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Lifestyle choices go a long way in protecting your overall well-being and reducing the risk of serious health issues like some cancers, dementia, diabetes and heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the U.S. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Ninety percent of the nearly 18 million heart disease cases worldwide could be prevented by people adopting a healthier diet, doing regular exercise, and not smoking.”
In addition, the Cleveland Clinic states, “Heart disease is 90 percent treatable – everyone can prevent heart disease anywhere in the world, especially by eating foods that are low in salt and cholesterol, exercising regularly, and not smoking,” said Leslie Cho, M.D., Section Head for Preventive Cardiology and Cardiac Rehabilitation at Cleveland Clinic. “Even if a person has a family history of heart disease, we can still prevent and treat heart disease thanks to incredible advances in medicine.”
Smart lifestyle choices can also help prevent other major health concerns. Harvard Health states, “A study published this summer in the Journal Neurology followed over 70,000 health professionals for more than two decades. Those who reported eating a diet high in colorful fruits and vegetables had a significantly lower risk of subjective memory loss — which is a sign of dementia — compared with those who did not.”
According to a 2018 study by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, if you adopt certain healthy habits, life expectancy could be extended by 14 years for women and by 12 years for men:
-Eating a diet high in plants and low in fats
-Exercising at a moderate to vigorous level for several hours a week
-Maintaining a healthy body weight
-Not smoking
-Consuming no more than one alcoholic drink a day for women and two for men.”
While there are unmodifiable risk factors like age, gender and family history that do play a role in disease, healthy habits absolutely make a difference. Making consistent good choices isn’t always easy–it takes discipline and commitment, but your efforts can greatly pay off. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with  Dr. Bayo Curry-Winchell, Urgent Care Medical Director and Physician, Carbon Health and Saint Mary’s Hospital who shares her tips on staying healthy longer. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.


Invest in You

Dr. Curry-Winchell says, “Yes, we all know about self-care, but when you really take time to invest in something that brings you joy, it reduces your overall stress which ultimately helps your mood – keeping you in the right frame of mind to choose a healthy lifestyle.
One way to invest in yourself is to find an escape. With phones these days, it’s hard not to be on 24/7. I always tell my patients to find a hobby whether that be reading a book, putting together a puzzle, growing a garden – you get it. Sometimes you just need to get into something that pulls you away from all of the stresses that come with life.
Also, don’t be afraid to be a little selfish. Schedule a time on your calendar to focus on you. Whether it’s a couple of minutes, an hour, or an entire day – it’s essential to help you live a healthy mental and physical lifestyle.”


Get a Check-up with your Health Care Provider

“Believe it or not, a lot of people skip their annual check-up, or wait until they have an actual issue,” Dr. Curry-Winchell states. “A regular appointment provides you with information about preventative screenings you may now be eligible for based on your age and health history. Getting screened can reduce your risks for developing complications and/or dying from a disease.
Communicating with your physician is vital. No one knows your body better than you! If you are feeling unwell or uneasy about something, don’t be afraid to speak up or schedule an appointment with your doctor or go to an urgent care. Early detection for anything health related is best.”


Prioritize Sleep

Dr. Curry-Winchell emphasizes, “Sleep is vital to your mental health and physical well-being. Getting adequate sleep (8 to 9 hours a day) will decrease your risks for developing chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and depression.”
According to the Sleep Foundation, “For most adults, at least seven hours of sleep 7 each night is needed for proper cognitive and behavioral functions. An insufficient amount of sleep can lead to serious repercussions. Some studies have shown sleep deprivation leaves people vulnerable to attention lapses, reduced cognition, delayed reactions, and mood shifts.
It’s also been suggested that people can develop a sort of tolerance to chronic sleep deprivation. Even though their brains and bodies struggle due to lack of sleep, they may not be aware of their own deficiencies because less sleep feels normal to them. Additionally, lack of sleep has been linked to a higher risk for certain diseases and medical conditions. These include obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, poor mental health, and early death.”


Protect Your Sexual Health

Siteman Cancer Center says, “Sexually transmitted infections – like human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis and HIV – can cause a number of different cancers. Protecting against these infections can lower risk. Try to always practice safer sex, which lowers the chance of getting a sexually transmitted infection. It’s also important to follow HPV vaccine recommendations for children and adults. Boys and girls should get vaccinated at 9 to 12 years old, which helps prevent cancer later in life. But the vaccine is recommended up to age 26, and can be given up to age 45. Talk to a healthcare provider or visit cdc.gov/HPV for more information.
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An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Dr. Curry-Winchell says, “It’s true – well, somewhat. Your diet is key! Eating healthy nutritious rich foods can reduce your chance of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes and high cholesterol. If you’re not a veggie person, find ways to incorporate them into your diet, and in new ways (i.e., shakes, smoothies, casseroles, etc.).”
John Hopkins Medicine recommends incorporating the following into your diet to help achieve optimal health. 
Whole grains: Grains such as whole wheat, brown rice and barley still have their fiber-rich outer shell, called the bran, and inner germ. It provides vitamins, minerals and good fats. Choosing whole grain side dishes, cereals, breads and more may lower the risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer and improve digestion, too.
Mediterranean diet: Traditional cuisine of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, shown to reduce the risk for heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and dementia. On the menu: Plenty of fruits, vegetables and beans, along with olive oil, nuts, whole grains, seafood; moderate amounts of low-fat yogurt, low-fat cheese and poultry; small amounts of red meat and sweets; and wine, in moderation, with meals.”


Quit Smoking

Dr. Curry-Winchell urges, “Cigarettes, cigars, vaporizers, whatever your vice – try to quit! Smoking has been linked to a ton of health conditions and can increase your risk for developing cancer. It’s a widely known fact that smoking increases your risks for developing heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
John Hopkins Medicine shares, “In as little as 24 hours of stopping smoking, there is a decrease in risk of a heart attack. As for longer-term benefits, Johns Hopkins researchers, in conjunction with scientists from other centers, have found that quitting decreased middle-aged smokers’ risk of dying early by almost half. Exercise can help you combat smoking cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Schedule fitness for the time of day you’re most likely to want a cigarette and soon you may be craving a walk or bike ride instead of a smoke. Still struggling on your own? Ask your doctor about smoking-cessation programs and aids.”



The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends working out “150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and 2 days of muscle strengthening activity, according to the current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans,” and Dr. Curry-Winchell shares, “Staying active will keep your mind, body, and mental state in balance and working at its best. Whether it’s a short walk, or a full body workout at the gym – anything counts.”
The CDC states, “Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Being physically active can improve your brain health, help manage weight, reduce the risk of disease, strengthen bones and muscles, and improve your ability to do everyday activities. Adults who sit less and do any amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity gain some health benefits. Only a few lifestyle choices have as large an impact on your health as physical activity. Everyone can experience the health benefits of physical activity – age, abilities, ethnicity, shape, or size do not matter.”
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