigger epidemics. According to the House of Human Services, about one-third of U.S. adults (33.8%) are obese. They note that even for people who maintain a healthy weight, a bad diet can have detrimental effects on your life. The chances of suffering heart disease, certain types of cancer, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis are all augmented by consuming unhealthy foods. These trends, unfortunately, are also rising in our children, as 12.5 million children between the ages of 2-19 (17%) are obese. Diseases related to obesity such as hypertension and type 2 diabetes are increasingly being seen in our younger generation, making it paramount for parents to instill a healthy eating regimen in their kids from the start.
The dangers related to unhealthy eating are backed by a 2019 published study which concluded that eating more than four servings of ultra-processed food are linked with a 62% increase for all-cause mortality. The study found that for each additional serving consumed, the chance of all-cause mortality increased by 18%.
Some examples of ultra-processed foods include:
- Sugary breakfast cereals
- Soft drinks.
- Hot dogs.
- Instant oatmeal.
- White bread.
- Instant noodles.
- Energy bars.
- Cake mix.
- Fried chicken.
If you want to prevent, or treat disease, its critical to stay physically active. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that regular activity helps improve overall health, fitness, and quality of life. Exercise can reduce the risk of developing chronic conditions like cancer, depression and anxiety, dementia, and type 2 diabetes. As far what constitutes as physical fitness, aerobic activities such as brisk walking, biking, jogging, or even yard work are beneficial. Muscle strengthening training, such as working with free weights, doing push-ups, crunches, squats, and elastic bands works all your body’s major muscles, helping your overall health.
The CDC recommends for adults 30 minutes of walking per day for five days a week, and at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity on a weekly basis, plus muscle-strengthening at least two days a week. Specifically, exercise can prevent heart disease and stroke by lowering blood pressure, and strengthening heart muscles. It can also mitigate the odds of diabetes by reducing body fat, and combat self-esteem and stress management by improving mood and mental health. Moreover, aerobic exercise has been shown to postpone the development of disability in the elderly.
Watch Your Blood Pressure & Cholesterol
Eating healthy and exercising keeps blood pressure in check and prevents hypertension and reduces the risk of stroke and heart disease. To control blood pressure, the CDC recommends self-measuring of blood pressure with a home blood pressure monitor. If you take medicine to treat high blood pressure or other health conditions, follow your doctor’s or health care professional’s instructions carefully, the agency notes. They added that, “If you have high blood pressure, you can help lower it by being physically active, eating a healthy diet, and making other lifestyle changes.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) detail some immediate and long-term health benefits of smoking cessation. According to WHO, when you quit smoking:
- Within 20 minutes, your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
- 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
- 2-12 weeks, your circulation improves and your lung function increases.
- 1-9 months, coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
- 1 year, your risk of coronary heart disease is about half that of a smoker’s.
- 5 years, your stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker 5 to 15 years after quitting.
- 10 years, your risk of lung cancer falls to about half that of a smoker and your risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, cervix, and pancreas decreases.
- 15 years, the risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smokers.
Furthermore, WHO notes that even among smokers who have already developed health conditions, quitting can greatly help.
- At about 30: gain almost 10 years of life expectancy.
- At about 40: gain 9 years of life expectancy.
- At about 50: gain 6 years of life expectancy.
- At about 60: gain 3 years of life expectancy.
WHO also says that quitting smoking decreases the excess risk of many diseases associated with second-hand smoke in children, such as respiratory diseases and ear infections.
Get More Sleep
There’s a strong correlation between sleep and physical well-being. Research shows that a lack of sleep is associated with long-term health ramifications, and amplifies the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. On the flip side, and this is lesser known – too much sleep is also bad for the body, as research also tells us that sleeping more than nine hours a night is linked with poor health. The National Sleep Foundation guidelines advise that adults require between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. They also stress that deciding how much sleep you get means considering your overall health, and typical sleep patterns. But generally, if you’re a person who only sleeps 3-4 hours a night, you should take steps to ensure you get more rest. Brain health is an important part of overall health. Sites like Brain Reference can be great resources for those who want to learn more.
Making such changes doesn’t happen overnight, and unfortunately even people who eat well, exercise, and get ample sleep often develop disease. Still, making these five changes will certainly mitigate your risk of disease, and increase your chances of living healthier, longer, and possibly even happier.