The reality is you have more control over your lifespan than you may think. Genetics only play a small role in how long you live. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average life expectancy is 78.8 years. If you want to live to the average, or surpass it, you should start making changes in your life now. The secrets to living longer go far beyond the obvious acts of eating healthy and reducing stress. Simple things such as improving your oral hygiene, making new friends and getting enough sleep all play a role in how long you will live. Did you know that having a positive attitude can actually add years to your life? It’s true, individuals with that have positive emotions encounter more happiness in their lives and happiness is strongly related to how long you will live. Start today and take action; use these tricks to make positive changes to your life and further your longevity.
Hooray! You got a solid 8 hours of sleep last night. But then why did you wake up this morning feeling like roadkill? Facing the day refreshed isn't as simple as logging those elusive 7 to 8 hours in dreamland. We've got six surprising reasons you're not feeling your best—and simple fixes. You read your Kindle before bed. People who read before bed using an iPad or similar device find it harder to wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed than those who curl up with a printed book, according to a recent Harvard study. The reason? The blue light emitted from the Kindle suppresses the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, which controls your sleep and wake cycles, says Robert Rosenberg, DO, FCCP, an Arizona sleep medicine specialist and author of Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day. Translation: When your melatonin levels are out of whack, you probably aren't sleeping as soundly as you think you are. He recommends shutting down all electronic devices (computers, cell phones, tablets, eReaders) 90 minutes before bed. Also, move your cell phone out of the room; even if it's on airplane mode, a phone emits enough light to interfere with sleep, says Sylvia Morris, MD, MPH, an internist in Atlanta. You sleep in a bad position. Waking up with a sore back? It may be from sleeping on your side all night, which can create significant flexion at the hip, says Benjamin Domb, MD, founder of the American Hip Institute. If you're one of the 57% of Americans who slumber in this position, it's a good idea to sleep with a pillow between your legs to maintain proper hip alignment. "Hip injuries are some of the most common, yet trickiest, sleep injuries because the pain from the injury often shows itself in a different part of the body—like in the lower back," says Domb. (Here's how 3 common sleep positions affect your health.) Your pillow sucks. That huge fluffy pillow may seem like luxury, but it can cause massive pain. "Sleeping with your head propped up pulls your spine out of alignment—it's like walking around for 8 hours during the day with your neck tilted down," explains Shawn Stevenson, BS, FDN, founder of the Advance Integrative Health Alliance and author of the 2016 book Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to a Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success. Use a pillow that's soft but has a supportive foam core, like the Intelli-Gel pillow ($150, amazon.com). You grind your teeth at night. If you wake up with a headache, it's most likely because you've been clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth overnight, says Kathy Gruver, PhD, a massage therapist in Santa Monica, CA. Research shows that massage can help with symptoms, so apply some gentle pressure and/or a warm, damp cloth to the jaw area right before you go to sleep and as soon as you wake up in the AM to help break the cycle. Also consider seeing your dentist for a mouth guard, which keeps your teeth from grinding down. You have a nightcap. It's true that booze can send you off to dreamland quickly, since alcohol does have a sedative effect. But it also disrupts your normal sleep cycle, says Aaron Clark, MD, a family medicine physician at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center. In a 2015 Australian study, people who downed orange juice mixed with vodka as a bedtime drink showed more alpha brain activity while they snoozed, which meant they weren't getting deep, restorative sleep. Women are particularly susceptible to sleep disruptions from alcohol because we metabolize it faster, according to the National Sleep Foundation, so we're bound to wake up sooner. An occasional glass of spirits won't hurt, but to make sure you're getting quality z's, limit yourself to one drink a night and have it a couple of hours before bedtime. You have undiagnosed sleep apnea. Half of all adult women have some type of sleep apnea, according to a 2012 study. (Women between the ages of 20 and 44 have a 25% chance of having sleep apnea, which also affects 56% of women ages 45 to 54 and 75% of women ages 55 to 70.) With this condition, "patients briefly stop breathing multiple times through the night, which leads to poor sleep quality," explains Clark. Sleep apnea is especially common in women as they go through perimenopause, when they mistakenly assume that their frequent night awakenings are a result of hot flashes. As a result, you'll often wake up exhausted, even if you've theoretically gotten plenty of sleep. Ask your doctor for a referral to a sleep specialist. The best way to diagnose sleep apnea is via a sleep study—at-home devices can pick up only severe cases. Mild cases can often be treated with weight loss and alcohol avoidance before bedtime, but if you've got a moderate to severe case, you'll need to use a device like a CPAP, an oxygen tube under the nose that emits mild air pressure to keep the airways open.
