Updated: Sep 9
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This article aims to provide you with an outline of how the main lifestyle factors impact our health. For example, you'll learn about the benefits of sleep from a world-renowned sleep scientist. In addition, you'll discover that diet could well be the most important lifestyle factor of them all.
But it's not all doom and gloom. Each of the lifestyle factors features advice and guidance on how to improve in these areas. Also, links have been included should you wish to further explore those lifestyle factors that you identify as needing improving. And finally, a suggested reading list accompanies each factor.
Lifestyle factors quick finder
Lifestyle factors #1: Smoking
Lifestyle factors #2: Alcohol
Lifestyle factors #3: Sleep
Lifestyle factors #4: Stress
Lifestyle factors #5: Exercise
Lifestyle factors #6: Diet
Lifestyle factors #1: Smoking
According to the NHS (2020), ‘Smoking is the biggest cause of preventable deaths in England, accounting for nearly 80,000 deaths each year. One in two smokers will die from a smoking-related disease.’
There’s more: ‘Every 15 cigarettes you smoke will cause a mutation in your body, mutations are how cancers start' (NHS - Smoke-Free).
By reducing your consumption of cigarettes, and eventually quitting, of course, you will significantly reduce your susceptibility to the plethora of smoking-related diseases.
Effects of smoking
9 of the 10 known lung cancers
Cancer of the: mouth, throat, oesophagus, stomach, digestive tract and brain
COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
Hypertension – high blood pressure
Smoking has also been shown to adversely impact infertility and reproduction – men who smoke tend to have lower sperm counts – and blood circulation – men who smoke tend to experience fewer erections.
As a consequence of the toxic gunk that accumulates and coagulates in the body, which eventually finds its way to the circulatory system, the blood of a smoker is not only comparatively thicker than that of a non-smoker but also carries less oxygen. This is bad for several reasons. But the two most prominent are:
Thicker blood which increases your chances of clot formation.
Increases your blood pressure and heart rate, making your heart work harder than normal.
If as a smoker you feel somewhat unnerved by the many ways that smoking could impact your health, take action today and start your journey to being smoking-free.
Thankfully, there are a lot of support groups to help people who want to quit smoking. Below, I have included links to smoking support groups.
by David F. Marks (Author), Michael Murray (Author), Emee Vida Estacio
This fully revised and updated Fifth Edition takes a critical approach and places health psychology in a real-world context, enabling students to understand how public policy, theory and research can influence communities and individuals alike.
Lifestyle factors #2: Alcohol consumption
‘According to Government statistics, more than 1.4 million people are dependent on alcohol in the UK. 33,000 people die each year due to alcohol-related incidents or associated health problems,’ (Alcoholics Anonymous).
Alcohol consumption contributes to 3 million deaths each year globally as well as to the disabilities and poor health of millions of people. ‘Overall, harmful use of alcohol is responsible for 5.1% of the global burden of disease,’ (WHO (2020)).
long term effects of alcohol consumption
Alcohol, in any quantity, is detrimental to health. According to Dr Greger ‘moderate drinking does appear to protect against heart disease, perhaps because of a blood-thinning effect, but even light drinking (less than one drink a day) has been found to increase cancer risk,’ (How Not to Die ).
Furthermore, alcohol consumption is associated with fatty liver disease, type 2 diabetes, and visceral/subcutaneous fat. Anyone serious about weight loss and health must look to reduce the amount of alcohol they consume.
harmful effects of alcohol consumption
Cirrhosis of the liver ‘is scarring (fibrosis) of the liver caused by long-term liver damage,' (NHS (2020))
Wet brain syndrome or ‘‘Wernicke’s encephalopathy’ is a condition that causes neurological symptoms as a result of biochemical lesions of the nervous system’ which can result in permanent damage to the brain leading to memory loss and impaired cognition (Dr Thomas (2020)).
High blood pressure (hypertension)
Digestive problems: alcohol can impede the body from absorbing vital nutrients – such as thiamine (B1)
Alcohol can also damage your pancreas. If you drink too much, it can lead to acute (short-lasting) or chronic (long-lasting) pancreatitis (BUPA (2020)).
Impaired reproductive capacity – alcohol consumption reduces sperm count.
In light of these facts – and there are many more besides – it is best to reduce alcohol consumption to zero units per week. Throughout the next couple of weeks aim to reduce the number of units consumed. Do not replace alcohol with a non-alcoholic alternative as they contain lots of sugar and you would merely be replacing one unhealthy beverage for another.
