The 10 best health investments
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We all love a good investment - a sure thing. Even if it costs a bit in time or effort at the outset it's okay as long as you're sure it will be worth it in the long run. Well, this week we bring you 10 such sure-fire safe bets.
Each one of these tips is guaranteed to make a significant difference to the duration and/or quality of your life if you pay attention to them now. With a mountain of scientific evidence to back them, we know these will be the best investments in your health you'll ever make.
- Don't smoke
It may not be good to start with a negative but the health implications of smoking are huge. By avoiding these little cancer sticks you'll not only decrease your risk of malignancy, you'll also avoid the accelerated ageing of arteries, maintain the elasticity of your lungs and avoid the skin changes that make you look old before your time.
- Keep your waist under 80cm for women and 94cm for men
It's the old apple and pear thing. People with fat around their middle (as opposed to their bottom or thighs) tend to also have fat around their internal organs – their heart and their liver particularly, leading to organ failure. Some experts believe waist circumference is a more important measure than your actual weight when predicting future health problems.
- Get vaccinated
Most of us are lucky – we are not at risk of catching most of the very nasty infectious diseases courtesy of our childhood immunisation program. But don't get complacent. Getting the flu vax, updating your whooping cough immunisation, getting the tetanus booster and ensuring you get the necessary jabs before your overseas holiday can potentially save you weeks, months or even years of misery and malady.
- Keep your cholesterol low
That fat floating around in your arteries is a time-bomb. Left unchecked it will stick to the vessel wall and interfere with the blood supply to your legs, heart, kidney and brain. Keeping this stuff down to a minimum will protect against heart attacks, strokes, dementia and kidney failure. Diet and exercise are the ideal way to keep cholesterol under control but if these measures aren't sufficient there is great medication out there that will help. Small investment – big returns.
- Low BP is the go
Blood pressure is one of the big three. The three biggest risk factors for a heart attack or a stroke are smoking, cholesterol and blood pressure. It's hard to quantify the significance of 'the big three' except to say the evidence suggests if nobody smoked and everybody had a normal cholesterol and blood pressure our average life expectancy would go up dramatically.
- Do pelvic floor exercises
Ok. Ok. This one is only for women but in terms of quality of life – this is a biggie. A strong pelvic floor will not only help prevent prolapse of the uterus but will often also improve symptoms of urinary incontinence that affects a huge percentage of women over the course of their lives. Such a simple exercise that can make such an enormous difference.
Fundamentally this means exercise as there are about a trillion studies that show exercise is associated with not only a longer life but also a better quality of life improving everything from mental health to the symptoms of emphysema. All exercise is good. However swimming isn't weight-bearing which you need for strong bones, and running is very hard on the joints. Walking if done briskly and often is usually ideal.
- Stay out of the sun
As much as vitamin D is the flavour of the month, skin cancer remains one of our biggest threats here in Australia. It not only interferes with our quantity of life through cancer but excess sun exposure makes us look haggard and wrinkly in middle age, and needing repeated treatment for pre-cancers like BCC and SCC and other health problems such as cataracts.
- Eat fibre
Lack of fibre is the scourge of the western diet responsible not only for a significant number of bowel cancers but also for that truly miserable condition – diverticulitis where small pouches in the wall of your large intestine get inflamed causing pain and cramping. A bowl of whole grain cereal in the morning is a small price to pay to ward off these nasties.
- Be happy
While obviously important for the quality of your life, there is a body of evidence suggesting it can add years as well – warding off conditions such as heart attacks, strokes and of course suicide. How to be happy is the stuff of countless books and week-long seminars.
As a starting point however you could take on board the three elements of happiness that are now part of popular folklore. To be happy you need – someone to love, something to do and something to look forward to.
This story first appeared on It'sMyHealth