If those rash resolutions made on the eve of the New Year have fallen by the wayside already “” as is the case for 88 per cent of those who indulge in such goal-setting “” follow automotive engineer and American inventor Charles Kettering’s advice: “It doesn’t matter if you try and try and try again, and fail. But it does matter if you try and fail, and fail to try again.”
Just because the year is already underway, put your mind, and body front and centre with these 10 tips aimed at having optimal health. Push aside the resolutions that have little to do with feeling and being well. As that oh so sage contemporary philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “The first wealth is health.”
1. Eat Well
Follow Canada’s Food Guide and follow the “everything-in-moderation” rule, watch your portions and eat a variety including whole grain products, fruits and vegetables lower fat dairy products, and leaner meats. For the recommended intake of each healthy food group and for explanations of terms like “˜servings’ log on to hc-sc.gc.ca and click on the Canada’s Food Guide icon. According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, when it comes to portions let your hands guide you. Two open hands cover your fruit and vegetable portion, one closed hand is enough carbohydrates such as pasta or rice, and for the meat portion, the palm of one hand only as thick as a baby finger is all your plate should hold. The tip of your thumb is the best guide to use for your mealtime fat allowance, such as oil or butter.
Be physically active on a regular basis. Activity also helps you maintain a healthy body weight. Research shows that making small changes can add up to a big difference. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2004 found that adding just 30 minutes of walking per day was enough to prevent weight gain and encourage moderate weight loss. And if 30 minutes is still too much to tackle, another study found that three brisk 10-minute walks per day were as effective as a daily 30-minute walk in decreasing risk factors for heart disease.
3. Sleep and nap
Get the best zees you possibly can with a few sensible suggestions from the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors. Aside from trying to get to bed and rise at the same time daily, keep your bedroom dark. “Melatonin, the main hormone for balancing sleep, needs darkness,” states the association’s website www.cand.ca. Use thick curtains, blinds or eye masks to ensure maximum darkness. And because starchy foods tend to raise the level of serotonin in the brain, which has a sedating effect, eat a small portion of pasta, half a baked potato, apple or a piece of toast half an hour before bed. For naptime, get a blanket and lie on the couch with all the electronics off, including that cell phone to ensure a fully relaxing time out.
4. Stay out of the sun
Protect yourself and your family from the sun, states the Canadian Cancer Society. Sure the sun’s rays soak into our bodies much needed vitamin D necessary for bone development but too much exposure to the sun’s rays can cause skin cancer and eye problems. “There is no safe way to get a tan. Tanning beds and sun lamps are not a safe alternative,” the society’s website (cancer.ca) warns. “The more you use tanning beds and sun lamps, the greater your risk of getting skin cancer.” And following the advice of the Canadian Association of Optometrists, wearing sunglasses all year long makes optical sense. Sunglasses will protect your eyes against damage from UV rays, bright light, and blue light deflecting off sand, snow and water and they’ll help reduce glare while driving.
5. Wash your hands
It’s simple and really effective at warding off those pesky cold and flu viruses and germ-ridden bacteria that seem to roam more freely through the cold months of the year. They land on the door handles, toilet flushers, railings, keyboards and instant teller machines that we touch almost daily. “Good hand hygiene is the best way to prevent the spread of all flu viruses. Wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly and often,” states Ontario’s Ministry of Health website. Even despite your doggedness, if you still get sick with a cold or flu stay home, rest, and drink plenty of fluids, just like your momma told you.
6. If you smoke – quit
The result is immediate. According to Health Canada, “the minute you stop smoking, your body will begin cleansing itself of tobacco toxins.” Those who do quit start feeling better within 24 hours, states the federal agency’s website. And within two days the risk of heart attack starts to decrease. On average, smokers typically try to put an end to their nicotine habit about four times before they quit for good, so don’t beat yourself up if you’ve attempted a cessation program before and failed. There are plenty of resources including your local pharmacist, Canadian Cancer Society and federal health agency on which to lean.
7. Reduce stress
Ask for help when you need it, realize your limits and learn to say “˜no’ to unnecessary obligations. The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada says that it’s just as important to take time to do the things you love and to laugh to eliminate stress naturally and improve cardiovascular health, as it is to eat a well balanced diet and exercise. Breathe deeply when you’re running late, hug the people you love regularly and get a massage when life becomes overwhelming. When you feel stressed, remember that your heart feels the same.
8. See your MD
Visit the family doctor, eye doctor, dentist and naturopath for an annual health examination: Know your numbers: have your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood fat (triglyceride) levels checked regularly, says the Canadian Diabetes Association. The College of Family Physicians of Canada says that women should get a regular Pap smear and pelvic exam to prevent cancer of the cervix, once a year at first, until at least three normal Pap smears in a row and then after this, at least every three years. The family doctor/naturopath will take into consideration any other health screenings needed by taking into account a patient’s age, personal and family history, health habits, disease risks and any concerns one has about one’s health. Check in with the dentist and eye doctor as well because these professionals can also detect small problems early.
9. Drink less alcohol
Canadians are binge drinkers, especially worrisome is the increase in drinking to inebriation among the 20 to 24-year-old age group, which has jumped from 23.8 per cent in 1994 to 41.4 per cent in 2003, according to Statistics Canada’s Canadian Community Health Survey. Aside from being high in calories, more importantly excess alcohol can lead to a drinking problem, cloudy judgment, ruined relationships, added stress on one’s organs and preventing one from getting the most of life.
10. Drink lots of water
According to the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors, the best way to figure out how much fluid one should ingest daily, is to divide your body weight (in pounds) by two. That’s the number of ounces of water you need daily. A normal glass is approximately eight ounces. When symptoms of stress, pain, headache, anxiety or discomfort take hold, reach for a glass of water to help the body adapt more quickly and easily.