Below I have included links to support groups. Access them today and kick this nasty habit.
Drinking support groups
Alcoholics Anonymous, in their own words, ‘is a fellowship of men and women who share their experiences, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.’ But the charity also provides advice on guidance on how to lower consumption and how to quit altogether.
The NHS provides a service that enables people to find support groups in their local area. Follow the link and get the support you need.
Alcohol Change is a charity dedicated to helping people find the right support for them.
Alcohol Explained – by William Porter
Alcohol Explained is the definitive, ground-breaking guide to alcohol and alcoholism. It explains how alcohol affects human beings on a chemical, physiological and psychological level, from those first drinks right up to chronic alcoholism. Alcoholism and problem drinking seem illogical to those on the outside, indeed it is equally perplexing for the alcoholic or problem drinker. This book provides a logical, easy-to-follow explanation of the phenomenon and detailed instructions on how to beat it.
Lifestyle factors #3: Sleep
The importance of sleep and how it impacts physiological and neurological systems are becoming more deeply understood. Sleep scientists (yes that’s a thing) around the world are studying how sleep both positively and negatively affects our lives. Their findings are a cause of great concern for those who are not getting enough sleep.
The focus of this analysis is cantered on the negative effects and why it is imperative to implement a healthy sleeping regime.
Few people truly recognise just how important sleeping is. I often used to say that sleep is for the lazy and that I’ll catch up on those lost hours when I’m dead. Ironic as it is, and in my ignorance little did I know that persistent sleep deprivation could hasten my ultimate demise.
Why is sleep important
But beyond potentially shortening your lifespan poor sleep hygiene, as it’s known, correlates strongly with obesity, metabolic syndrome, and impaired physical performance (Ventino et al 2013).
In addition, the quality of sleep is an indicator of general well-being and irregular sleeping patterns have been shown to impair or diminish the quality of a person’s life. Poor sleep hygiene is associated with heightened states of anxiety, stress, and depression.
Sleep deprivation effects
Impaired learning capacity
Increases states of anxiety, stress and depression
Increases chances of developing obesity
Could increase susceptibility to Alzheimer’s
A mere one hour of sleep deprivation can significantly increase one’s risk of suffering a heart attack
Sleep loss has been shown to impair immune system function
Short sleep duration is linked to an increased risk of cancer
So now that we know how detrimental sleep deprivation is to our health, two questions naturally follow:
Q1) How much sleep should I get
Q2) How do I get a good night’s sleep?
In answer to Q1, how much sleep we should get each night, the consensus amongst sleep scientists is that 8 hours I optimal – but as this is unachievably specific aim for between 7 to 9 hours. Sleeping for fewer than 7 hours each night is considered as ‘short sleep’, which, if persistent, increases your chances of falling foul to the negative outcomes listed above.
But, as with all good things, we can get too much sleep. Sleeping for more than 9 hours constitutes oversleeping and can cause some of the negative outcomes associated with undersleeping - such as strokes and, in women, breast cancer.
In response to Q2, I have compiled a list of advice from the top sleep scientists on how to improve your chances of getting a better night’s sleep. Remember, don’t expect instant results. As with anything worthwhile you have to persevere and be prepared to work at it.
7 tips to get a good night's sleep
Tip 1: Abstain from caffeinated or sugary drinks for a minimum of 6 hours before bedtime. Why? Because caffeine can continue to stimulate the brain for up to 6 hours after ingestion.
Tip 2. Avoid bright lights – including ‘screen time’ – for a good hour or two before tucking up. Bright light can adversely impact how the brain regulates sleep hormones which disrupts sleep patterns.
Tip 3. It is good practice to create an environment conducive to inducing a restive ‘sleepy’ state at least an hour before entering the Land of Nod. For example, let’s say you habitually climb into bed dead at 10 p.m. At 9 p.m. you would ensure that all devices are turned off, lights turned down, and maybe a bit of soft music playing in the background and you might begin reading a pleasant book – not a Stephen King slasher flick – or engage in a relaxing activity: Pilates, light Yoga, meditation.
Tip 4. Avoid strenuous physical activity at least 2 to 3 hours before boarding the sleep train. Exercise induces a heightened arousal state which may make it harder to drop off.
Tip 5. Impose a strict zero-tolerance attitude on napping throughout the day. Yes, there is evidence out there in favour of napping; some studies have shown that it can boost mood and increase cognition. However, for light sleepers or people who struggle to 'get off', napping can impoverish the quality of a night's sleep.