Meet the dietary pattern, a style of eating with a proven record of success. Diets are out; dietary patterns are in – at least, that's what the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans seems to say. That's big news for those of us who like to incorporate the report's nutrition advice into our personal eating habits when it comes out every five years. This time, the government suggests we abandon diets that glorify or shun single foods and nutrients (think butter, eggs, fat and fiber – past years' targets) and shift our attention to overall eating patterns, or the sum total of what, how often and how much we eat, as well as what we eat it with. Why the move away from "good food/bad food" diets? For one, nutrition science is continually evolving and we are learning from our mistakes. Back in the 1980s, for instance, the guidelines told us to cut back on "bad fats" to lower our risk of heart disease – the No. 1 cause of death for Americans. But people who followed that recommendation filled the void on their plates with simple carbohydrates, such as pasta, bagels and fat-free cookies. In time, we learned those foods weren't any better for our hearts (or waistlines) than the high-fat fare they replaced. So in 2000, we tried again. The guidelines issued that year redeemed fats – as long as they were "good fats." This recommendation was based on newer research linking populations that regularly ate olive oil, avocados and almonds with a lower incidence of heart disease. We followed suit, dipping our bread in olive oil, adding sliced avocado to our burgers and making almonds our go-to snack. But so far, the only thing that has improved is sales of those foods. Our single-minded pursuit of the perfect food (or fat) to fight heart disease has kept us from seeing everything else that contributes to its lower rates in people with different dietary patterns. Now, after spending more than two decades rationing just three eggs into our weekly menus, we're being told cholesterol isn't as bad for us as we once thought. Does that mean it's time to order the broiled lobster tail with drawn butter to celebrate? Not so fast. What it means is precisely what the latest Dietary Guidelines concluded: When it comes to diet, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Put another way, when you eat foods together, their health benefits are greater than a single food could produce on its own. For example, eating eggs every day can lower your risk of heart disease if you are also eating plenty of vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, fruits, whole grains, fish and olive oil. On the other hand, eating eggs every day along with regular servings of fatty meats, refined grains and excess sodium from highly-processed foods can increase that risk. That's because the connection to heart disease isn't just about the eggs – it's also about everything else we consume with them. Another advantage of adopting a healthy dietary pattern is that the benefits are cumulative, like compounded interest. So, people who have been eating a Mediterranean-style pattern all their lives, for instance, get an immediate return on investment by meeting their nutritional needs early in life to support optimal growth and development. Later, they receive a long-term dividend by preventing, or greatly reducing, their risk of suffering from the noncommunicable diseases of adulthood, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, macular degeneration and the ubiquitous heart disease. But this payoff requires making consistent contributions to your healthy eating plan, just like building retirement wealth depends on making consistent contributions to your 401K. Both are more effective the sooner you get started. Choosing a healthy dietary pattern over a diet also leaves more room for the occasional holiday food exemption. (Sorry, but weekends don't count as "occasional.") That approach is different from the can-eat-can't-eat diet style, in which we're open to every loophole that might give us a free pass. Have you ever rushed off to work without eating breakfast so you feel entitled to partake in the office pastries? How about arriving home from work too tired to chop vegetables, so you eat pizza (without a salad) for dinner? What about the Sunday you finally get the whole family together for brunch and end up eating eggs benedict and a Belgian waffle to celebrate? You get the picture: Food choices can change with the seasons, but a dietary pattern remains the same. Convinced yet? If so, the highly-regarded Mediterranean and DASH plans are a great place to start. Those patterns offer the best of what is known about the food-health connection when put together right, so you won't have to upgrade to something new in another five years. You also won't have to worry about getting caught up in the next fad diet that promises to solve all your health and weight issues because history has shown us