It’s true, you can help extend your life by practicing just a few habits – not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, enjoying a balanced diet, and getting your exercise. Hopefully, these are existing habits for you. If not, after learning just how critical they are, we hope you are inspired to make a few changes to give yourself the best opportunity for a longer, healthier life!
Do not smoke
Research has found that smoking is the single most powerful factor in determining life expectancy; it’s simple – smokers simply do not live as long as non-smokers do. Smoking is not a healthy habit for anyone, but diabetics are at increased risk of suffering smoking’s dangerous effects. Research has found that A1C levels rise with repeated exposure to nicotine. Long-term elevated blood sugar levels increase the risk of serious complications like kidney failure, heart attack, or stroke.
Maintain a healthy weight
New research has found that individuals who fluctuate in weight have twice the risk of death, heart attack, or stroke compared to individuals who maintain a stable weight. Those who lost, and then re-gained the weight, also had a 78% increase in risk of developing diabetes.
The first thing to do is to speak with your healthcare team. If you are not currently at a healthy weight, your physician will set a goal weight for you to reach. Check in regularly with your physician regarding your progress to ensure you remain on track.
Don’t fall for fads. While the “lose 20 pounds in a week with the XYZ diet” may sound appealing, don’t trust it. As with most things, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.
Don’t skip meals. While it may be tempting to cut calories by not eating, this strategy will backfire. When you skip a meal, your blood sugar goes haywire. Eat regularly to make sure that your body is getting the fuel it needs. For some, this means 3 larger meals and 2 snacks, for others it may mean eating every 2-3 hours. Find what works best for your blood sugar.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet
Research has shown that certain foods can even extend the length (and quality) of our lives! Berries, fish, vegetables, and nuts have all been touted as life-extenders.
Fresh berries like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries are packed with antioxidants, and have a lower glycemic index than most other fresh fruits.
The high omega-3 fatty acid content in cold-water fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel can help to lower LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. This, in turn, can help to balance your blood sugar levels, and reduce risk of heart disease.
Research has shown that eating veggies like romaine lettuce, kale, and Swiss chard on a regular basis can help reduce risk for dementia. In one study, adults experienced slower mental deterioration after eating one to two servings of leafy, green vegetables every day versus those who ate no vegetables. The study even included other variables like age, family history, and other risk factors. The major benefits are due to vitamins A and K that fight inflammation.
The high levels of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals in almonds, walnuts, and pecans help to improve focus, alertness, and provide a boost of energy. The vitamin E found in walnuts has also been shown to decrease risk for Alzheimer’s dementia.
Regular physical activity contributes nearly countless positive effects on your health, especially for those with diabetes. It helps your body make the best use of insulin and glucose, which controls blood sugar more effectively.
Regular physical activity also lowers blood pressure, improves circulation, and helps control cholesterol levels, thereby reducing risk of heart attack and stroke. Exercise also helps to strengthen muscles and bones, along with burning extra body fat. It’s a great way to boost energy levels and reduce stress, too!
Even a short walk a few times a week can have a powerful impact on overall health and well-being. Walk with your spouse and talk about your day, or bring man’s best friend along. Take a few moments to reflect or meditate by yourself, or meet up with a group of friends and make it a party!
Strength training is also an important part of exercise. Don’t let the “muscle-building” aspect intimidate you. We lose between 3% and 5% of lean muscle mass per year starting around age 30, so strength training is important for everyone, especially older adults.
Are you ready to start living your best (and longest) life possible? It’s really quite simple. If you smoke, quit. If you are overweight, speak with your physician about how to get to a healthy weight. If you’re eating junk, chose vegetables and fruits instead. If you’re a couch potato, get moving.
While these changes require dedication and willpower, they are not unattainable. If you’re in for the long haul, these habits are worth their weight in gold when it comes to longevity!