In medical journals and popular media sources, it is often recommended to adapt a healthy lifestyle for optimal health. There are myriads of sources available to give us advice on following a healthy diet and how to start an exercise habit. Looking up all these references can be overwhelming. But, recent medical studies are showing more often the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

What are some steps in achieving a healthy lifestyle?

1. Limit intake of fast foods. Many of them are rich in fat and calories. While certain franchises are trying to make their food choices “healthier”, they still are not very healthy.
2. Decrease consumption of processed foods. These, as well, are also high in fat and calories. Many also have an excessive sodium content, which can be bad for people with high blood pressure and those prone to get swelling in their legs. Most of them contain many preservatives and unnatural ingredients. Medical science has not yet determined all the harmful effects of these preservatives.
3. Increase fiber intake. As a general rule, when you sit down to eat, half of your plate should be vegetables. Increasingly studies are showing the benefits of increasing the amount of fiber can reduce the burden of certain disease, such as heart disease. It is also very important to eat an adequate amount of fiber to have a healthy digestive tract.
4. Increase the amount of water you drink. We lose water through many bodily processes throughout the day, even just by breathing. It is important that we replenish this water loss. How much do we need to drink? The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake for men is about 13 cups of total beverages a day; for women it is about 9 cups. Caffeinated beverages should not be counted in this total because caffeine acts as a mild diuretic and can cause water loss. Also, the use of sugary beverages and soft drinks should be limited.
5. Get moving. The sedentary lifestyle has been linked to many diseases, including increased risk for heart disease. Many patients tell me they are very active at their work so don’t feel they need to do additional exercise. However, this is not enough. The CDC recommends 2 and a half hours per week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise. A general rule is that the higher the heart rate, the higher the intensity of the exercise. For moderate intensity exercise the heart rate should be 50-70& of the maximum heart rate for age. Additionally, muscle strengthening exercises are also recommended.
6. If you smoke, quit. Smoking has been linked to increased occurrences of many types of cancer, including lung and throat cancer. Additionally, it is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Patients who smoke are also more prone to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. Over time, it prematurely ages the lung function and patients become limited in their tolerance to do certain activities.
7. If you are overweight, try to lose some. Recent medical studies have shown that a 10% loss in total weight can lead to risk reduction of several diseases.
8. De-Stress! There are so many stressors out there these days. We need to take periods to calm our minds. Find some time to do something you enjoy.

These are just a few ways a person can embark on developing a healthy lifestyle. It doesn’t mean that we have to force ourselves to give up things we truly enjoy. Moderation is always a good rule to follow.

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