Tip 6. Maintain a routine and rigidly stick to it. Apparently, according to sleep scientist Matthew Walker, we can train ourselves to sleep not only better but more deeply. One of the best ways to do this is to establish a routine and avoid breaking it. Contrary to popular best sleeping practices advice, even if you are not tired you should still observe your routine.
Tip 7. Resist the temptation to hit snooze and don’t make a habit of lying in. Yes, it’s probably not going to hurt once a week – say as a Sunday morning treat – but sneaking in extra Zzzs can disrupt sleep cycles.
The science of sleep
Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams – by Matthew Walker
Sleep is one of the most important aspects of our life, health and longevity and yet it is increasingly neglected in twenty-first-century society, with devastating consequences: every major disease in the developed world - Alzheimer's, cancer, obesity, diabetes - has very strong causal links to deficient sleep.
Lifestyle factors #4: Stress
Stress is defined as ‘a negative emotional experience accompanied by predictable biochemical, physiological, and behavioral changes that are directed toward adaptation either by manipulating the situation to alter the stressor or by accommodating its effects,’ (Baum, 1990, p. 653).
Over the past two decades, our understanding of how stress harms health has grown substantially. Through scientific enquiry, we’ve come to discover that stress does far more than merely affect our mood or cause stomach ulcers.
What follows is an overview of the ways that stress harms our health. Also, we'll review a range of tried and tested methods for mitigating and managing stress. But first, we need to understand the different types of stress.
Types of stress
It's common knowledge that there are two types of stress. Type 1: Acute – or short-term: In a moment of absentmindedness you step into the road without looking, and a car whizzes past whilst honking which sends your heart rate through the roof. But after giving yourself a good and much-deserved dressing down you go about your merry way like nothing happened. After all, the crisis is now over so why dwell on it?
For months and months, your boss has been saddling you with more and more work responsibilities and you’re feeling overwhelmed and you’ve got knots in your stomach and you can’t sleep and you’re constantly anxious and worried and, and . . . Yep, this is chronic or type 2 stress and it’s the stuff that’ll make you ill.
Impacts of chronic stress
Chronic stress is detrimental to many areas of the body with links to some of the biggest health concerns including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and mental health issues, (Harris et al. 2017; Song et al. 2019; Bullmore, 2018).
The silent killer kills many thousands of people each year. And in one way or another stress negatively impacts the lives of millions of people every day. It has been shown to exacerbate the severity of anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders. Some studies have shown that stress can even trigger mental health episodes in people who have not exhibited any underlying symptoms.
Stress has also been linked to physical disorders and it is estimated that ‘over 80 percent of visits to the doctor’s office in the developed world are for stress-related disorders’ (Dr Siegel, Psy.D 2014).
Ways stress impact on health
But though there is an edifice of research demonstrating the detrimental impact stress has on human health, few people recognise just how pernicious stress actually is and it is not taken nearly as seriously as it ought to be.
In his book, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Robert M. Sapolsky, who is Stanford professor of biology and neurology and foremost researcher into the impacts of stress on health, talks about how stress impairs immune function thus increasing our susceptibility to illness and disease – such as cancer.
States of chronic – sometimes called persistent – stress have been shown to inhibit digestion, reproduction, ovulation and the general growth and repair of tissue (Sapolsky 1994). This goes some way to account for why people suffering from chronic stress are more likely to get ill and develop diseases – for their bodies, as Sapolsky colorfully puts it, ‘halts long-term, expensive building projects’ like manufacturing antibodies whose job it is to fight, amongst other things, tumour cells.
Infectious illness (such as influenza)
Emerging research is showing how stress can exert a destructive influence at both a cellular and neurological level. For example, the stressed brain halts highly important ‘building projects’ such as birthing new neurons – called neurogenesis – whilst also impairing hippocampal function; the hippocampus ‘is a small, seahorse-shaped structure that stores your conscious memories in an organized way,’ (Greenberg 2016).
The result? Over protracted periods this neurological damage can result in a weakening of neural networks leading to diminished memory recall and, in the most severe cases, early onset of cognitive decline. The brain that weathers a lot of stress wears quicker.
Identifying the signs and symptoms of stress
Before stress can be dealt with it must first be identified. The reason why it is called the silent killer is that, unlike a physical ailment, such as the flu, or a sheered femur, which exhibits salient symptoms, stress can bubble away under the surface undetected for years.
People, in the main, just aren’t adequately educated on how to identify the signs and symptoms of stress. This must change if we hope to avoid the pernicious effects of stress.
