Life expectancy in America ranges, on average, from 76.3 years for men to 81.1 years for women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During these years, a number of diseases due to poor health can strike, including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and cancer. Reduce your risk of these diseases and improve your quality of life — no matter how many years you live — by giving your body what it needs to be healthy.
Maintaining a healthy diet is all about balance. Your body needs all three macronutrients – proteins, carbs and fat – to stay energetic, build muscle and perform vital bodily functions. To stay your healthiest, focus on consuming nutritious foods, rather than dieting. Harvard Medical School recommends eating a plant-based diet full of fruits, vegetables and whole grains and complementing it with lean proteins such as poultry and soy. Consume healthy fats, including olive oil, nuts and fatty fish, such as salmon, while avoiding foods that contain trans fats – most often found in processed or convenience foods.
Vitamins and Minerals
In addition to the three macronutrients, your body needs a variety of vitamins and minerals, too. Each vitamin and mineral plays a different role in your body; for example, vitamin D helps your body absorb the mineral calcium to create strong bones, while the mineral iron helps form hemoglobin in the blood.
Other important vitamins and minerals include — but are not limited to — folate, magnesium, selenium, zinc and vitamins A, D, E, K and B complex. Although taking a multivitamin daily can help boost your health, the CDC recommends getting the vitamins and minerals you need from eating a balanced diet. Additionally, to avoid high blood pressure and other potential diseases, decrease the amount of sodium you eat; this is most easily done by preparing meals at home and choosing fresh foods over boxed or canned items.
Regular exercise works hand in hand with nutrition to keep your body strong and healthy. Not only does physical activity help you maintain a healthy weight, it aids in maintaining bone mass, lowers blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, reduces stress and improves your quality of sleep, says the Cleveland Clinic. Your fitness routine should consist of four parts: Cardiovascular exercise, strength training, flexibility and balance and agility exercises. If you’ve previously been sedentary, speak with your doctor about the safest and most effective exercise routine for you.
The amount of water your body needs to stay healthy depends on how active you are and what type of climate you live in, according to the CDC. Your body requires water to regulate its temperature, lubricate and cushion your joints, produce urine, perspiration and bowel movements and protect your spinal cord. Stay hydrated by keeping a filled water bottle with you at all times.
When doing physical activity, drink water both during and after you’re finished. The traditional recommendation of drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily is outdated. According to MayoClinic.com, men should drink 3 liters daily, while women should drink 2.2 liters of water every day.
There’s no magic number for the hours of sleep you need each night, says the National Sleep Foundation, as it varies by age group and individual. However, typical adults have a basal sleep need – meaning the amount necessary on a regular basis for optimal performance – of approximately seven to eight hours.
Lack of sleep can lead to an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and psychiatric conditions, as well as a greater likelihood for motor vehicle accidents and a decreased ability to pay attention or remember information. To engage in a higher quality of sleep more regularly, establish a consistent schedule – meaning you wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day, even on the weekends. Create a relaxing sleeping environment in a cool, dark room with a comfortable mattress and pillow.