Seven ways to improve your lifestyle

Posted on 22 April 2014

Dr Freda Badenhorst, a supporting general practitioner to Mediclinic Vergelegen and Mediclinic Strand, has advice to help improve your general health – and your quality of life.

Dr Badenhorst shares her seven tips for living a healthy lifestyle. Bear in mind, though, we are all unique and individual treatment suggestions should take age, ethnicity, gender, life stage and medical history into account.

1.    Stress less
In our fast-paced fight-and-flight lifestyles, this is something we easily neglect – but we should reduce our stress daily. Incorporate a 10 to 15-minute de-stress break into every day. You could, for instance, try mindfulness breathing techniques, TRE (tension and trauma release exercises), do yoga or start a hobby to reduce the impact of long-term stress on your body. And learn to say no to taking on extra responsibilities: it’s not an egocentric thing to do, it’s self-preservation.

2.    Pay attention to what you are exposed to in your environment
Environmental toxins have been proven to be detrimental to our health. While we can’t control everything in the world around us, we can do our best to limit excess exposure in several ways. Make sure the water you drink is clean and filtered – but not to the extent that it is stripped of all minerals. Avoid renting or buying property near overhead powerlines and avoid excessive radiation, from cellphones, cordless phones, electrical transformers, nearby microwave towers and microwave ovens. Breathe in fresh air by avoiding environmental toxins, like smoke or pesticides. The same goes for your food – even if you can’t afford to buy organic (which is free of chemical pesticides and grown without chemical fertilisers and so on), choose the best-quality produce you can find.

3.    Avoid the bad ‘recreationals’
This goes without saying: limit your exposure to, and intake of, tobacco, alcohol, unnecessary medications and recreational drugs. Find ways to talk your way out of situations that involve these harmful elements.

4.    Prioritise wholesome, mindful eating
Eating well is not about diets, it’s about making the correct choices. As far as possible, choose fresh, non-genetically-modified whole foods that are pesticide- and preservative-free. Eat from all of the food groups daily. Even if you are on an elimination diet (of, say, gluten grains), you still need to eat a variety of gluten-free whole grains. Ideally, within any given day, you should have fruit and veggies that cover all the colours of the rainbow.

Also pay attention to your dietary patterns: do you skip breakfast? Are you eating too late at night? Everyone should have breakfast, even if only mid-morning and don’t eat in the last three hours of waking time before bed, to ensure your sleep is used for resting functions, not digestion.

Practise mindful eating: when you eat, eat sitting down. Don’t eat on the run. Putting five to 10 minutes aside aids digestion. Rest and digestion work on the extreme opposite pole to the fight-and-flight state the sympathetic nervous system puts you in when you’re rushing. This means that proper digestion is physiologically not possible if you eat when you are stressed out and in a hurry. Undigested foods irritate the gastrointestinal immune system, which leads to low-grade inflammation. Just like when you throw a pebble in to a pond, low-grade inflammation has a ripple effect on the rest of the body’s systems, which can lead to more serious conditions, even disease.

5.    Hydrate properly
Many people live off dehydrating fluids, like coffee. But 80% of our bodies are made up of water, which we need to assist metabolic processes and eliminate toxins. You need to drink 1,5 litres of water per day, spread throughout the day. (If you drink a jug too quickly, your body will simply eliminate it.) If you must have coffee, drink each cup with a glass of water to make up for the dehydrating effects of the caffeine.

6.    Move as much as you can
You don’t need to be a fitness fanatic to be physical every day. You can find ways to be physical regardless of your age or capabilities. Remember there are three types of exercises: cardio, balance and strength. Don’t neglect those that require balance and strength, as these are two important abilities that deteriorate as you age.

7.    Sleep to switch off, rest and repair
To truly give your body time to repair, you should be in bed no later than 23h00 and you should ideally have eight hours of sleep.

Above all, take responsibility for your own health trajectory. Don’t abuse it or expect it to keep on running, no matter how you treat it. The better you look after it, the better it will serve you.

Published in Exercise

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