Small changes can make a big difference down the line

How many people do you know, who wanted to change a bad habit or start a new page?  And I am not just talking about making new year’s resolutions.  However, it is not an easy thing to do – especially if you have never done it before, or even tried!  After all, habits are hard to break, not so?

Wrong!  Making a small change, taking a small step towards the new you, or the better you, doesn’t have to overwhelm you or put you off.  When you put your mind to anything, you can achieve anything.  Our thoughts are more powerful than we realize and, with the right thoughts, the right attitude starts to develop and you get the willpower to make the change (s).

I am sure most people would love to be healthy and live a long life; staving off things like heart disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes, cancer, and so forth.  Interesting; more than half of the cases / illnesses (including all cancers and cardiovascular diseases) are preventable.  Making small lifestyle changes to prevent, for example cancer, can also prevent heart disease and Alzheimer’s (according to Dr Michelle Harvie, research dietician for cancer prevention).

Here are a few changes that will make the world of difference in years to come.

Walking:  going for a brisk walk for at least 30 minutes not only elevates your heart rate, but it will also lower your risk of dementia and osteoporosis.  Did you know that walking either for 30 minutes a day, or 10 000 steps per day, as well as exercising 5 times a week, lowers your chances of getting a heart disease by 46%?!

Floss your teeth 2x per day:  not only does it help to prevent tooth decay, but it also gets rid of inflammation-causing bacteria, which has been linked to heart disease (according to a top anti-ageing specialist Dr Mehmet Oz).  Numerous studies have also linked flossing to a reduced risk of diabetes and Alzheimer’s, as well as prevention of pancreatic cancer.

Squeeze, squeeze and hold:  no time to do a full range of pelvic floor-exercises?  Why not try the following:  every time you go to the loo, stop, hold for a few second, then repeat.  Or tighten the pelvic floor muscles whilst sitting at your desk, in front of the television, when you are in your car, or standing in the kitchen.  Basically, this is an easy-to-do exercise that must be done regularly by both men and women.  Strong pelvic floor-muscles are important for bladder control (it can prevent 70% incontinence) and, the stronger these muscles, the better for the other internal organs that it must “hold in,” so to speak.

Replacing your coffee with green tea:  one cup of coffee is not a bad thing, says Dr Downey.  However, more than one cup can put strain on your bladder, as coffee has diuretic properties in.  When you drink too many cups of coffee (and too much alcohol), the brain tricks the bladder into thinking that it is full.  According to Dr Downey one should go to the loo when your bladder is 250 ml full…yes, I know right?  How do we know when that is?  Well, when you are in a position where you have to go – or else!  When the brain tricks the bladder (as explained earlier), it can lead to incontinence, over time.  Green tea is also a good anti-oxidant and will help to boost your immune system and, if you want to lose a bit of weight, green tea will help by boosting your metabolism as well.

Sprinkling cinnamon on your cereal:  research indicates that, even as little as a ¼ of a teaspoon of cinnamon, can help to control blood sugar levels in people with Type-2 diabetes, as well as stabilize your cholesterol levels.  Throughout the ages herbs and spices were used not only to make the food taste better, but also as medicine.  There are many herbs and spices that have proven to have anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and protective properties in.  One teaspoon of ground cinnamon, for example, contains the same anti-oxidant levels as 80 grams of blueberries; one teaspoon of dried oregano, contains the same anti-oxidant content as a cup of red grapes / a serving of broccoli!

Get out into the sunlight:  try to be exposed to the sun for at least 10 minutes a day; 1 – 2 times a day.  Vitamin D is a vital component in helping the body to absorb calcium (which we need, together with magnesium, to build and maintain strong bones).  If you live in a country where there is not much sunlight, then make sure to drink a good Vitamin D-supplement (Solal is a good brand).  Another important role of vitamin D is that it keeps depression and moodiness at bay. 

Plate geometry:  when it comes to your eating habits, try to eat more vegetables and/or salads, and less starch.  When you dish up, think of eating a quarter of lean protein, a quarter starch, and the rest vegetables and/or salad.  When your plate has a variety of food, in various colours, on, not only does it look more appealing (and we all know that when we like what we see, we tend to want to have it), but it will also stimulate your senses. 

Studies have shown that gaining weight between the ages of 20 and 60, is the biggest health threat.  Most cancers are oestrogen dependent.  After menopause, the more fat in your body, the more oestrogen you produce.  If, for example, you gain 6 kg, your breast-cancer risk rises to 60% (according to Dr Harvie).  If you put on 20 + kg, not only does your risk for breast-cancer doubles, but also your risk of diabetes, bowel and womb cancer, and heart disease.  If you are one of those women (or men), that has gained more weight than you wanted, do not panic and don’t lose hope!

Start by taking a small step, for example, change your eating habits, stop smoking, cut down your alcohol-intake, eat less / no processed, junk foods and start moving.  And I don’t mean from the bed, to the couch, to the chair, and back!  Doing some form of exercise, like taking the stairs instead of the lift, parking your car farther away from the mall-entrance, putting on your favourite music and dancing; just get moving! 

Another important thing to stop is to not eat out of boredom or when you have cravings.  If you are not sure whether / not you are really hungry, drink a glass of water first and wait 10 – 15 minutes.  Swopping your snacks for healthier options is another great change to make.  Eating less is also a good way to retrain your brain and body.  We are not made to eat huge amounts of food; your stomach, after all, is as big as your fist!  Dishing up smaller portions, or using a smaller plate, will train your mind and, in turn, your stomach, that the amount you eat is more than enough.

All in all, it is the small steps that gets us to our goals and, nothing is too difficult to achieve; you only have to put your mind to it…and do it! Remember; you don’t change old habits – you drop them and make new ones!

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