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How to live a healthier lifestyle at every age

You’ve heard the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” And while that theory might be true, there’s more to a healthier lifestyle than a simple serving of fruit. It’s a well-rounded approach, filled with physical activity, self-care, and, yes, your nutritional needs. (Though it’s a bit more than just an apple.)

 

For some, a healthy lifestyle can seem overwhelming — if you have a busy career or just don’t know how to get started, it’s easier to look the other way. But there are so many benefits to a healthy lifestyle — and it could even improve your performance at your said busy job, or other areas of your life.

 

Not to mention, healthcare costs are rising fast. Though some ailments are beyond our control, there’s power in being proactive when it comes to our health.

 

We promise, this isn’t a guide filled with expensive (and extensive) supplement routines or demands for a daily, 5am mountain hike. (Unless that’s your thing.) An effective healthy lifestyle can be accessible — no matter your age. Keep reading to learn how.

 

What is a healthy lifestyle, exactly?

A healthy lifestyle will look different for everyone, but generally speaking, there are five key components that should be considered for your day-to-day. There’s ample room for customization here, but here are some key building blocks.

 

Proper nutrition

Drinking plenty of water and incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet is a great start, but also consider limiting processed foods. Most have added ingredients like sweeteners, oils, colors, and preservatives, which can pack in excess sodium and fat. It’s unrealistic to throw out all of the processed food in your cabinet — but instead, learn how to choose healthier options, and limit your intake overall. Here are some tips to help:

  • Read food labels: knowing what to look for makes this task much easier. (No need to stand in the freezer aisle for hours on end.) Choose products without a lot of sodium, added sugars, and unhealthy fats like saturated fat and trans fat. Also, just because something is labeled as “organic” or “natural,” doesn’t mean it gets a free pass. You should still be mindful of the ingredients, no matter what labels claim.

  • Know what to avoid: ingredients like sodium nitrates or nitrites, corn, vegetable, and soy bean oils, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, colors, and sweeteners, and carrageenan. These common additives, preservatives, and sweeteners have been linked to heart disease, cancer, and inflammation.

  • Cook more meals at home: when you’re the chef, you can control what’s added to your meals. Cooking at home can also save you money and provide an outlet for creativity.

  • Watch what you snack on: swap your pre-packaged snacks for fresh fruits, vegetables, hummus, or crunchy nuts and seeds.

 

Exercise and physical activity

A general rule of thumb for physical activity is 30 minutes a day. Physical activity is linked to better brain health, weight management, and an overall improved quality of life. Depending on your age, ability, and goals, exercise looks different for everyone. Here are a few easy ways to get your 30 minutes in:

  • Walking around your neighborhood or local park.

  • Have a dance party (even if it’s by yourself!).

  • Take the stairs.

  • Hike a local trail.

  • A quick yoga routine.

  • Hula hoop.

  • Go for a bike ride.

  • Stand-up paddle boarding or kayaking.

 

Sleep

A good night’s sleep is super important for your overall health — almost as important as proper nutrition and physical activity. In fact, short sleep duration is one of the strongest risk factors for obesity. Strive to get at least eight hours of sleep a night.

 

Stress management

Chances are, you’re probably under a little bit of stress right now. Stress is a normal part of life — it’s how your body deals with challenges. There are some pros to stress (if you can believe it), like performing better under pressure and improved cognitive function, but unsurprisingly, it isn’t the best for our health. Stress causes the release of cortisol, which can increase blood pressure and heart rate and negatively affect sleeping and eating habits.

When you’re feeling stressed, here’s what you can do:

  • Know (and avoid) your triggers, like certain people, topics, or situations.

  • Increase physical activity.

  • Think positively — try to find the bright side of your situation, your “why,” and your growth opportunities.

  • Set aside time to relax.

  • Take charge of the situation — by delegating tasks, learning to say no, or becoming more assertive.

  • Limit your alcohol intake. It’s not unusual to pour a glass of wine or enjoy a beer after a stressful day, but this habit can take an unhealthy turn if not managed responsibly.

 

Emotional wellbeing

Similar to stress management, your emotional wellbeing is an incredibly important contributor to a healthy lifestyle. When you feel good on the inside, chances are it will reflect on the outside too — and vice-versa. There are many ways to improve and maintain good emotional health, including:

  • Being aware of your emotions. Understanding what makes you sad, angry, and even happy can help you better navigate what’s going on. Try to address and change what’s causing a negative reaction, either through self-reflection or a licensed mental health counselor.

  • Express your feelings when appropriate. Don’t bottle up any pressing emotions — let people know what you’re feeling. Communication is key!

  • Connect with others. A phone call, a lunch date, a group activity — no matter what it looks like, connecting with others in a positive way is important.

  • Find your purpose. Figuring out your passion is easy for some, and difficult for others. Whether it’s your career, family, volunteering, or creative hobbies, your purpose can help drive feelings of belonging and satisfaction.

  • Practice gratitude. Even when life throws a curveball, shift your focus to the good things in your life. Negative feelings can lead to harmful habits.

 

What are the benefits of a healthy lifestyle?

When you adopt healthier habits, you gain many benefits.

  • You’ll feel better physically and mentally. Improved sleep, weight management, and a positive outlook on life — we’ll take it!

  • You’ll save money. Eating healthful foods, limiting drugs and alcohol, and engaging in regular physical activity can prevent illness and chronic diseases — which means less trips to the doctor, and limits your money spent on prescription medication.

