Did you know what the top causes of early death are?
Some things can’t be controlled (your age, family history of diseases, gender). But others can. And those things aren’t a huge surprise — you already know not to smoke, drink too much, or eat badly.
It’s interesting, though, how all of the major diseases are caused by the same things: smoking, diet, exercise, alcohol and stress.
Below we’ll list the top habits you can change, and a simple method for changing them.
1. Stop smoking. This is by far the most important habit, as it affects almost every single one of the leading causes of death. It’s also the hardest of these habits to change. It’s not at all impossible — start with Quitline as a great resource to get the ball rolling!
2. Lose weight (if you’re overweight). This is not exactly a habit — the best habit to form to lose weight is to eat less. Or eat more of things that don’t have a lot of calories, like fruits and veggies. Being overweight is just below smoking the worst risk factor for many diseases.
3. Exercise. You don’t need us to tell you to exercise, but listen to this: lack of exercise is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, colon & rectal cancers, diabetes, breast cancer, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. If you don’t exercise, you’re just asking to get a major disease. It’s almost a magic pill: do a bit of exercise every day, and you get healthy. You don’t need much — start with 5 minutes a day in the morning.
4. Drink only in moderation. Heavy drinking is one of the worst risk factors for many diseases. That’s more than 2 drinks of alcohol a day for men, and more than 1 drink for women. A glass of red wine is a good thing, but too many and you’re greatly increasing your risk of disease.
5. Reduce red & processed meats. Eating red meats, and processed meats like sausages, bacon, canned meats and so on, is a risk factor for colon/rectal cancer, stomach cancer, and high cholesterol, which in turn is a leading risk factor for coronary heart disease and stroke. While this may not sit well with many people, the overwhelming mass of research supports this.
6. Eat fruits & veggies. This is obvious, but it’s amazing how few veggies most people eat. Eating fruits and veggies reduces your risk of several leading diseases, and it’s one of the easiest habits to form. Eat a salad (without heavy dressings, bacon or other meats, croutons or cheese), add veggies to soups or veggie chili, cook up veggies as a healthy side dish with dinner or lunch. Eat fruits with breakfast and as snacks.
7. Reduce salt, and saturated/trans fats. Salt and saturated or trans fats are in so many processed or prepared foods, and they increase risks of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which increase the risk for heart disease and stroke. Cook your own healthy meals instead of eating out or eating prepared foods.
8. Reduce stress. Stress is a risk factor for heart disease and high blood pressure, which is itself a risk factor for stroke. Simplify your workday so that you’re not overly stressed, and also exercise to relieve stress.