A look at how to get healthy and stay healthy for life – The Women’s OBGYN Medical Group invites women everywhere to become involved in the Good To Be You program and create a condition of optimal health and balance in life – discover that it is Good to Be You!
Life expectancy in the U.S. is at an all-time high, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last October. While the average expected age is now just under 79 years for both men and women, a female baby born in 2012 can now expect to live to 81.2 years, that’s almost 5 years longer than a male born the same year, who can expect to live just over 76 years. Knowing that we, as women can expect to live a full eight decades – barring accidents or major health issues, it’s a pretty good idea to adopt healthy habits as early in life as possible. A look at the trends to better health reveals that there are some very simple ways to optimize health, and make life worth living.
Living with a Healthy Heart
Some women are surprised to learn that heart disease is the number one killer of women, taking far more lives each year than breast cancer and cervical cancer combined. Regardless of age and fitness level, taking measures to maximize heart health is one of the most important things women can do to stay healthy. While routine preventative care can help, lifestyle changes such as exercising, dieting, and quitting smoking and cutting back on caffeine are all examples of the most effective ways to maintain a healthy heart.
Eating For Health
According to a 2011 study by Lancet, Japanese women can expect to live longer than most other women in the world, and experts believe it might have something to do with diet. The average Japanese diet consists of fish, seaweed, and lots of vegetables. The fact that they eat so much fish means they naturally enjoy high dietary levels of omega-3 fatty acids which is associated with many health benefits.
Including fresh vegetables in the diet is one of the simplest choices to make to improve overall healthfulness. A vegetable-rich diet is believed to help protect the body from arthritis, heart disease, stroke, dementia and a variety of cancers – and it might also slow down the aging process. In fact, one recent study found that people who consume at least seven portions of fresh vegetables and fruit each day have a whopping 42 percent lower risk of dying from any cause, compared to those who eat one portion or less. Additional dietary considerations to make include;
- Studies also reveal that eating dark chocolate in moderation (two servings per week) is associated with a lower risk of heart failure.
- People who eat nuts significantly reduce their risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, lung diseases, and others. In fact, people who consume nuts as part of their daily diet were 20 percent healthier than non-nut-eaters according to at least one study.
- In a review of 24 studies, researchers found that women with low-to-moderate alcohol consumption had a lower risk of all-cause mortality (moderate drinking is defined as up to one drink per day for women).
Boost your happiness quotient
The happiest people are three times less likely to die over a given period than the least happy people, according to a 2012 study. It’s not just about attitude either, as happy people have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and they seem to have lower blood pressure which lessens the threat of cardiovascular issues such as heart disease and stroke.
According to a 2010 study at Brigham Young University friends are also part of the happiness equals long life factor as people with strong social connections are reported to have a 50 percent lower chance of untimely death than those with few social ties. Research shows that strong partnerships can also help people avoid illness.
A strong (emotionally supportive) partnership is also apparently helpful when it comes to adopting healthier habits, which of course leads to living healthier longer. Although we might think that intimacy is the key to a happy partnership, sex isn’t the only type of physical contact that can lower stress and improve health. In a 2004 study conducted by the University of North Carolina researchers discovered that both men and women had higher blood levels of oxytocin—a hormone believed to ease stress and improve mood—following a simple hug. The women in particular, had lower blood pressure after receiving a hug and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Ditch Bad Habits
Habits can actually be beneficial to overall health, because they’re automatic and they don’t require a whole lot of thinking, which frees our brains up to focus on other things. Good habits, like being punctual or maintaining a sense of optimism, or being courteous, or getting enough sleep and maintaining an exercise routine can provide motivation for healthy living. However, bad habits can also happen without thinking and can be damaging to health and increase stress, all without us being aware of them. Some of the basic bad habits that can be changed to increase overall well-being may include;
- eating junk food
- being late
- staying up to watch TV or to play on the computer
There is one bad habit that has a very negative impact on health and that’s smoking. Never starting this habit is the best route to take but even long time smokers can benefit from ditching the habit as research finds that women who quit before age 40 live as much as a decade longer than those who quit later on.
Exercise – Get Moving!
Sitting for prolonged periods at a desk or in front of the computer may be necessary for many people’s livelihood, but it’s not good for the body. Research shows that women who sit for more than six hours a day have a 40 percent higher risk of dying from any cause than those women who sit for fewer than three hours—regardless of their fitness levels.
Exercise is hands-down one of the best things women can do to improve health. Exercise keeps the body fit, increases energy and releases endorphins—which in turn increases the happiness quotient. A number of studies indicate that staying active is associated with a longer life expectancy.
We might think that a “real” workout needs to be strenuous. But the fact is that simply walking, running, biking or swimming are all activities that are extremely beneficial to overall healthfulness. Just 2.5 hours weekly (about 20 minutes a day) of moderate aerobic exercise such as walking provides all the major health benefits a body needs to stay healthy.
Routine breast exams and general awareness of how to maintain breast health are important elements in living a healthy lifestyle for women. Screening methods such as regular self-breast exams, breast checks during routine gynecologic exams, and screening mammographies can all help to detect breast problems early-on. Early treatment of breast problems can contribute to the success of any treatment that is needed.
Self-check breast exams are easy to perform in the home and should be conducted monthly in addition to annual breast exams with your physician at Women’s OB/GYN Medical Group. Depending on your age and individual health, your physician may recommend a more frequent interval of regular check-ups with your health care provider.
About Women’s OBGYN Medical Group
The provider team of expert OB/GYN physicians, certified nurse midwives, family nurse practitioners, and medical assistants provides unmatched care to patients in our region. As women proudly serving women, we understand the needs and expectations of our patients. For more information call (707) 579-1102 or visit our website.