Each day is full of choices to make. When we wake up, the type of foods we eat, how much physical activity we do, what chores need to get done today…the list could go on for what feels like forever. All of these individual decisions factor into overall health. From nutrition and sleep to your job and who you surround yourself with – lifestyle decisions play a critical role in your health.
Studies have shown poor diets can account for up to 22% of adult deaths in a single year, as poor nutrition contributes to various conditions including obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. Focusing on nutrition doesn’t necessarily mean hopping from one trending diet to the next. Instead, well-rounded and sustainable nutrition habits can be developed by taking a holistic look at your lifestyle and how healthy food can support and nourish your body. The goal of nutrition is to fuel your body so that you’re able to keep up with your lifestyle and prevent disease from within.
A lack of quality sleep can lead to a weakened immune system, a decline in cognitive function, and even contribute to larger health problems. High-quality sleep helps the body regulate hormones, such as leptin and ghrelin which control our appetite, cortisol (the stress hormone), and insulin, a major hormone that helps regulate metabolism. Sleep also supports the body in producing and releasing cytokines, which are proteins that help regulate the immune response. Sleep is a vital part of our health and is necessary for health and longevity.
High stress is linked to anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, digestive issues, and more. When the body is in a state of acute stress, it triggers a “fight or flight” response which releases adrenaline and cortisol. While this response is normal and healthy, adapted to help us survive under threat, continued stress can lead to a chronic stress response, which is not healthy. Prolonged stress like this can weaken the cardiovascular system and can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Continued high-stress levels can even affect the reproductive system (for both men and women) and contribute to infertility.
Who you choose to surround yourself with matters. Healthy relationships positively support mental health and emotional well-being, reduce stress, and give us a deeper sense of purpose and belonging. The purpose is one of the top five pillars in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to reach optimal health. Humans evolved as a “tribe” species, meaning we thrive in groups. It’s no surprise most of us feel physically and mentally better when we feel like we are part of a community. Balance social activities with alone time, be selective with the people you allow close to you, and make a conscious effort to cultivate community wherever you can.
Promoting physical activity is crucial for maintaining our overall health and well-being. However, the prevalence of sedentary behavior has become a significant concern in modern society. As movement decreases, the risk for obesity, weaker bones and muscles, poor blood circulation, and other health issues increases. To combat an inactive lifestyle, adults are recommended to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity each week—that breaks down to only 20 minutes a day.
Analyzing Your Lifestyle Choices
The first step in making healthier choices is to assess your current lifestyle. Become aware of what might be missing from your diet, sleep regimen, exercise routine, or social circle. By slowly incorporating incremental changes within each aspect of life, you can start to build a healthier lifestyle.
Want to learn more about your overall health? Get connected with a provider.