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Preventive Health Month: Add life to your years

August 2017 Preventive Health Month

August 2017 Preventive Health Month


Do you want to add years to your life; or life to your years? 

Feeling your best boosts your zeal for life. Too much sitting and other sedentary activities can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. One study showed that adults who watch more than four hours of TV a day had a 46 percent increased risk of death from any cause and an 80 percent increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate activity each week.

An easy way to remember this is 30 minutes at least five days a week, but three 10-minute periods of activity are as beneficial to your overall fitness as one 30-minute session. Physical activity may also help encourage you to spend some time outdoors which has shown to relieve tension, anxiety, depression and anger. You may notice a "feel good sensation" immediately following your physical activity and most people also note an improvement in general well-being over time as physical activity becomes a part of their daily routine.

Becoming more active can help lower your blood pressure and also boost your levels of good cholesterol. Without regular physical activity, the body slowly loses its strength, stamina and ability to function well. People who are physically active and are at a healthy weight live about seven years longer than those who are not active and are obese.  

Caffeine is found mostly in coffee, tea, some soft drinks and chocolate, and can have negative effects on the body if taken in high quantities. Try to wean yourself off caffeine by substituting coffee or tea with decaffeinated versions of herbal tea or green tea, which is also full of antioxidants. Substitute sugary and caffeinated soft drinks with sparkling water or, preferably diluted, fruit juice and you will reduce your caffeine and sugar intake. 

Since caffeine can stay in your body for six hours or more, avoid all caffeinated drinks after lunchtime and you will sleep better. Getting adequate sleep is an important factor in reducing stress levels. You should aim to reduce your intake of alcohol, sugar and salt. Consumption of these items are all known to strip the body of essential nutrients and undo the work of a healthier diet. 

Make the decision to stop smoking if you smoke. Although reaching for a cigarette may feel like instant stress relief it actually causes greater stress over time.

By watching our diet, increasing our intake of stress-busting nutrients and limiting our intake of stress-inducing substances we can feel better about ourselves and our well-being, as well as give our bodies the chance to cope with, and recover from, stressful situations. When we encounter something stressful, our nervous system and adrenal glands send signals to the rest of the body to help us think more clearly and be ready for a physical response should it be required. This is a basic instinct that we have evolved to help us cope with potentially dangerous situations and is known as the “fight or flight” response.  However in modern life we can become stressed for many reasons other than impending danger, “chronic stress” and yet our bodies’ reaction is the same. 

With their pre-determined instincts, our bodies still prepare our minds in this instinctive way and give less priority to other, less urgent, functions. Digestion is one such function that is given a lower priority during stressful situations, this is not good as poor digestion can make us feel unwell and this in turn can be a source of stress. Being aware of how your body works and deals with stress can help you to manage stress and stressful situations. 

After a stressful period the human body can go into a ‘recovery mode’ where increased appetite and food cravings become more prevalent. At the same time metabolic rates drop to conserve energy. Being aware of these patterns can help you manage your stress levels and through nutrition and diet you can help your body recover from stressful periods more rapidly and minimize negative effects such as weight gain.

If someone thinks their diet could use an overhaul, there’s no need for a radical change. By simply incorporating more servings of fresh fruits and vegetables and high-fiber whole grains, they’ll greatly boost the nutritional quality of their diet.

If weight loss is a goal, then they should pair this increase in servings of healthy foods with a decrease in servings of foods that are processed, overly fatty, fried or have a lot of added sugar.  Making even small changes to a diet can have a big impact on mood, energy levels and quality of sleep and in-turn making it more likely to keep up a regular exercise program. Forming healthy habits is less about looking at the big picture than it is about making small, positive changes consistently. From the moment someone wakes up in the morning until their head hits the pillow at night, they’ll spend the day making hundreds of small decisions about food and exercise that cumulatively have a big impact on a their well-being.


Sleep is often one of the first things to go when people feel pressed for time. Many view sleep as a luxury and think that the benefits of limiting the hours they spend asleep outweigh the costs. People often overlook the potential long-term health consequences of insufficient sleep, and the impact that health problems can ultimately have on one's time and productivity. Many of the costs of poor sleep go unnoticed. Medical conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, develop over long periods of time and result from a number of factors, such as genetics, poor nutrition, and lack of exercise.

Insufficient sleep has also been linked to these and other health problems, and is considered an important risk factor. Although scientists have just begun to identify the connections between insufficient sleep and disease, most experts have concluded that getting enough high-quality sleep may be as important to health and well-being as nutrition and exercise. By paying closer attention to those decisions and making conscious choices, people can take control of their health and improve their quality of life.

To see what is available to start your healthy lifestyle journey today, visit the Health Promotion office at the Medical Clinic or call 662-434-1688, to make an appointment.