January can be a challenging month as you come out of the fog of a hectic holiday season. Making New Year's resolutions in February may give you a better chance of finding success.
Statistics tell us the average woman now lives to be 81 years old -- four years longer than in 2007. Despite this good news, half of all adults struggle with one or more chronic diseases. In 2012, seven of the top 10 causes of death were from chronic diseases with almost half those attributable to the top two -- heart disease and cancer. A recent study showed the majority of all chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, arthritis and come cancers are caused by lifestyle.
How can we live longer with a better quality of life? Here are four essential strategies to maximize your health:
1. Diet: Combining a well-balanced plant-based diet, limiting red-meat and high-fat dairy intake and consuming good fats- monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats promotes healthy aging and reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease and breast cancer. Your focus should be on eating plant based foods, nutrient-rich, healthy fats, fresh and unprocessed foods. The Mediterranean diet is a perfect model to follow for avoiding the 2 most common causes of death in women -- heart disease and breast cancer -- and for promoting healthy living. By modifying your diet, you will reduce your risk of obesity which affects more than one third of people in the US. Being overweight and obese increases your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, arthritis-related disability, and some cancers. Ideally you want to keep your BMI under 25 for optimal health.
2. Exercise: Regular exercise can reduce every major chronic disease, specifically those worsened by obesity. Walking, at least 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week is excellent for overall good health, reducing your risk of cardiovascular deaths and breast cancer. Physical activity also helps to increases lean muscle mass, strengthens the immune system and improves mental and emotional well-being. While aerobic exercise gets your heart working most efficiently, even walking regularly can reduce blood pressure. Keeping track of your steps, ideally reaching 10,000 a day, makes you more accountable and successful with your exercise resolution.
3. Limit Alcohol Consumption: We know drinking alcohol increases your risk of heart disease, liver disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and colorectal cancer. Now we can add breast cancer to the negative effects of excessive alcohol consumption. It has been found that having two or more drinks a day increases the chance of developing breast cancer as much as 41%. Even moderate alcohol intake which consists of one alcoholic drink a day or more slightly increases your risk of breast cancer. If you drink moderate amounts of alcohol it's recommended to take 600mcg of folate to counteract the effects moderate alcohol consumption has on breast cancer.
4. Quit smoking: The physical and emotional effects of smoking are well known in today's world. From heart disease, high blood pressure and lung cancer, smoking is a habit worth kicking. Quitting may be the single best thing you can do to avoid a variety of medical illness and increase your life expectancy. Lung cancer caused by smoking is the leading preventable cause of cancer.
We have all heard the saying, "we are what we eat". I would add to this when it comes to our health and say, "We are how we live". Being realistic and keeping it simple makes you more likely to be successful with your healthcare resolutions.
If we can control heart disease, breast and lung cancer through our diet and healthy living, we can focus more on prevention as a powerful and proactive means of reducing the incidence of these life-threatening chronic medical conditions affecting so many women.