When It Comes to Your Health, Old News is Still Good News

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While catching up on the latest Facebook news, I came across this nursery rhyme someone had posted:

The best six doctors anywhere
And no one can deny it
Are sunshine, water, rest, and air
Exercise and diet.
These six will gladly you attend
If only you are willing
Your mind they'll ease
Your will they'll mend
And charge you not a shilling.

The nursery rhyme, which is set to the tune of “Yankee Doodle,” was originally quoted in “The Health Club” in School Life in 1920. Amazing how such simple advice back then still stands today, even in a world with amazing scientific discoveries and speed-of-light evolving technology!

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that just five diseases account for more than 65% of deaths in American adults. These are heart disease, cancer, stroke, lung disease, and diabetes. Many of these could be prevented with some simple lifestyle changes that do not necessarily cost a whole lot of money. All it takes is a little sunshine, water, rest, air, exercise and diet!

Sunshine and Vitamin D

Several studies over the last several years implicate vitamin D deficiency as a cause for several diseases, including heart disease and certain types of cancer. Vitamin D levels have drastically declined in the US, and worldwide, and there is an association between deficiency and excess weight – another factor that increases the risk of chronic disease. Some researchers suspect that not spending enough time outdoors in the sun is a major reason for our lowered vitamin D levels.

A study from Harvard School of Public Health found that people who exercise outdoors three or more hours per week not only had lowered risk of heart disease and diabetes, but also had higher levels of vitamin D.

Water

The body needs water to stay healthy. Every cell of the body contains water and it is needed to help transport nutrients and oxygen as well as help remove toxins and waste from body tissue. Too many of us these days choose sugar-sweetened beverages – or even artificially sweetened drinks – over plain old-fashioned water. Some experts cite this as a major factor in our country’s continued obesity epidemic.

Drinking enough water can be an excellent weight loss tool for two reasons. One, if we replace soda and fruit juice for plain water, we can save a considerable amount of calories per day. Two, one study found that when we choose water for meals over soft drinks, we tend to eat more healthful foods.

Rest (Sleep)

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According to the National Center for Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Health, about 30-40% of adults say they have had insomnia within the past year. About 10 to 15% report chronic insomnia, where they are unable to fall asleep or stay asleep at least three nights per week. This lack of adequate rest has serious health consequences. In one study, those who had chronic sleep problems were two to three times more likely to die than those who slept better.

Harvard Medical School offers the following tips to help improve sleep: Avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and other chemicals that interfere with sleep; establish a consistent schedule that includes a soothing pre-sleep routine; and exercise regularly.

Air (Avoiding Pollution)

Oxygen – obviously we can’t live without it. But in our modern times, we do a lot of bad things to our environment that compromise our ability to breathe in healthy air. Smoking, for example, harms nearly every organ in the body and contributes to many of the conditions that shorten our lives such as heart disease, lung disease, cancer, and stroke. Air pollution is another contributor to disease, including heart disease, diabetes, and potential brain damage.

You can make healthier choices each day that can help clean up our air. Smoking cessation, conserving energy, avoiding unnecessary toxic chemicals can all go a long way to reduce our personal – and global – levels of disease.

Exercise

It just cannot be emphasized enough that everyone needs to make an effort to increase their daily physical activity levels. Exercise can significantly reduce the risk of developing chronic disease, and thus living longer. It can also help improve quality of life as well for those who already have a chronic disease.

If you need some more motivation than that – check out “Ten Reasons to Get Out for a Short Walk Today.”

Diet

The term diet is much too often associated with those who are temporarily restricting their food intake for the sake of losing a few pounds. Instead, when we talk about our diet, it should be a way of life – eating healthful foods day in and day out. That will be the ultimate factor in reducing disease and enjoying a longer life.

The Mediterranean Diet has stood the long-term test of being one of the world’s most healthful way of eating. It has been shown to protect the body from head to toe, as it is lower in fat and sodium and higher in fiber and nutrient-rich grains, fruits and vegetables.

This list of healthful habits - sunshine, water, rest, air, exercise and diet – add very little (if any, really) costs that would prevent you from adopting at least some into your day. Ultimately, they will save money, with reduced doctor visits, fewer prescription medicines, and greater productivity. But no price can be placed upon how much happier you will feel as you reduce your levels of disease and start enjoying your life!

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