In the Science Times of October 25th, Tara Parker Pope wrote a column about the advice eight scholars gave to people in their twenties. Experts in nutrition, obesity, cardiology and other disciplines each gave one strategy that would help young people stay healthy throughout their lives. As I read these short pieces I thought that they are relevant at every age – it’s never too late to form healthy habits. Here they are:
1) Weigh yourself often – buy a scale and keep track of your weight – it’s easier to lose 5 pounds than twenty. Carrying excess weight is harmful to your overall health and your leg/foot joints.
2) Learn to cook – find tasty ways to boost your intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and proteins. This will save you money, decrease your intake of unhealthy fats, sugar and salt, and possibly help your social life.
3) Cut back on sugar – by eliminating sugared soft drinks, breakfast cereals with added sugar, and being careful with cookies, cakes, candy et al. This step alone will prevent unwanted weight gain.
4) Live an active life – Build physical activity into every day – by biking, walking, gardening, doing housework, upper body exercises, et al. Move to music!
5) Practice portion control – let your hand be your guide – a serving of chicken, fish or meat should be the size of your palm, and of whole grain starch should be the size of your fist.
6) Eat your veggies – this advice is from Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition at New York University. ’Nutrition science is complicated and debated endlessly, but the basics are well established: eat plenty of plant foods, go easy on junk foods, and stay active. The trick is to enjoy your meals, but not eat too much or too often.”
7) Adopt a post-party routine – if you do a lot of drinking and snacking, ensure that you exercise a lot to offset all those extra calories. (Good advice for the holidays)
8) Find a job you love – this advice is from Hui Zheng, a professor of sociology at Ohio State University. “If I can give just one piece of health advice for a twenty year old person, I would suggest that he or she find a job they feel passionate about. This is turn will make them more engaged in life and healthier behaviors, which will have long-term benefits for their well being.” I think this advice is pertinent at every age. Find ways to make your work life meaningful. After retirement, it is also important to find activities that you are passionate about – volunteering for a cause you believe in, finding pleasure in a creative project, taking up a paintbrush, modeling clay, or a musical instrument. Write poems and short stories. Don’t be afraid to be a beginner.
Submitted by Sadja Greenwood, MD, MPH