Health Advice: Oh, how the pendulum swings. Eggs are bad for you, eggs
are the perfect food. Fats are the enemy, fats are lifesavers. Sugar is evil,
sugar is fine in moderation. No wonder we’re confused. Yet some truths about
healthy living really stand the test of time and are too important to ignore.
We call these the longevity hacks –
how to win at the game of life. Five of them are “know your numbers” factors
and the others are lifestyle habits.
KNOW YOUR NUMBERS
One in three American adults have high blood pressure; however, since high blood pressure has no symptoms or warning signs, many people don’t even know they have it. Blood pressure is important. It’s the first vital sign measured when you visit your doctor. Your blood pressure measurement is a ratio: the top number (systolic pressure) measures the pressure in your arteries when the heart beats. The bottom number (diastolic pressure) measures the pressure between heartbeats or when the heart is resting. Blood pressure numbers lower than 120/80 are considered within the normal range.
To maintain a healthy blood pressure, the American Heart Association encourages us to eat healthy and smart. Watch added sugars and salt found in processed foods. Move more. Movement also boosts mood and reduces stress. Maintain a healthy weight. And don’t smoke.
More than 100 million Americans have prediabetes or diabetes. Both are related to poor blood sugar control. Blood sugar (glucose) rises in response to sugars and carbs in the diet. The pancreas releases insulin, a hormone to escort glucose into the cells to produce energy. In type 2 diabetes, the glucose builds up in the blood because cells are insulin-resistant, so they don’t use glucose efficiently. Or the pancreas may lose its ability to make enough insulin. Our doctor measures blood sugar level as part of routine blood work.
We can maintain healthy blood sugar levels with good habits. When we eat fat, fiber, or protein, it slows the release of blood sugar after a meal. Avoid added sugars and sweetened beverages. Move more, since exercise burns glucose. Also, we should manage our weight – being overweight or obese raises the likelihood of poor blood sugar control.
Cholesterol is a fat produced by our body that’s found in some foods, primarily meat, dairy, and eggs. Eating sugar increases the cholesterol our body produces. Cholesterol is not all bad; it is a building block for hormones and cell membranes and supports healing and immune response. Cholesterol is transported by lipoproteins such as HDL (high-density lipoprotein) and LDL (low-density lipoprotein). HDL is called good cholesterol, and an HDL level of 50 or higher is ideal. LDL is sometimes called bad cholesterol. The goal is for LDL to be 100 or less in most adults. Triglycerides are another type of fat that increases according to what we eat. Levels should be 150 or less.
To maintain healthy cholesterol and triglycerides, we should eat healthy, and be sure to include healthy fats in our diet. We can replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats. Physical activity raises good HDL and lowers triglycerides, so exercise regularly. And don’t smoke. It increases HDL and raises the risk for heart issues.
We should adopt a plant-based diet, featuring vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables, beans, and whole grains. And have fish or poultry more than red meat or processed meat. We want to avoid a lot of salty, processed foods, and limit saturated fat and added sugars. We should also avoid sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages, opting instead for water, sparkling water, and unsweetened tea and coffee.
Adults should get 150 minutes of moderate-intense activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity weekly. We can find more ways to move throughout our day, whether it’s at work, on our commute, or at home. Resistance activities twice weekly are good to aim for. A fitness tracker app on our phone, a tracking watch, or a device like a Fitbit can help keep us on track.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
To maintain a healthy weight, we need to burn more calories than we consume. Using an activity tracker can help. Understanding portions can help too. We should regularly calculate our Body Mass Index (BMI). A BMI of less than 18.5 is considered underweight, 18.5 to 24.9 is a normal weight, 25 to 29.9 is overweight, and 30 or higher is obese.
Smoking is very bad for our health, and vaping is no better. Get support to quit, if needed.
Sleep should be a priority. Adults need about seven hours of sleep daily. Getting enough sleep is as important for us as eating right and exercising. We should sleep in a dark environment and reduce exposure to television and digital screens before bedtime.