they don't work in the long term. Think gluten-free, low-glycemic index, high-protein, low-carb, antioxidant-rich, paleo and probiotic diets, to name a few. It's time to move on something more sustainable. You can start transitioning to a healthier pattern by following some of these simple tips. The goal is to make the right choice a habit so it becomes your default option. Eat at least one piece of whole fruit daily. Order “whole wheat” as your bread choice for sandwiches, toast and pizza crust. Choose fish over meat or poultry for an entree at least once a week. Drink one full glass of water with each meal. Add a layer of fresh or grilled vegetables to every sandwich. Use nuts or seeds instead of croutons on salad. Make chili with more beans and less (or no) meat. Have brown rice with all Chinese takeout. Include some vegetables whenever you grill. Use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream in cooking and baking. Make your meat portions no larger than the palm of your hand. Choose vegetables to top pizza, fill an omelet, stuff a potato or stretch a soup. Keep hummus, salsa and sliced vegetables on hand as your go-to snack. Be more inclusive of fruits and vegetables by including fresh, frozen, canned and dried varieties in your repertoire. Copyright 2016 U.S. News & World Report
A recent story in The Atlantic argued that calories aren’t a useful metric for weight loss: They’re calculated in flawed ways, and there are differences in how individual bodies digest and metabolize them. Some researchers think dieters would be better served by focusing on nutrient density or some kind of as-yet-undetermined satiety value. These are great scientific arguments, but the psychological case against calories is also worth considering. People can and do lose weight with calorie-counting, and some swear by the system. But is it not unbelievably time-consuming and soul-sucking? The existence of a calorie-counter is often defined by an obsessive focus on how to “spend” one’s daily allotment. In this reductive schema, Skinny Vanilla Lattes, Diet Coke, and fat-free yogurt are all arguably smart choices because they help maximize the amount of food you can eat without going over your limit. This mentality is problematic, to say the least. So-called “diet” foods, often low-fat and artificially sweetened, not only don’t help you feel full, they can make you even more hungry. (In the case of fake sugar, when your brain doesn’t actually get the sugar calories it thinks it’s getting, it seeks them out.) Plus, they taste like garbage. But isn’t bad-tasting food and a growling stomach the price you must pay in order to lose five, ten, or 100 pounds? Not really. Although calorie math gives the illusion that you can exert some control over your body by tallying (and, of course, limiting) what goes into it, the evidence says you can’t. Calorie counts aren’t as exact as we’re led to believe, and they don’t take into account gut microbes, which experts increasingly think play an important role in our digestion and, ultimately, our weight. The margin of error is so big that people can literally do everything by the book and still not slim down, as the Atlantic piece points out. Cue frustration and possibly more restriction that could veer toward unhealthy levels. Related: How to Fake a Juice Cleanse And for what? Experts agree that dieting doesn’t work in the long run. Sure, you’re likely to lose some weight at the outset, but most people won’t keep up a strict plan forever. And no wonder, since the concept of a calorie-counting diet is a killjoy: You must deny yourself the things you want in order to be “good.” If you do eat something pleasurable, you must do penance the rest of the day. And if you go over your calorie count, you were “bad” — and your handy tracking app has a record of every time you failed. Deep down, we know what we should eat, namely a mix of nutrient-dense foods like lean meats, seafood, fruits and vegetables, beans and peas, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and dairy. That’s not to say that high-calorie processed foods like Doritos and triple-fudge-chunk ice cream are off the table — on the contrary, research suggests that when foods are considered forbidden, we have stronger cravings and eat more of them when given the opportunity. The idea that no food is off limits is a hallmark of intuitive or mindful eating, a practice that also advises people to eat when they’re legitimately hungry and stop eating when they’re full. Intuitive eating might sound like hippie anarchy (after all, we do have an obesity epidemic in this country, not to mention structural impediments to people of all classes eating healthily), but it could be a huge relief to erstwhile calorie-counters who look at food and only see numbers. Related: 30 Things That Are Making You Fat Time previously spent tracking and worrying about calories could be better used shopping for and cooking