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Your health depends on many factors. Some factors are out of your control. For example, women with a family history of breast cancer may be more likely to develop it because of their genes. However, in many ways, you can control the factors that affect your health—for instance, you can decide to take a walk around your neighborhood instead of watching TV for another hour.
It’s important to take care of both your mind and your body for a number of reasons. Your efforts to live a balanced, healthy life have long-lasting and far-reaching implications for your personal wellbeing. A healthy routine can even help you defy your genes and reduce your risk of some diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, and stroke. This article provides a very basic overview of practical measures you can take to ensure you’ll have a healthy mind and body.
Your brain has more influence on your overall health than you might think. Besides performing millions of functions each day, your brain can also help you heal. Studies have shown that people who try to make their self-talk (the things you say to yourself inside your head) more positive have less depression and better physical wellbeing (Mayo Clinic, 2011).
Interest in the brain’s effects on overall health has paved the way for more interest in "holistic" medicine. Holistic medicine leverages the power your brain has over your body to improve health, treat illnesses, and prevent disease. Evidence to support its effectiveness is sparse. Many types of activities fall under the "holistic" tent—meditation, yoga, prayer, and guided imagery are some of the alternative options doctors and patients may try (American Cancer Society, 2013).
The following three basic principles should guide your food choices:
These guidelines do not cover every healthy-eating topic, but they are a great starting point for people trying to have a healthy mind and body. One of the best ways to stick to these rules is to cook for yourself at home. Restaurant and fast-food menus are often heavy on the fat and salt and low in vegetables, fruit, and nutrition. Cooking at home helps you control what you’re eating and what you’re feeding your family.
The average adult female needs between 1,600 and 2,400 calories per day, depending on physical activity levels and age. Adult males, on the other hand, need between 2,000 and 3,000 calories per day, depending on the same factors (USDA, 2010). Talk with your doctor about determining the optimal calorie level for you and members of your family.
Fat is essential for your body’s proper function, growth, and healing, but not all fats are created equal. Saturated fat is in dairy, butter, and meat. It’s been found to increase a person’s risk for heart disease. Trans fat is a man-made fat created when hydrogen is added to liquid oil to create a solid fat. This type of fat has been shown to increase a person’s risk for heart disease and decrease levels of "good" cholesterol. Try to replace saturated fats with healthier, unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats are found in fish, nuts, and some oils (CDC, 2012).
The news on what’s healthy and what’s not may seem to change with the day, but one thing remains the same: fruits and vegetables are good for you. Be sure to include whole grains, too. These three groups make up a plant-based diet. A healthy diet does have room for some lean meat and low-fat dairy, but plates should be built on plants (Mayo Clinic, 2011).
Studies show that physical activity makes you healthier in many ways. People who get regular exercise are less likely to suffer from a chronic disease, are able to maintain a healthy weight, and have a higher self-esteem. The Centers for Disease Control recommend that the average adult get at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. They also recommend adults have a strength training session at least two times a week (CDC, 2011).
Stress has a powerful effect on your body—and not always in a good way. Stress is a normal response when you’re facing increased demands or life-threatening situations. However, too much stress over long periods of time can be detrimental to your health. Studies show stress can increase a person’s risk for heart disease, sudden heart attack, obesity, and diabetes (Mayo Clinic, 2010).
Manage stress as best you can. Try to find stress-reduction techniques that help you ease tensions, reduce anxiety, and feel more comfortable. Popular stress-reduction techniques include meditation, exercise, and yoga.
Good emotional health is a positive, healthy thing. People who are aware of their thoughts, emotions, and feelings are better able to cope with the stresses and anxieties that are a part of a normal life. People with a healthy emotional life are also likely to have better relationships with friends, family members, and colleagues.
However, it’s not uncommon to experience emotional lows during your life. Life events, such as the loss of a loved one, job changes, or financial troubles, can greatly affect your mental health. If left unresolved, bad feelings can eventually develop into larger problems, such as anxiety or depression. Be open and honest with your doctor about your life, your stressors, and how you’re feeling. Your doctor can help you find treatment, which does not necessarily involve medication.
The same goes for your physical health: If you sense something is wrong, seek help. Many conditions, diseases, or complications can manifest themselves in unusual ways. What you think is simply a headache may actually be a symptom of something more serious.
Written by: Kimberly Holland
Medically reviewed on: May 09, 2013: George Krucik, MD, MBA
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