Improving your health doesn’t always require giant, complicated maneuvers. In fact sometimes just making a few tiny tweaks to your lifestyle can lead to enormous health rewards.
Following are three easy to make changes that can end up having a huge impact on your health.
1. Get more vitamin D:
Running low on vitamin D is far more common than you might imagine In fact, some experts estimate that over a billion folks worldwide aren’t getting enough of this vital vitamin.
You’re especially at risk for D deficiency if you’re a senior. And running low on D can have a huge negative impact on your health.1
Vitamin D deficiency is associated with Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease, diabetes asthma, erectile dysfunction and more. And the latest research shows D could help fight aging by slowing down the misfolding of hundreds of proteins related to lifespan. 2
You can ask your doctor to check your levels at your next visit or purchase a vitamin D testing kit online if you prefer.
If you find your levels are running low you can increase your D by spending more time outdoors in the sunshine with your head and arms exposed.
Twenty minutes or so in the sun without sunscreen can help bump up your levels. But many folks find they also need a supplement.
Healthier Talk contributor Dr. Allan Spreen believes most D recommendations are far too low. He typically recommends 2,000 IUs of D3 daily. Make sure to take it with a meal that contains fat to maximize its absorption.
Talk with your doc about what’s best for your specific situation.
2. Move for 20 minutes a day:
Sure, we all know that exercise is supposed to be good for us. Yet very few of us get anywhere near enough of it. In fact, experts say only around 20 percent of us are exercising enough. And reportedly, half of Baby Boomers get no exercise at all.
But let’s face it you’re not going to turn into a gym rat who bench presses 125 pounds overnight. And you’re not going to start running marathons anytime soon either.
Luckily, you don’t have to.
You can start reaping some of the rewards of exercise with a far more realistic goal. And that’s fitting in at least 20 minutes of movement a day. We recommend starting simple, such as taking a brisk 20 minute walk at lunchtime every day. Or do what I do, stop by the pool on the way home from work to swim laps for half an hour.
But the typical health benefits you’d expect from exercise—better heart health, more flexibility, in control blood sugars, etc.—are far from the only reason to get up and start moving.
Experts say regular exercise can also help improve your memory and ability to learn.3,4,5
It could help lower your risk of depression. And it leads to better blood flow improving everything from your skin tone to your ability to heal. 6,7,8,9,10
It can even turn you into a better fat burner so you metabolize the food you eat more efficiently rather than storing it around your waistline as fat. 11,12,13,14
3. Slash your stress levels:
If you find you’re feeling more stressed and anxious these days, you’re not alone. Our schedules are jam packed with activities. The 24/7 news cycle never stops bringing us bad news. And uncertainties about health, economics and the future have a lot of us on edge.
Chronic stress doesn’t just effect your mental health either. It can make you physically sick too. In fact, your body’s reaction to stress is physical.
Let’s say a loud noise startles you. Your body’s instant reaction is to get you ready to battle the danger or run. It’s called the fight or flight response.
A surge of adrenaline is released which raises your heart rate and blood pressure. Meanwhile the stress hormone cortisol increases the amount of glucose in your bloodstream so there’s more energy available for you to use. At the same time, the hormone slows down non-vital processes such as digestion and growth.
Once the perceived threat has passed your body is supposed to lower the red flag and return to normal. But these days we’re often living in a state of constant chronic stress.
That means your hormone levels stay elevated as well as your heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar. And that puts you at risk for all kinds of health problems including cancer, heart disease, weight gain, depression and memory problems. 15,16,17,18,19,20
Stress relieving habits can help
Adopt some stress relieving habits. If you plan to make change #2, you will already be well on your well since exercise is a terrific stress reliever.
Simple deep breathing exercises and meditation can make a huge impact on your stress levels too. Check YouTube for a bunch of free instructional videos.
And don’t worry crystals, incense or chanting aren’t required. Meditation is merely learning how to sit quietly and clear your mind. And the science shows it works. One recent study found even a single session of mindful meditation can have heart benefits and reduce mild to moderate anxiety.21
I downloaded an app to my smartphone that guides me through a simple meditation every day. It only takes a few minutes in the morning. But the payoff has been astounding. I feel calmer, healthier and more in control.
And a number of herbs can such as Rhodiola, chamomile, valerian, green tea and ginseng can help too.
1. “Vitamin D Promotes Protein Homeostasis and Longevity via the Stress Response Pathway Genes skn-1,ire-1, and xbp-1,” Cell Reports 17, October 25, 2016, 1227–1237
2. “Prevalence and correlates of vitamin D deficiency in US adults,” Nutr Res. 2011 Jan;31(1):48-54
3. “Physical Exercise Performed Four Hours after Learning Improves Memory Retention and Increases Hippocampal Pattern Similarity during Retrieval,” Current Biology, Volume 26, Issue 13, p1722–1727, 11 July 2016
4. “The Influence of Exercise on Cognitive Abilities,” Compr Physiol. 2013 Jan; 3(1): 403–428
5. “Shorter term aerobic exercise improves brain, cognition, and cardiovascular fitness in aging,” Front. Aging Neurosci., 12 November 2013
6. “Physical Activity and the Prevention of Depression: A Systematic Review of Prospective Studies,” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 45, Issue 5, November 2013, Pages 649–657
7. “Is Exercise a Viable Treatment for Depression?,” ACSMs Health Fit J. 2012 July/August; 16(4): 14–21
8. “The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed,” Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2004; 6(3): 104–111
9.”Skin Blood Perfusion and Oxygenation Colour Affect Perceived Human Health,” PLoS ONE. 2009; 4(4): e5083
10. “Exercise Accelerates Wound Healing Among Healthy Older Adults: A Preliminary Investigation,” Journal of Gerontology, 2005, Vol. 60A, No. 11, 1432–1436
11. “Regulation of fat metabolism in skeletal muscle,” Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2002 Jun;967:217-35
12. “Lipid oxidation is reduced in obese human skeletal muscle,” Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2000 Nov;279(5):E1039-44
13. “High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss,” J Obes. 2011; 2011: 868305
14. “Exercise improves fat metabolism in muscle but does not increase 24-h fat oxidation,” Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2009 Apr; 37(2): 93–101
15. “Effect of psychological stress on blood pressure increase: a meta-analysis of cohort studies,” Cad Saude Publica. 2009 Apr;25(4):715-26
16. “Two alternative job stress models and the risk of coronary heart disease,” American Journal of Public Health January 1998: Vol. 88, No. 1, pp. 68-74
17. “Workplace Demands, Economic Reward, and Progression of Carotid Atherosclerosis,” Circulation, July 1, 1997, Volume 96, Issue 1
18. “Stress-induced cortisol response and fat distribution in women,” Obes Res. 1994 May;2(3):255-62
19. “Can anxiety damage the brain?,” Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 2016; 29 (1): 56
20. “Neuroinflammatory Dynamics Underlie Memory Impairments after Repeated Social Defeat,” Journal of Neuroscience 2 March 2016, 36 (9) 2590-2604
21. “Single Sesssion Mindfulness Meditation Reduces Aortic Pulsatile Load and Anxiety in Mild to Moderatly Anxious Adults,” Experimental Biology 2018, Session 714: Blood Pressure regualtion, Board #/Pub#: A129 714.19, /eb2018/event/cde4c91e2413241ad4937102091f0098