Living a long and healthy life may be something we all aspire to. But sometimes we can get so many mixed messages about managing our health and well-being that it can be a quagmire to sort through what’s myth and what’s fact.
We must have been doing something right over the last century because men and women now live 33 and 34 years longer than our respective male and female counterparts in the early 19th century1. If we treat ourselves right today, we can expect to live more than 80 years1.
So what are a few healthy habits we can pick up to boost our chances of reaching some golden twilight years?
1. Adopt a healthier diet
It’s hardly a surprise that a healthy diet is one of the most cited ways to boost your chances of living longer. According to the Victorian Government, eating a healthier diet can lead to a reduced chance of getting a number of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers2.
The South Australian Government says healthy eating improves our life expectancy in a multitude of ways. It helps us maintain a healthy weight, which in turn reduces our chances of having weight-related health, blood pressure and cholesterol problems3.
The Australian Government recommends a balanced diet rich in wholegrain foods and vegetables4. Meat, fish, fruit and dairy products are important parts of our daily diet. But those highly-processed convenience foods we love to snack on should be reduced to a small treat every now and again4.
2. Be active for 30 minutes daily
It is said prolonged inactivity raises your mortality risk by 72%5. But according to research, thirty minutes of physical activity a day is all it takes to improve your health and lifestyle6.
We’re not talking the rigorous kind of workout here (although that may be good for you too). Your thirty minutes could be spent playing with your children, walking the dog, cycling, swimming, or dancing.
It may not sound enough, but 30 minutes of daily physical activity can lead to a longer, healthier life. It may reduce your risk of getting, among other things:
- Heart disease
- A stroke
- Some cancers
- High blood pressure
It’s also bound to improve your quality of living now, by boosting your energy, muscle strength and balance, and improving your sleep7.
Short on time? Develop a habit of heading out of the office on your lunch break for a walk around the block or workout in the nearest gardens. Alternatively, leave the car at home and walk to work or the station.
3. Quit smoking
OK, this one is more about undoing a bad habit than adopting a new one. Smoking is the biggest preventable cause of illness and premature death in Australia8.
It can cause:
- Lung and mouth cancer
- Heart disease
It is estimated some two in three lifetime smokers will die from a disease caused by their habit10. But this can be prevented – there are a host of resources out there to help you quit, including the Government’s handy My Quit Buddy mobile app11.
If you need an added incentive, remind yourself that smoking may be considered a health risk during a life insurance policy assessment. After all, smokers boost their mortality risk by 94%12. So, you may end up paying more on premiums if you’re a smoker, although a host of other circumstances play a part in calculating your rates.
4. Laugh more
Some international research is suggesting that spontaneous laughter may lead to a better quality of life and improved health benefits13. A hearty guffaw may boost your immune system, lower blood pressure, and reduce stress and depression14.
So promising are the initial study results, that there are calls to incorporate laughter into treatment programs for heart health15. We certainly don’t object to that.
5. Reduce your alcohol
We’ve known for a long time that over-drinking on a regular basis isn’t the best idea for your health. Drink too much, and you may face an increasing risk of several diseases or even early death16. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to:
- Liver disease
- Suicide or suicidal behaviour
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
- Heart damage16
Over-drinking is generally considered to be more than two standard drinks on any day16. You don’t have to forgo the booze altogether though – in fact, some alcohol beverages may even have some nutritional value17.
6. Be sun smart
It doesn’t take much to layer on some sunscreen and put on a hat when you venture outside. And it might just save your life.
Every year, some 1600 Australians die from melanoma skin cancer, which is the cause of 10% of all new cancer cases diagnosed annually18. Yet it is one of the most preventable forms of cancer in the country19.
The Cancer Council Australia advocates a whole range of sun smart activities, from wearing a hat and layering on the sunscreen (SPF 30+ at least) to avoiding the sunlight when there’s a high UV alert20.
7. Learn to breathe deeply
Many of us seem to live pretty chaotic lives, with demands coming in from every which way. Our natural response to all this pressure may be stress.
Our bodies deal with stress as a fight or flight response22. We may experience a surge in our heartbeat, breathing and blood pressure. And the longer our body stays in that condition, the more damage it can cause22.
Stress may also contribute to some pretty serious wear and tear on the body, from cardiovascular disease (this remains controversial) to chronic fatigue and susceptibility to infection22.
But deep breathing can be a way to calm your body down and bring a host of positive changes to your body, including:
- Lowered blood pressure and heart rate
- Fewer stress hormones in the blood
- More balanced levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood
- A stronger immune system21
8. Have a youthful attitude
Ever wondered if getting old was all in your mind? That may just be the case. Research out of the UK suggests that people who feel three or more years younger than they really are tend to have a lower death rate23.
The research is in its early days, with the link being observed for cardiovascular deaths, but not for cancers23. But we think it definitely requires further investigation. After all, it’s the perfect licence we need to embrace our inner child.
9. Visit the doctor – regularly
An apple a day keeps the doctor away, or so the adage goes. In fact, a better idea may be to proactively seek out your GP for, well, a regular servicing, if you will.
A routine visit to the doctor may prevent further problems down the line24. Your doctor might remark on high blood pressure, for example, and prescribe treatment that may prevent a heart attack or stroke24. You never know till you go…
10. Sleep well
Getting a good night’s sleep doesn’t necessarily mean catching plenty of Zzzzs. In fact, it means getting the amount just right. Recent research from the University of Sydney has found that oversleeping can kill you just as much as insomnia may – more so, in fact25. We bet you didn’t see that coming.
Sleeping more than nine hours on a regular basis increases your risk of death by around 44%, this study revealed25. By contrast, sleeping fewer than seven hours daily results in a 9% increased risk of death25.
Your body goes into repair mode when you’re under the sleeping spell26. It helps your immune system resist infection26. And the right amount of sleep – between 7 and 8 hours – reduces your risk of heart disease27.
Taking care of yourself has plenty of benefits, including potentially prolonging your life. But it can also have an impact on your finances.
A life insurance policy is determined by a multitude of factors, among which is how well you take care of yourself. Observe some of these habits, and you may just enjoy lower premiums on your life insurance policy. If you’re after more information or advice, contact us at Budget Direct today or request a quote.