Not a day goes by without a story about a new health miracle: a diet that will let you live to be 120; a new exercise that will prevent cancer; a drug that will stop Alzheimer’s disease in it’s tracks... But if you’ve been a close follower of my articles in The Suburban, then you won‘t be surprised by my most important health tips for the upcoming year. No need for fancy tests or devices or new diets; what‘s been proven to make the biggest difference in the quality of our lives and how long we will live has been around for generations — but we‘ve been too busy with all the hype to perhaps pay attention. Here are my Top 5 health tips for 2019 — in no specific order
1. Get enough sleep
For most of us that means about eight hours. Study after study has shown that getting enough sleep is a reliable defense against depression, being overweight and all sorts of illnesses. Plus, you will enjoy life more — honest. Eight hours a day. It doesn‘t all have to be at one time and if you can‘t manage it every day, try to catch up when you can.
2. Don‘t be a coach potato
Be active, whether it means playing your video games standing up or walking to your friend‘s cubicle to talk to them rather than phoning or emailing them. Physical activity has been proven to be the key to a longer life. And just as importantly, a life with less physical aches and pains, so be active.
3. Eat right
The Mediterranean Diet has stood up to the test of time. It’s easy to stick to (which is the most important aspect of any diet) and has proven to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer — and it tastes good, too.
4. Be social
You don’t need a lot of friends. This is not a test of quantity but quality. People who have a solid support network tend to be healthier and to recover faster from illness that those who lack this support.
5. Spend time in nature
The Japanese call it “forest bathing” but whatever we chose to call it, studies have shown that looking out on greenery helps to lower stress, control blood pressure and provide people with an important oasis of calm in their lives. Even better if you can take a walk in a park or spend time outdoors.
None of these tips is a gimmick or a fad. All have stood the test of time. They aren‘t expensive or impossible to do. Perhaps that‘s why so few of us manage to actually do them. And to top it off, they‘re all fun. For 2019 how about resolving to make these simple rules yours and let‘s get together this time next year to see how we‘re all doing.
Dr. Mitch Shulman is an Assistant Professor, Dept. of Surgery, McGill Medical School and an Attending Physician, Emergency Department, McGill University Health Centre. He’s also the CJAD AM 800 Medical Consultant.