Long Life Starts With A Healthy Lifestyle

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As the aging process progresses, most men begin making health a priority. But many of the health problems both men and women encounter as they age are the result of lifestyle choices they made when they were younger and continued to practice as they got older. Simply put, what's done to a body today will affect how it behaves tomorrow.

Fortunately, the human body has an amazing capacity to recuperate, meaning it's never too late to make lifestyle changes that can make a person's golden years more healthy and enjoyable. While the term "lifestyle change" can seem overwhelming, many of these changes are far easier to put into practice than it might seem.

Watch your weight. Obesity levels have exceeded, reached or are approaching all-time highs in many developed nations. Obesity can be especially harmful to adults approaching their senior years, as obesity increases a person's risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.

Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best things a person can do to avoid the series of problems that men and women can encounter as they get older. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points out that defining a healthy weight depends on a number of individual factors. For example, age is a determining factor, as a healthy weight for an individual at 45 might not be considered healthy when that individual turns 60.

Because each person is unique, defining a healthy weight is something that should be discussed on a case-by-case basis with a physician. Even if a friend of the same age and similar body type has been given a healthy weight, for instance, this doesn't mean that's a healthy weight for all people of that age and body type. Past health history and physical activity level are significant factors in determining a healthy weight, too.

Make dietary changes. To some, the thought of changing their diet is an unwelcome one. Because food is such a big part of most people's lives, this is often seen as the most difficult lifestyle change to make. However, a series of subtle changes as opposed to a massive dietary overhaul can do the trick.

While many people eat healthily during their three meals per day, it's the in-between meals hours where diet often suffers the most. Snacks high in saturated fat, such as potato chips, can be very unhealthy. By switching snacks to a serving of fruit or vegetables, men and women can ensure they're getting their recommended servings each day, and may be reducing the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases as a result. The majority of fruits and vegetables are low in fat and calories, and also provide essential vitamins and minerals. For those unsure of how much fruit or vegetables they should be eating each day, the CDC offers a fruits and vegetables calculator on its Web site at www.cdc.gov.

Be more active. Becoming more physically active is something many adults need to do. The CDC estimates that 50 percent of American men and women do not get enough physical activity to provide health benefits. Physicians recommend 30 minutes of daily, moderate physical exercise. While finding the time each day can be a commitment, 30 minutes, the length of a typical television sitcom, really is not much time at all.

Those who haven't been active in a while need to ease back into being physically active, perhaps starting with a daily walk on flat ground and then gradually tailoring a routine that is more challenging and beneficial as the body acclimates itself to daily activity. Again, because every person is unique, it's best to consult a physician before beginning any new exercise routine.

Recognize and deal with stress. Stress can be very harmful to all men and women. The negative side effects of stress are both physical and mental. Stress can lead to excess weight gain, which, as mentioned earlier, can increase the likelihood of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Mentally, excess stress affects mood, which can negatively impact relationships with friends, family and coworkers.

While stress is a fact of life for most, both in their professional and private lives, it's important to recognize that stress can be very detrimental. Though there are no guaranteed and foolproof ways to reduce and manage stress, research has shown that exercise has proven a reliable source of stress relief for many people.

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