Adopting healthy habits can extend life expectancy. This is backed by studies in 2020 that indicates that smoking, inactivity, poor diet, and heavy alcohol consumption can lead to as much as 60% of premature deaths and a reduction in life expectancy of between 7.4 and 17.9 years .
Dr Bha Ndungane-Tlakula, Medical Director at Pfizer South Africa says that creating a healthy lifestyle focuses on increasing the adoption of healthy habits including eating a better diet, stopping using tobacco products and exercising2.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) claims a healthy lifestyle lowers one’s risk of becoming critically ill or dying prematurely. “Although It is important to note that while some diseases are unpreventable, many deaths, especially those relating to coronary heart disease and lung cancer, some can be prevented3,” she adds.
As such, Dr Ndungane-Tlakula provides four tips to assist South Africans to live a healthy lifestyle, including:
Eat a balanced diet
What you eat has a great impact on your body. However, many people tend to think that this means that they should jump onto the latest diet fad to lose weight when in fact they should adopt good, well-balanced, eating habits to ensure they are able to maintain it2.
“This is because we gain many of our essential nutrients from the food we eat as our bodies cannot produce these nutrients enough on their own3,” says Dr Ndungane-Tlakula. “This means that most of our sources of nutrients and daily calories should come from fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and lean proteins5.”
Portion control is equally as important as the food itself6. Apart from using smaller plates or having a glass of water 30 minutes before a meal7, using portion control guides will help to identify accurate portion sizes8.
Participate in exciting forms of exercise
According to the WHO, if more of the global population engaged in physical activity up to 5 million deaths could be prevented annually. The WHO has also revealed that those who are generally inactive have a 20% to 30% increased chance of death compared to those who are sufficiently active9.
Dr Ndungane-Tlakula says research indicates that by doing as little as 30-minutes of exercise a day one increases longevity, reduces stress and reduces the likelihood of one from getting ill by strengthening the immune system2. “While many may start the year with positive fitness goals, the problem is that the monotony of exercise may eventually become tedious10.
“As such, it’s important to make exercise routines exciting and fun. This can include partaking in activities such as walking, cycling, and dance classes2. Even everyday tasks, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, can have a positive impact on one’s health11,” she explains.
Get enough sleep
Sleeping is imperative in allowing the body to remain healthy, fighting diseases and allowing the brain to function well. A lack of sleep is closely linked to obesity and other health issues such as diabetes12.
“Cutting out caffeine and big meals before bed is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Instead, opt for a small dinner which will allow your body to process it better while you sleep2,” adds Dr Ndungane-Tlakula.
“Smoking, in particular, is one of the more harmful habits for overall health and affects most organs in the body13. “So much so that if you smoke tobacco products you are 15 to 30 times more likely to get lung cancer or die from lung cancer than if you did not smoke. Fortunately, quitting at any age will lower the threat15.
“Quitting smoking can be difficult, with nicotine being as addictive as cocaine or heroin15. However, coupled with the adoption of healthy lifestyle habits such as a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy body weight, reducing alcohol consumption and regular exercise, it may add more than a decade of life expectancy during adulthood16.”
“Speak to your healthcare professional who can advise on the best solutions to help you live a better life for tomorrow today,” concludes Dr Ndungane-Tlakula.