Below you’ll find an extensive list of the signs and symptoms commonly associated with chronic stress:
Physical symptoms of stress
headaches or dizziness
muscle tension or pain
chest pain or a faster heartbeat
loss of libido
Emotional stress symptoms
struggling to make decisions
Psychological stress symptoms
being irritable and snappy
sleeping too much or too little
eating too much or too little
avoiding certain places or people
drinking or smoking more
Ways to reduce stress
"The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another."
To identify in ourselves if we might be suffering from stress we must either know our triggers or regularly conduct a self-examination. This may come across as a bit preposterous I know but unless it is brought to our attention, either through illness or a breakdown, then the fact that you are stressed might simply go unnoticed.
If you know your stress triggers then you can work to engineer your environment to reduce or remove them.
4 ways to manage stress
But let’s imagine that you are not aware of your triggers and that, after conducting a self-examination, you’ve realised that you are exhibiting several of the signs and symptoms of stress. How do you go about reducing the stress response and restoring your inner harmony?
Below I've outlined four effective ways to help manage stress. In addition to helping you cope with stress, while you tackle the underlying cause, these methods can also improve your physical health as well as your mental well-being.
Exercise is a great stress buster
Exercise has been shown to disperse the dark forces of stress like a ray of bright monochromic light. When we get a rigorous sweat-on the body releases ‘feel good’ chemicals – endorphins and whatnot – which, well, make us feel good. This, for a time, can turn the tide of stress. To keep stress at bay it might be worth implementing the daily habit of an early morning 30-minute jog or gym circuit. This way you’ll not only reduce stress but also reap the many health rewards associated with exercise.
Related: Learn how to use exercise to reduce stress
Yoga body stress release
Yoga, much for the same reason as exercise, demonstrably disposes of the demonic forces of stress. Stretching and slow body control movements also release ‘feel good’ chemicals. In addition, Yoga has been shown to enhance proprioception – body awareness. By enhancing body awareness we will sharpen our sensitivity to detecting the signs and symptoms of the silent killer. (Challenge yourself to 30 days of Yoga.)
Find time for yourself
Setting aside some time for self-care. This sounds a bit pink and fluffy I agree but it is massively important. Self-care is engaging in activities or pursuits that you love to do. By way of example, one of my self-care activities is playing my guitar. Every morning and evening I’ll sequester myself in a cloistered cell and strum the sorrows of the world away. For me, an hour on the guitar never fails to banish stress. When you identify your self-care activity of choice you must ensure to set aside at least 30 minutes (preferably an hour) every day where you can indulge without the worry of being disturbed.
Work related stress
Work/life balance. Work is often identified as the most prevalent stress-inducing trigger. Because of the Western world’s unhealthy obsession with productive output, things are not going to change any time soon and the workplace will continue to make peoples’ lives a misery.
However, you can do something about it. You absolutely must take action because it’s highly unlikely that your employer will. By establishing a healthy work/life balance, where work ends and life begins, you can enjoy the undisturbed downtime you deserve, free from the incessant responsibilities of the job.
But you must be strict when implementing the boundaries and you must never allow your employer to encroach on your life outside of work.
If you do find yourself suffering from chronic stress and the methods outlined above don’t seem to help, you should consider seeking professional support. By following the link you will be able to find the support you need.
Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers – Robert M. Sapolsky
Now in a third edition, Robert M. Sapolsky's acclaimed and successful Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers features new chapters on how stress affects sleep and addiction, as well as new insights into anxiety and personality disorder and the impact of spirituality on managing stress. As Sapolsky explains, most of us do not lie awake at night worrying about whether we have leprosy or malaria. Instead, the diseases we fear - and the ones that plague us now - are illnesses brought on by the slow accumulation of damage, such as heart disease and cancer.
Lifestyle factors #5: Exercise
'Even when all is known, the care of a man is not yet complete, because eating alone will not keep a man well; he must also take exercise. For food and exercise, while possessing opposite qualities, yet work together to produce health,' (quote attributed to Hippocrates).
The benefits of exercise
The health benefits exercise confers are widely understood and recognised. Few people today are ignorant of the fact that exercise is not only extremely good for us but can reduce our chances of developing illness and disease.
But exercise is even better than we previously thought.
Amazingly, contemporary research is showing that exercise can be weaponised and used to fight some of the worst diseases. In 2009 an Australian research team published a paper showing the positive effects exercise exerts in the fight against cancer. The research demonstrated that exercise, in conjunction with established treatment methods, can positively support cancer patients irrespective of what stage they are at in their treatment.
