Some of us have the idea that good health takes a lot of work, but in reality the most important steps boil down to routine maintenance, and many healthy habits can even feel indulgent.
Reducing stress with fun “me-time,” taking a break for a little walk, eating great food, getting some healthy sun? That sounds more like a vacation than a health regimen. Yet, according to Dr. Guita Tabassi, a Women’s Health Associates of Southern Nevada OB/GYN at Southern Hills Hospital, these are core elements to a healthy lifestyle that will carry us through all seasons and our whole lives.
Tabassi’s top tips are culled from 15 years of experience, and although some seem drawn from traditional wisdom, they’re backed by the latest research as well. Better still, most of the tips for a healthier lifestyle are simply enjoyable, which makes sense because good health is a key to enjoying life.
Pay attention to yourself
Many of us pay more attention to our families, friends and neighbors than we do to ourselves, but checking in every once in a while is integral to a healthy life. One way to do this is to stop consulting “Dr. Google” and maintain annual appointments with your general physician.
“It’s better to be proactive and not wait until the body crashes or develops a severe medical condition that requires you to go to the emergency room or seek a physician, and at that point it may be too late,” Tabassi said. “Prevention is always key.”
Eat healthy food
Developing daily positive eating habits will do more for your weight and overall health than chasing the diet of the moment.
“Eating more dark green vegetables decreases the acidity of your body. Maintaining an alkaline (non-acidic) state decreases the risks of cancers and other diseases. Adding fruits that are rich in antioxidants, such as berries, also contributes to fighting disease,” Tabassi said.
She added that too many people overlook their protein intake: “Get good protein and fiber to balance the insulin sugar ratios and keep the sugar leveled all day long, which decreases cravings and weight gain.”
Another key: Try to eat small portions frequently, and avoid eating before bed. Try to eat more organic food and avoid preservatives, energy drinks and soda as much as possible.
Get healthy sun exposure
We all know the dangers of too much sun. But Tabassi asserts you still need a certain level of exposure; you just have to do it right.
“From putting on so much sunblock and sun-protective gear, we haven’t been able to produce enough vitamin D in our body,” she said. “Because of that, we’re noticing a lot of vitamin D deficiency in our patients. Vitamin D deficiency plays a role in a lot of medical diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, multiple sclerosis and depression.”
The safe sun exposure needed to produce vitamin D varies by individual, so it is best to consult your physician and have your vitamin D levels tested.
Sleep early or sleep in — it’s good for you
This one is no joke and it’s on a lot of health care professionals’ radar in recent years: We just don’t sleep enough.
“The more hectic our lives become, the more we cut down our sleep,” Tabassi said. “Back in the ’60s and ’70s, adults were sleeping 8 1/2 to 9 hours. Nowadays it’s 7 1/2 and less. The recommendation is 7 1/2 to 8 hours of sleep a night for adults to maintain their health.” It’s vital to reach deep REM sleep for your body to achieve muscle repair, memory consolidation and hormone regulation.
Stress management — infuse relaxing fun into your life
Increasingly, too much stress is recognized as a contributor to health problems.
“Our plates are extremely full with kids, soccer practices, different activities and full time careers most of the time,” Tabassi said. “Adding more and more to what is already a full plate creates a lot of chaos in our heads, and that turns into anxiety and stress, which can bring out a variety of diseases — and in the long run, it can wear a body down.”
Tabassi recommends changing how we respond to stress by creating “me time” with hobbies, exercise, meditation and yoga, and delegating responsibilities to a spouse or other family member. Indulge yourself with fun and relaxation — it’s literally good for you.
Make movement fun
People make a big deal out of exercising. “They think they have to hire a trainer, go to the gym, get special shoes and outfits,” Tabassi notes.
This starts to make people less likely to actually exercise — it seems like too much work.
“It becomes overwhelming and they talk themselves out of it,” she said. “Bottom line: Put on your sneakers and walk. Then, when you feel the benefit of getting fresh air in your lungs and getting your heart rate going, you can add other exercises.”
The effects of exercise have been proven over time to decrease the risk of developing various health problems, and it is one of the only ways to fight weight gain and aging. Simply being sure to move around as much as possible during the day is an important first step to an exercise regimen. Take a walk with your loved ones or your dog. It’s a simple and happy step toward good health.