By age 40 most of us have had a ‘Health wake up call’ according to an article in the Daily Mail. Whether it’s triggered by a personal health scare, the death or illness of someone close, or just starting to feel old, this is the time when ¾ of us make major changes to our diet and lifestyle – including giving up smoking, cutting down on alcohol, eating better and exercising more.
Apparently it’s also the time when many of us start regretting some of the not so healthy things we did (or didn’t do) when we were younger and wondering if it’s too late to reverse their long term negative effects on our bodies. Not surprisingly, research shows that taking care of ourselves in our youth bodes well for later life (underlining the importance of teaching our children healthy habits), but encouragingly, it also seems that those of us who have made positive changes as a result of the wake up call feel healthier and have more stamina than ever before.
The Mail’s article mentions important, but fairly obvious ways of improving health – eliminating fried foods, taking vitamins, upping fruit and vegetable intake and exercising more. The Nutritionist in me is tempted to add a few of my own:
- Reduce or eliminate meat consumption – vegetarians live longer and are generally healthier than meat-eaters.
- Reduce dairy – experiment with healthier alternatives
- Avoid processed, packaged food – especially low fat, sugar-free or ‘reduced’ anything.
- Eliminate sugar – no nutritional value, depresses immunity and fattening.
- Have a smoothie for breakfast – much better to start the day with fruits and vegetables than gluten and dairy.
- Drink in moderation – alcohol taxes our immune system and suppresses it (really sorry, but moderation means no more than 1 glass of wine a day).
- Don’t scrimp on sleep – it’s when our body repairs, heals and produces chemicals that stimulate our immune system.
- De-stress – stress is a powerful immune suppressant. We can’t always avoid it, but we can reduce it with yoga, meditation, tai chi, reading, listening to classical music ….
Nothing we haven’t heard before (and of course I could go on) – but these are worth remembering because they’re key for protecting ourselves from illness and enjoying good health at forty and way beyond.