Since the publication of that seminal 2009 paper, the benefits accrued through supplementing exercise during cancer treatment have been extensively reviewed.
A recent publication reported that of 140 such studies, 75% showed ‘statistically significant and clinically relevant benefit through exercise on a range of treatment-related side effects, physical, functional, and psychosocial outcomes,’ (Maloney, et al. 2018).
"Regular physical exercise affords protection against stroke," (Health Psychology).
The health benefits associated with regular exercise
Improved body composition
Protection against coronary heart disease (CHD)
Improved cardio-respiratory performance
Protection against stroke
Improved immune function
Helps reduce anxiety
Mitigates chronic stress
Promotes a positive attitude
Improves self-confidence and self-body image
Wow! What a singularly impressive list of health benefits. Makes me want to slip on a pair of trainers and go out for a five-mile run followed by a set of 500 kettlebell swings. To think, each mile, each set of ten could be boosting my immune system and protecting me against heart disease!
And, what’s more, those health benefits are there for the taking – they could be yours. All you’ve got to do is establish a regular exercise routine that includes a mixture of the primary components of fitness: cardiovascular, strength, muscular endurance and flexibility.
Now that we have covered the theoretical side of exercise we must turn our attention to the practical. In the following section, you are going to learn how to implement and organize an exercise regime.
Establishing an exercise regime
If you currently do no exercise, or your participation is at best sporadic, then you must establish a consistent regime that incorporates a varied mix of physical activities. To get you on your way I have explained an infallible method of establishing a fitness regime. From here all that’s left for you to do is faithfully participate.
Create an exercise program
Creating an exercise program is relatively straightforward – especially for someone who is just engaging in exercise for general fitness and health. To create your program you merely need either a calendar or grid/table and a pen (if you want to be fancy you can word-process the program and print it off).
Now, let’s say you’re using a calendar. Simply plot each day’s exercise activity – including session duration and type of exercise – for a minimum of 2 months. (Before taking part in any exercise activity, ensure to spend a minimum of 10 minutes warm-up – for advice on best warm-up practices follow the link.)
Once you’ve organised your first week you can repeat for the following seven – ensuring to gradually increase the duration of each training session; each day of the final week should be almost double that of the first.
Of course, you don’t have to continue creating a program indefinitely. This is a method of cultivating the habit of participating in daily exercise. After a couple of months of following a training program, you should by then be thoroughly indoctrinated. At this point, you can dispense with the calendar and just do whatever comes into your head.
I’m a professional personal trainer and health and well-being coach and I don’t follow a program – never have, never will. I usually decide the day before (or in the morning) what exercise I’m going to take part in. When you no longer need the dictates of a program to determine your daily training sessions you can enjoy concocting them on the fly.
However, if, after departing from your program, you feel that you are starting to slip and slide back into old habits, just get that calendar out again.
Lifestyle factors #6: Diet
"Over 90% of all premature deaths are a consequence of poor dietary practices," (How Not To Die). The contemporary Western diet transgresses several well-established and scientifically supported principles of what constitutes healthy eating.
For example, animal protein (including fish and dairy) is synonymous with excessive subcutaneous and visceral body fat. Furthermore, many contemporary diseases – type 2 diabetes, obesity, CHD, and cancer – are believed to be caused by an omnivorous diet; the risk rate increases when the quantity of animal protein consumed increases.
Though the argument is by no means settled, scientific evidence is stacking up heavily in favour of a plant-based diet being best for human health. If the concept is new to you a plant-based diet is a diet consisting primarily of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
"Diet is the number-one cause of premature death and the number one cause of disability, (How Not To Die).
So, if you regularly consume animal protein, but wish to pursue healthier dietary practices, then you must look to cut down on the amount of meat you consume. Not only meat but dairy, poultry, and fish.
In conjunction with cutting out animal protein simultaneously increase the number of vegetables and fruits you consume daily. The government keeps telling us to eat 5 pieces of fruit and veg a day. But they’re well wrong – as per usual.
According to nutritional scientists, we should be aiming for 10 to 12! pieces of veg and fruit (I’ve put veg first because they should take priority over fruit for the fact that they contain more vitamins/minerals and far less sugar: go 8 pieces of veg to 2/4 pieces of fruit).
What is my prescription for good health? In short, it is about the multiple health benefits of consuming plant-based foods, (T. Colin Campbell PhD (The China Study)).
