Small, simple ways to cut big health risks, that anyone can do

Ever got to a point where you realize that there are ways to not go to the doctor so often, to have more energy and/or be healthy without having to sweat it?  In today’s blogpost I’m going to share a few ways with you that will help you; not just in the short term, but also long term, to become and stay healthy.

Healing your heart:  at the Queen’s University in Belfast, researchers asked sedentary women to walk up- and down a flight of stairs for 2 minutes at a time, 15 minutes in total.  In only 8 weeks’ time, the women boosted their cardiovascular health by 17% and lowered their bad cholesterol-levels by almost 8%.  Working it up to 30 minutes in total and/or doing it at least 3 – 4 times per week, will make even a bigger difference.  Bonus is that your body will start to excrete the “happy” hormones, serotonin, whilst you are on the move (so to speak), so it will also help to lift your mood.

Cholesterol-levels:  in South Africa it is said that 1 in 4 women suffer from heart disease.  This is never a good sign, so make sure to check your cholesterol- and blood pressure levels regularly.  When your cholesterol-levels are too high, it can either mean that your diet is too rich in fatty, processed foods and sugars (this includes sodas and alcoholic-drinks), and have a detrimental effect on both your heart and liver.  If you do have elevated cholesterol-levels but your diet is balanced and healthy, it could be hereditary.  Best to always have it checked and get any further advice from your health practitioner and/or a nutritionist.

A healthy, happy brain:  Sarah Day, an Alzheimer’s specialist, believes that “what is good for your heart is good for your brain.”  Alzheimer’s is caused by problems relating to the blood supply to the brain.  It can either be caused by a build-up of mini-strokes of one big stroke; thus, it is also referred to as vascular dementia.  Lifestyle and healthy blood vessels are key, therefore commit to a healthy diet, do exercise, do not smoke or quit, and, as above, make sure to know what your cholesterol- and blood pressure-levels are.

Stay connected:  doing crosswords, Sudoku, playing chess or building a puzzle, are all great ways to exercise your brain.  However, socializing with friends and family is also important.  A study done of 1 200 people over a 3-year period, indicated that those who had a limited social network, had a 60% higher chance of developing dementia. 

Eyesight:  regular eye tests are vital; especially when we get older, work on a computer and/or have a family history of glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration (AMD).  Nutrition and a good vitamin can also help to provide your eyes with the necessary “food.”  However, do remember that taking a break every 30 minutes is vital when it comes to resting your eyes.  Your eyes can strain when you sit too long in front of a computer, a television, when you read, do bookkeeping, or anything where your eyes focus on one spot for a long time.  The eyes’ muscles get tired, just like the body, so make sure to take regular breaks and rest your eyes in-between (not just when you sleep).  A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, proved that eating just 1 portion of oily fish (for example herring, salmon, sardines or mackerel), can cut your chance of developing AMD in half!  Other food that are excellent in eye health are spinach, oranges and dried apricots.

Strong bones:  osteoporosis can be hereditary, but the risk can also be lowered just by changing your lifestyle.  After the age of 30 your body does not build bones anymore.  It is important to take a good supplement of calcium, magnesium and zinc (all in 1 tablet), as well as manganese.  Your risk to develop osteoporosis or to break / fracture a bone, after menopause.  No matter what your age is, leading a sedentary lifestyle, smoking being on corticosteroid medication for a long time, and/or having a family history of anorexia, can all elevate the risk to develop osteoporosis. 

Balance and stretch:  exercises like brisk walking, joking, dancing or light weight training, are all good to maintain strong bones and a healthy body.  However, it is important to make sure to incorporate stretching in your daily routine as well.  Before you jump out of bed, stretch first.  Before you start to exercise, warm up and when you are finished (even if you just went for a brisk walk), stretch!  As a rehabilitation specialist and master trainer, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to stretch regularly.  Why?  When you don’t stretch (regardless of your age), your muscles stay contracted.  Not only will the contractions cause your muscles to shorten, but not allowing muscles to move back into what is called their natural position, can cause injuries and even, in the long term, arthritis and other problems.

Doing yoga, t’ai chi or Pilates, are all wonderful ways to work on your balance, flexibility and strength. 

Preventing cancer:  become a flexitarian!  A what, you might ask?  A flexitarian is someone who doesn’t eat meat for a few days per week.  Instead of eating red meat every day, swop it for chicken and/or fish.  Eating beans and pulses have been shown to dramatically decrease your risk of bowel, stomach and oesophageal cancers; unlike a diet high in red, charred or processed meats.  The latter increases your risk of bowel and/or stomach cancer. 

Avoiding diabetes:  diabetes usually affects persons over the age of 40, however it can also affect people of a younger age, depending on family history and lifestyle.  Type 2 diabetes is not easy to detect, but it is something that millions of people have, without even knowing it.  Diabetes occurs when your body stops to produce insulin or when the insulin the body produces, is ineffective.  Symptoms include slow-healing wounds, fatigue, blurred vision and an unusual thirst.  In today’s world over 90% of the population have diabetes – directly linked to lifestyle choices.  The biggest lifestyle change you can make is to start eating healthy, to limit / cut out completely, your intake of sugar and fat, cutting down on alcohol, start to exercise and eating less / no processed, fast foods at all.  Did you know that people consume around 8 400 kilojoules per month from alcohol?  This is the same number of kilojoules you will get when you eat around 48 bacon sandwiches over a year!  It might not sound like a lot, but trust me, when it comes to developing diabetes, liver and/or kidney troubles, and other health issues, there is not a better time to start making changes than now!

All in all, whatever change (s) you make, you are never ever too old or too young to start.  We have 1 body; let us take care of it, respect it, nourish it in a healthy way, and in return our body and organs, will give us a life full of health…something money cannot buy!

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