7 Steps Towards a ‘Healthier’ Lifestyle

Nowadays when I see patients in the clinic, I am reminded daily about how lifestyle changes are important in the management and prevention of diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.  The high rates of obesity in both men and women continue to be a major risk factor for multiple chronic diseases.  Yet, adjustments to your everyday habits can make a significant difference in the well-being of your mind, body, and soul. Here are some steps you can take towards maintaining a healthier way of life:

1. Sleep well

According to some sleep medicine specialists, the only things that should happen in bed are: sleep and sex. Anything else could be detrimental to quality sleep.  Inadequate sleep can lead to increased stress, weight gain, and poor eating habits the next day.  Sleep experts say that taking measures such as limiting your caffeine intake to no later than six hours prior to bedtime and turning your smartphone and tablets off an hour before going to bed can help improve your quality of sleep.  

Start a pre-bedtime ritual such as reading a book, lighting candles, or taking a shower at night to help prepare your mind and body for a good night’s rest.

 2. Start each day with Breakfast

Many of us skip the first meal of the day due to a lack of time or an appetite in the morning. Yet, breakfast should contain at least 1/4 of your daily calorie intake. Taking five minutes to grab a healthy breakfast can mean the difference between starting on “empty” or “fueled up” for the day.  Oatmeal, yogurt, and eggs with toast–the options are endless, but the most convenient and nutritious meal is: the smoothie.  

 3. Pack your Midday Fuel

Skipping lunch may seem like a good idea when you are pushing through a busy workday, but in fact providing yourself with a midday “refuel” can keep up your energy.  Lunch options that contain substantial amounts of vegetables and protein can lead to less fatigue in the afternoon.

 Thinking ahead: When you have had a energy-boosting lunch, you are more likely to have the energy necessary to workout at the end of the day.

 4. Stay hydrated

Dehydration can lead to fatigue.  Avoid unnecessary energy dips by keeping a bottle of water at your desk. If you don’t like the taste of plain water, you can use frozen fruit in the place of ice in order to add flavor.  Some suggestions for fruit-infused water combinations are: strawberries with limes or lemons with cucumbers.

 5. Exercise weekly

Whether you exercise for two hours or 15 minutes at one time, staying active can help build your strength and endurance.  Start with small goals of exercising once a week and then build up to at least a goal of working out at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) per week.  On those days that you cannot fit in a full workout, you can take the stairs instead of the elevator to maintain activity throughout the day.  

 6. Take a break

Sometimes “being productive” means just being the exact opposite: taking a break.  Whether for an hour, afternoon, weekend or an entire week, set aside time to replenish your mind, body and spirit. Take a moment to catch up on your favorite television show, attend a religious service, or grab a meal with a friend.

 7. Find a primary care physician

Whether you go to a private practice, local health department, or community health center, you can benefit from having someone looking out for your health from a medical perspective. With the Affordable Care Act in place, more people now have access to healthcare. In addition to adequate sleep and regular exercise, appropriate health screenings such as HIV testing and Pap Smears (a screening for cervical cancer) are just as important. Furthermore, you can also find out if you are at an increased risk for chronic diseases such as high blood pressure or diabetes and make preventive lifestyle changes.

Shakira Sanchez-Collins is a resident physician, urban health and wellness expert and ordained minister. Her work focuses on helping urban communities live healthy and well physically, mentally and spiritually. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram @DrShakira

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