Snacking is also recognised as an enemy of health – of course, that is dependent on the type of snack foods being consumed. If snacks are processed, from a packet, laden with fat and/or sugar, they will – over time – exert a deleterious effect on health and contribute to the accumulation of unwanted body fat.
Ultimately, irrespective of what foods are being snacked on, it is always best to keep snacking to a minimum. The body needs far fewer calories than we realise; it is the surfeit of calories that is currently being linked to the slew of dietary diseases currently plaguing the West – in short, we’re eating far more than we need. Two to three healthy meals a day will provide us with all the nutrients and energy we need to sustain daily activity.
We all know processed foods are bad for our health. And we all know that not only do processed foods pollute our bodies but that they also contribute to weight gain and obesity. The reason why they are so detrimental to our health is that processed foods are both energy-dense and addictive.
It’s no secret that food industries have engineered their toxic products to manipulate the ‘pleasure centres’ within our brains, ‘the so called dopamine reward system,’ (Greger 2017).
This, of course, is a disastrous combination: a plentiful supply of addictive energy-laden food. Is it any wonder then that the fattest nations consume the most processed food?
It is for this reason that, if you are serious about improving your health, you must drastically reduce your consumption of processed foods and adopt clean eating principles.
Fifteen thousand years ago our ancestors regularly ingested 150 ingredients in a week. Most people nowadays consume fewer than twenty separate food items and many, if not most, of these are artificially refined. Most processed food products come depressingly from just four main ingredients: corn, soy, wheat or meat, (The Diet Myth).
How Not to Die – Michael Greger, MD
How Not to Diet is a treasure trove of buried data and cutting-edge dietary research that Dr Michael Greger has translated into accessible, actionable advice with exciting tools and tricks that will help you to safely lose weight and eliminate unwanted body fat – for good.
We should make the preservation of our health our chief priority and guiding objective. Not only is health a one-time deal but it acts as a firm foundation from which we can better meet the demands of life: a weak foundation will likely result in, if not outright collapse, physical infirmity, and structural instability.
By better understanding the six factors outlined above, and how they affect our health both positively and negatively, we can look to shape our lifestyle to strengthen and fortify health as opposed to weakening and deteriorating it. Thus, in summary:
Aim to cut down alcohol consumption with the view of removing it from your diet completely. Alcohol in any amount is detrimental to health and jeopardises longevity and future health. We should not forget that it is a drug that boasts the highest addiction rates. Also, and finally, alcohol causes more premature deaths than ALL banned substances (class A, B, and C drugs) combined (The Economist, 2019).
Stress is called the silent killer. The damaging effects of stress on health are only really starting to be understood (see Sapolsky’s Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers). From the increase of glucocorticoids to the wearing of the telomeres, there is no doubt about it: stress shortens our life span. Also, it can place an intolerable burden on experiential existence. The first step to reducing or removing stress is to identify the triggers and then introduce interventions that help mitigate the effects of stress.
In the West, we are still yet to fully awaken to the importance sleep plays in preserving health. But the sleep scientists at the vanguard of research are working around the clock to rouse us from our ignorant slumber. So far they have convincingly shown sleep could well be one of the most important factors affecting physical and mental health both in the short and long term. And though the science is complicated, their message is simple: strive to improve the quality and duration of your sleep.
The importance of the role exercise plays in the preservation of health cannot be overstated. Today there is a wealth of research showing how exercise decreases disease susceptibility whilst enhancing longevity and overall life enjoyment. It is for this reason that it is one of the primary pillars that support a healthy lifestyle. However, we must remember that exercise is not a panacea to unhealthy living in other areas and that it makes up only about 10% of the health whole (Greger 2017). What is most important is the food we eat.
Following on from the previous paragraph, our diet plays by far the largest role in supporting health. Contemporary research, though incomplete and prone to contradiction, indicates that the best diet for human health is one closely aligned with the principles of a plant-based diet which, at its simplicity, requires that we consume vegetables, fruits, healthy fats (nuts, seeds, avocados, mono/poly-unsaturated fats: olive/hemp oil) and whole grains whilst decreasing all animal proteins, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods. It’s what we put in our mouths that will make the biggest difference to our health.
About Adam Priest –
A former Royal Marines Commando, Adam Priest is a content writer, college lecturer, and health and wellbeing practitioner. He is also a fitness author and contributor to other websites. Connect with Adam via LinkedIn or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Marks. F, D. Murray. M., Estacio. E. V (2018) Health Psychology: Theory, Research and Practice (Fifth Edition). SAGE Publications Ltd. UK.
Spector, T. (2015) The Diet Myth. London. W&N publication.