We will begin this article on healthy lifestyle choices for optimum health. Helping youth develop healthy lifestyle choices, habits, and attitudes about food, nutrition, and physical activity can help to ensure they develop healthy lifestyles in adulthood.
With today’s high rates of obesity and chronic disease wreaking havoc on families physically, mentally, and financially, instilling youth with the skills and knowledge to make healthy lifestyle choices throughout their lives can reduce this stress and build a healthier generation.
We are also going to discuss some daily healthy lifestyle choices for optimum health with the topic of sleep. Studies confirm that both physical and mental health can be improved by taking 30-minute naps late in the afternoon.
If you can’t nap, it’s still helpful to rest quietly with your eyes closed; you’ll achieve something similar to the meditation and stress-reduction benefits we spoke about earlier. Your night-time sleep goal should be about 7 to 8 hours.
I. Healthy Lifestyle Choices #1: Healthy Sleeping Habits
Sleep deprivation is a major problem in the United States and all across the world today. It’s prevalent in all age categories, from the late teens to the very elderly. Studies have shown that both physical and mental performance suffers greatly, even with minor sleep losses.
Sleep deprivation is also linked to high blood pressure, depression, heart disease, and erratic blood glucose levels. Some people suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, in which the airway closes down while an individual is asleep, causing the sleeper to wake, gasping for breath. The chronic sleep deprivation associated with sleep apnea can have serious health consequences.
Sleep medications have been developed from melatonin, a sleep-regulating hormone, and tryptophan, the precursor to melatonin. Over-the-counter drugs may be effective for mild insomnia but should be reserved for short-term use.
If you have difficulty sleeping, experts suggest avoiding other activities in bed, such as reading; buying a good mattress; keeping the temperature cool; and avoiding late-night meals, caffeine, and alcohol, which may interfere with the quality of sleep. Increasing the time, you spend in natural sunlight may also help in pushing the sleep hormones toward a favorable balance at nightfall.
Note: Sleep deprivation affects most age groups in the United States.
Important Term to Remember:
Melatonin: A sleep-regulating hormone also involved in modulating the circadian rhythms.
II. Healthy Lifestyle Choices #2: Drink Alcohol in Moderation
Some in the scientific community are now questioning the idea that drinking alcohol in moderation is beneficial. Observational studies show a connection between moderate use of alcohol and lower death risk, but no prospective, randomized, double-blind studies have been performed.
Rather than gaining any benefit from the alcohol itself, it may be true that healthy people simply choose to drink moderately. Note, too, that alcohol consumption is associated with increased risk of cancer, accidents, and liver disease and causes shrinkage of the brain, even in moderate amounts.
III. Healthy Lifestyle Choices #3: Drink Lots of Water
We should, however, drink lots of water. You may not need eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, but it’s better to have too much water than too little. The best gauge for whether or not you’re drinking enough water is urinary output and color. Dehydration poses special risks for the elderly, who can easily go into shock from the associated drop in blood pressure.
IV. Healthy Lifestyle Choices #4: Keep Households Air Free of Dust, Allergens, and Toxins
Keeping household air free of dust, allergens, and toxins, particularly fumes from building materials, is a challenge. In medicine, we say that the solution to pollution is dilution. Find ways to keep the air in your home circulating and refreshed.
V. Healthy Lifestyle Choices #5: Take Care of Yourself
Finally, if you are a caregiver of someone who has special needs, it’s critical that you also take care of yourself. Look to resources in the community, such as home health-care providers or senior centers, that may be able to give you some time off. Keep up with your social interactions and maintain a routine of good diet and exercise.
I believe, again, in the value of lifestyle changes. This kind of treatment— getting more sun, preparing yourself for sleep—is much better than supplements. The balance of nutrition, exercise, [and] mental health principles still makes the most sense.