  • A feeling of control. It’s like having one of those days when you’re crossing things off your to-do list left and right, having positive conversations, and feeling good about yourself — but every single day.

 

What are some of the best healthy habits for men?

While this isn’t a full list, men wishing to start (or improve) their health journey can begin with these helpful tips:

  • Keep your daily sugar intake below 36 grams.

  • Cut back on your red meat. Studies show that healthy men produced 60% more dangerous clotting agents after eating high-fat meals loaded with meat and dairy.

  • Ask your doctor for an EKG. This provides a healthy baseline that your doctor can use for future EKGs down the line, when men are more likely to develop a heart condition.

  • Incorporate weights in your workout routine. Iowa State University found that around an hour of weightlifting can reduce your risk for a heart attack or stroke by 40-70%.

  • Consider adding a vitamin D supplement to your daily routine — studies show that it may boost testosterone levels in men and support heart and bone health.

 

What are some of the best healthy habits for women?

Similarly, women seeking to live a healthier lifestyle can start by:

  • Keeping your daily sugar intake below 24 grams.

  • Prioritizing protein, omega-3 fats, and folic acid in your food.

  • Considering a collagen supplement, which can help improve skin elasticity and promote healthy hair.

  • Checking out their beauty cabinets. Women put an average of 168 chemicals on their faces and bodies every day. Be mindful of the ingredients in your personal care products — some, like the blanket term “fragrance” and parabens, can be hormone disrupters, and are linked to cancer.

  • Scheduling a well-woman visit every year. (Which, according to most health insurance companies, is considered preventive care — and is usually no cost to you!)

 

The doctor’s visits you should make at every age    

In addition to the at-home habits we hope we’ve inspired you to make, it’s essential to get the proper checkups to ensure what you’re doing is making a difference. With so many specialists out there (not to mention figuring out what is covered by your insurance), it can be overwhelming to figure out the visits you actually need.

 

Grab your calendar — ahead are some common visits to pencil in at every age.

 

In your 20s...

We get it. You’d rather spend your time making the most of your 20s — and not at the doctor’s office. But by keeping a few checkups on your schedule throughout the year, you’re setting a proactive standard for the rest of your life.

  • Get in the habit of getting an annual physical (or check-up) every year — no matter what. It’s a simple (and usually covered) visit to keep up with your vitals like blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature. When you’re in your 20s, establishing a primary care doctor can be important down the road to compare your medical history and detect any changes year after year.

  • In terms of supplemental care, visit the dentist twice a year, and your eye doctor once a year.

  • If you missed the sunscreen memo in your rebellious teenage years, it might be a good time to visit the dermatologist for a skin check. They’ll do a full-body scan and let you know how often you should return.

  • Your 20s brings a lot of change, for better and for worse. Checking in with a therapist, no matter if it’s a one-off visit or a regular occurrence, can do wonders for your mental health.

 

In your 30s...

In your 30s, you should continue the same rotation of doctor’s visits as mentioned from your 20s. For more specialized care, consider adding:

  • A trip to the allergist, if you find yourself constantly sneezing in a corner while others enjoy the flowers blooming. An allergist can also test for food allergies, which can help decrease inflammation and discomfort.

  • An endocrinologist visit, specializing in hormonal conditions like diabetes, thyroid issues, and metabolic disorders.

  • Visits with a fertility doctor, if applicable

 

In your 40s...

By now, you know the drill. Visit your primary care physician, dentist, and eye doctor annually, in addition to any other recommended check-ups from specialty care providers, but there are other visits to now consider.

  • Around this time, unless you have any reason to go earlier (such as due to chest pains or difficulty breathing), it’s a good idea to start visiting a cardiologist. How often you’ll go after your initial visit is typically up to your doctor — but you can usually expect every 1 or 2 years moving forward.

  • Women should start yearly mammograms early in their 40s (or earlier if there is a family history of breast cancer).

 

In your 50s...

There’s a lot to look forward to in your 50s — maybe you’ve recently become an empty-nester or downloaded a retirement countdown app on your phone. Either way, it’s a critical time in your life, and for your health. Here’s how you can stay ahead.

  • Men should start prioritizing a PSA test every two years. This is what doctors use to screen for prostate cancer. If you’re high risk or have a family history of prostate cancer, start at around age 45.

  • Adults with average risk should have a colonoscopy done at age 50. If your results are normal, you won’t need another for 10 years.

  • Are people talking lower these days? If you have had no prior hearing issues, a baseline hearing test should be conducted with an audiologist. This is to detect any changes in hearing moving forward.

 

When you’re 60+…

Unlike the early years, skipping out on doctor’s visits in your senior years might lead to much bigger impacts. Even though you might find yourself in a waiting room much more than you care to, it’s a crucial step in your overall health and wellness. (And believe it or not, it can help keep your medical costs low, too.)

 

As you keep up with your usual medical routine, check out this roundup of medical tests you should start prioritizing once you’ve reached 60+.

 

Living a healthy lifestyle might seem like a lot to manage, but we encourage you to take it on step by step. Start by scheduling a visit with your primary care doctor — you can talk more in depth about a routine that can best benefit you if you’re unsure.

 

Regardless of how old you are, make a plan — no matter how elaborate or simple — to start on a path to a healthier lifestyle TODAY. It’s a cliché, but absolutely true: your future self will thank you.

Tags: Health, Health Insurance, Care

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