You can’t choose your parents or age, but there are many things you do have control over. Here are the top recommendations from Sunnybrook experts to help you achieve a long and healthy life.
Eat well. The secret lies in eating a varied and balanced diet, and making sure you put your body’s needs are at the top of the list. Remember that if you have too much of one thing, you’re likely missing out on another! Be wary of health crazes and fad diets. You need to ask yourself, “Can I do this forever?” Approaching your diet from a lifestyle perspective can help good changes stick.
Exercise. A physically active lifestyle can help stave off a host of health problems, from heart disease to obesity. Even if it’s just a little bit a day, aim for consistency and increasing your amount and intensity over time. Not only can physical activity increase the number of years you live, it can also dramatically improve the quality of those years.
Get screened. Screening tests look for a disease or condition that you have no symptoms for. You can be screened for conditions like cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes and cholesterol. Make sure to talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of screening, and what is appropriate for you.
Stay socially active. There are so many different ways you can engage yourself socially, whether it’s joining a reading group, learning a new hobby or volunteering. Social connections help give you something to look forward to, as well as a sense of community, both key in overall happiness.
Manage safety risks. Be smart in all areas of your life! If you’re driving, avoid distractions, alcohol and wear your seatbelt. When playing sports, wear appropriate equipment and train yourself for the activity. A bit of foresight and planning can help prevent many injuries in various aspects of your life.
Quit smoking. The CDC reports that smoking harms nearly every organ in your body, and is a leading preventable cause of death. By quitting, you can reduce your chances of serious health problems like heart disease and various cancers. You can also hopefully enjoy more birthdays, knowing the average lifespan of a smoker is about a decade shorter than for a non-smoker.
If you choose to drink, enjoy in moderation. Canada’s low-risk alcohol guidelines indicate you can reduce your long-term health risks by drinking no more than 10 drinks a week for women, with no more than 2 drinks a day most days. For men, the weekly limit is 15 drinks, with no more than 3 drinks a day most days.
Get immunized. Immunizations are a key way to stay healthy and ward off many life-threatening illnesses. If you have children, talk to your health team about the recommended vaccine schedule. And remember that some vaccines will require a booster in adulthood. Keeping a schedule of all administered vaccines is a helpful way of keeping track.
Sleep on it. Aim to sleep between 7 to 9 hours a night to optimize the amount of deep, restorative sleep you get. Maintain a regular sleep schedule, and minimize environmental distractions like light and noise. Because exercise can help boost sleep quality, aim for at least 20 minutes of activity a few hours before bedtime. And if you tend to overthink things the minute your head hits the pillow, make a ‘worry list’ with possible solutions before bedtime. That way, you can sleep peacefully.
(reviewed by Sunnybrook’s Department of Family & Community Medicine)