Nothing lasts forever, least of all your health.
Medical science has made many amazing breakthroughs but alas search for the Fountain of Youth has thus far been a fruitless one. The icy finger of death continues to find us all sooner or later.
While immortality may still be beyond us, for now anyway, that’s not to say we don’t now know a lot more about how to keep healthy and happy for longer.
Read on below for some science-backed ways to prevent your health from declining as the years tick on past.
1. Listen to your gut.
I don’t mean pay attention to your rumbling stomach. Well, do. But what I really mean is listen to what your poo is telling you.
The importance of digestive health is becoming increasingly well recognised. Known as the Enteric Nervous System, a hidden and little understood world exists within your digestive tract made up of a whole ecosystem of helpful bacteria and a network of some 100 million neurons.
It’s with good reason then that your gut has earned the title of your second brain.
While this second brain might not be writing poetry anytime soon, keeping this part of your body happy will not only keep you healthier longer it will also improve your mood. Yep, that’s right, having a healthy gut has been linked to reduced rates of of stress, anxiety and depression.
Well, they do always tell you to follow your gut feeling. Seems like time to listen to them!
2. Keep your friends close.
Some researchers believe that having a strong social life – that is having friends, family, neighbours and colleagues that we can rely on – is more important to our health that diet and even exercise.
A study conducted by Brigham Young University, in Utah, found that the impact of not having a close network of friends had an equivalent impact on our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day – or being an alcoholic. Yikes!
Complementary studies have also found that having a strong social support network can reduce the odds of obesity, inflammation and high blood pressure and even improve lung function and cardiovascular performance.
3. Sleep more.
Regular exercise and a healthy diet are often touted as the two pillars of a healthy life. Well, they very well might be the two pillars but the foundations, walls, roof, door and even garden shed, of good health is sleep.
No other thing has been found to have such an impact on our physical and mental wellbeing than quality sleep. Sleep deprived individuals, that’s anyone consistently getting less than seven hours a night, have an increased risk of an almost endless list of health conditions.
Anything from stress, anxiety and depression, to heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, cancer, obesity, diabetes and even Alzheimer’s are made more likely by poor sleep.
So, the next time a friend of yours claims, ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead!’, before heading out the door, maybe politely inform them that the more sleep they skip the quicker that demise will be. Oh, and the more unhealthy their life will be in the meantime.
For more eye opening facts about the role sleep plays in our wellbeing pop on over to the SA Sleep Advisor blog and say hello to expert advice.
4. Get your sweat on.
Getting out of breath and sweaty on a regular, if not daily, basis will do wonders for maintaining a healthy body and mind.
It doesn’t matter your physical ability, your gender or even your age – the simple act of getting out from behind your desk and getting that body of yours moving will have an amazing effect on your longevity.
When you exercise, your brain floods your body with a glorious cocktail of hormones known as endorphins, also known as your body’s ‘natural prozac’. Endorphins not only lift your mood, they are the perfect antidote to cortisol, ‘the stress hormone’.
Anything that lowers the cortisol levels in your system is welcomed. As when it comes to your health, cortisol is considered by many as Public Enemy Number 1.
Not only have raised levels of the hormone been linked to anxiety, stress and depression, they’ve also been connected to impaired immune function, increased weight gain, raised blood pressure and even heart disease. Yikes!
Plus, the more exercise you do, the better you’ll sleep and we’ve already seen the impact that will have on your health. Win-win!
So, there you have it health fans – listen to your gut, respect your body’s need for sleep, keep a healthy social life and get sweaty at least once a day – four simple and free ways to prevent your health from declining. Here’s to happy, healthy and long life ahead!
Photo by Katie Smith