or prepping food, or finding out which vegetables you like and how to cook ones you’re only lukewarm about. Learning portion sizes would be helpful, too, but not because of caloric content. Intuitive eating means consuming things that genuinely make your mind and body feel good; happy and satisfied but far short of a food coma. This approach can help people lose weight and keep it off longer than traditional dieters. This lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but it’s worth remembering that food is meant to be enjoyed, not analyzed to death, or, alternatively, shoveled into your maw while scrolling through Instagram. Savor your food, eat well most of the time, and don’t shame yourself for eating some demonized item. Even if you never lose weight, you’ll be a hell of a lot happier. [The Atlantic] By Susan Rinkunas via The Cut
With the New Year finally here many of us are working on ourselves. We are going to the gym, going on diets and trying to be a bit nicer to others (hopefully). Perhaps the most overlooked resolution is improving your mental well-being. The path to happiness is certainly not always clear. But, have you ever considered that maybe you could achieve a happier you by what you don’t do? I’ve compiled a short list of things that mentally healthy and happy people never do. Follow these and you’ll be on the path to being your best. 1. They don’t think about the things they don’t have If you’re reading this, odds are your life is pretty good. Think about it. You live in a country that is well off and provides you the opportunity to be connected to the internet. That alone is something to be thankful for! If you spend your time focusing on the things you wish you had, you are setting yourself up for sadness. Instead, be sure to focus on all of the good things in your life. You will be much better off and the world will brighten up around you! Try it. It works. 2. They don’t make excuses for physical health You know you should go to the gym. You know you should go for that run. So, do it! Regardless of the obvious physical benefits dragging yourself out of bed or off the couch to achieve a personal fitness goal will do wonders for your happiness. I guarantee that you almost always feel incredible when you are finished with a workout. This is no accident. The chemicals released from your body during a workout pay enormous dividends for your mental well-being. If you want to be happier, force yourself to get out there and be active. You’ll feel great after you accomplish your goal, no matter how small. 3. They don’t spend time with negative people People can bring you down. It is nearly impossible to stay up-beat when surrounded by whiners and complainers. Some people simply see the bad in everything and they are toxic to your happiness and health! The key is to avoid spending time with these people. I’m sure some of them are close friends or loved ones. I know this to be the case with me! You should not cut these people out of your life, but rather keep time with them to a minimum. You can try your best to sway these people to the light side of life, but more often than not you’re wasting your time. Don’t let them bring you down. Surround yourself with people who smile and laugh! 4. They don’t compare themselves to others This is a big one. Social media makes this more relevant than ever before. Stop trying to make your life like someone else’s. It is imperative you don’t look at other people’s successes and negatively judge yourself. Again, reflect on the positive aspects of your life. There will always be someone else who you perceive to be luckier, more successful or happier than you. The best way to avoid this is to cut out looking at other people’s lives altogether. Get off of social media unless you are connecting with friends and family. If you do see success in someone else’s life, embrace it! Be happy for them and it will in turn make you happier as well. Odds are people are a little jealous of your life too! 5. They don’t sweat the small stuff You’ve heard this before. If you start embracing this idea, life will become some much more fulfilling and positive. If you think something has gone wrong in your day, take a step back and ask yourself: “Is it really such a big deal.” Take a deep breath and count the blessings in your life. You will quickly realize that this is really a miniscule mishap in the grand scheme of life! Life is good. Remember, these are little things. Don’t let them get to you! Keep a positive outlook on life and good things will consistently come your way. It is all about your attitude and the angle in which you view everyday occurrences. Happiness is obtainable for everyone, but it starts with a conscious effort to make it so. Make sure you are doing things to make you happier and also avoiding doing the things get you down. The road to a happier you starts with just that: YOU. By Pat DeRiso Sources: Prevention Magazine