Healthy living should not only be a responsibility, but more importantly, it should be a lifestyle – everything you do on a regular basis affects your health. Here is a quick list of the top 10 most important health habits (not in any particular order) that everyone should incorporate – these tips are not only relevant to those with diabetes, but also for everyone else.
It is well known that frequent exercising – aerobic exercises (running, biking, swimming, etc.) or anaerobic exercises (resistance training) – is crucial for cardiovascular health, injury prevention and for everyday functioning. It is recommended to exercise for at least 150 minutes (or 3 times) a week. Overtime, it can prevent health problems such as diabetes and obesity, as well as other heart diseases and cancer, and can significantly contribute to improved mental health.
2. Drinking enough water
It is recommended to drink at least 2 litres of water every day (and more if exercising). Drinking water is essential for many simple body functions such as flushing toxins out, joint lubrication, cognitive functioning, and strengthening of the immune system. It also helps maintain healthy skin, normal bowel and kidney function, and balance of body fluids. Carrying a water bottle with you as much as possible is one of the best habits to overcome this problem.
3. Stretching regularly
After a long night of sleep or a long day sitting at work, muscles may become stiff and contracted. Frequent stretching (after a warm-up) is recommended to give muscles their full range of motion and to prevent injury.
4. Breathing from your stomach, rather than your chest
Breathing in using the diaphragm instead of the chest is more efficient – it maximizes oxygen intake and requires less effort. Changing your breathing pattern from a long, deep breath to a short, rapid breath and is beneficial especially for optimal physical performance and to reduce anxiety levels.
5. Eating a healthy breakfast
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. After a long sleep, your body is in starvation mode, reducing your metabolism. A healthy breakfast is necessary in order to give it a kick-start and energize you for the rest of the day.
6. Eating smaller meals, more frequently
Your body needs a constant supply of energy, as opposed to large and spread-out feeding periods. It is recommended to eat 6 meals a day, 2 or 3 hours apart. This helps control blood sugar levels, reduces insulin spikes and post-meal drowsiness, and is optimal for your metabolism.
7. Eating plenty of fibre
Foods high in fibre are important for proper bowel function, cardiovascular health and cancer prevention. They are especially important for those with diabetes since it slows down digestion, reducing spikes in blood sugar after a meal. It is recommended to eat 26 to 35 grams of fiber daily, which can be attained by eating 5-6 portions of fruits and vegetables. Fiber can also be obtained from whole wheat foods such as brown rice, quinoa or oatmeal.
8. Getting enough sleep
Sleep is essential for the proper functioning of many cognitive tasks, such as learning and memory, throughout the day. Sleep acts as a recovery period, allowing neurons in the brain to reconnect at their synapses and for muscles to repair. For the average adult, it is recommended to sleep 8 hours a day. A lack of sleep may lead to weight gain, mood swings, inability to concentrate, and reduced functioning of the immune system.
9. Non-exercise physical activity
Apart from going to the gym or going out for a run, our activities for the remainder of the day are also an important contribution to our health, such as whether we decide to walk to work, work a desk job, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or play the Nintendo Wii. All these tasks may seem insignificant but together can add up and have a significant impact.
10. Practicing good dental health and flossing often
Poor oral hygiene does not only lead to gum disease and cavities, but is also linked to numerous heart and respiratory diseases. Furthermore, new studies also suggest a link between gum disease and diabetes. According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, “periodontal disease is an infection, and bacteria produce toxins that affect the carbohydrate metabolism in individual cells. It is also thought that the host response to periodontal bacteria can increase insulin resistance and, therefore, blood glucose levels.”