If you’ve ever tried to make a sweeping New Year’s resolution, like losing 20 pounds, quitting caffeine cold turkey, or running a mile every day, you know how unrealistic and frustrating it can be. The hard truth is that those resolutions usually turn into regrets, lifestyle changes that proved too ambitious, goals you wish you could have achieved if only you’d been stronger and more determined. Maybe the fault doesn’t lie with your resolve at all, but with the scope of your ambition. There are plenty of small, incremental improvements that can easily be incorporated into your life, manageable alterations that will build confidence and leave you feeling better about yourself.
Salt is in most of the foods you buy at the grocery store and order at restaurants these days. It makes food taste good, but over time it takes a toll on your body, particularly your blood pressure and cardiovascular system. As sodium builds up, your body retains water to dilute it, which increases the volume of blood in the bloodstream and forces your heart to work harder. Eliminating salt will make it easier to lose weight and reduce your likelihood of developing hypertension. If you’re someone who tends to automatically reach for the salt shaker, try removing it from the dinner table altogether and replacing it with a salt substitute like NuSalt and No Salt, which contain potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride and do not elevate blood pressure.
Commit to cleaner indoor air
Indoor pollutants, allergens, and toxins in the air we breathe every day present a potentially major threat to respiratory health. Unfortunately, a quarter of all Americans rarely clean their air filters, with as many as 11 percent neglecting them altogether. A study revealed that 89 percent of people who had changed their filter within the previous two years found dust, 40 percent encountered hair and pet dander, and 18 percent were breathing air contaminated by insect remains. Invest in a quality air purifier and change or clean your HVAC filter regularly. This is particularly important if you suffer from allergies.
Cheers to your health (in moderation)
There’s a good reason the French say “A votre sante” (meaning “to your health”) when toasting over a glass of red wine. It contains antioxidants, which help prevent heart disease, colon cancer, and depression. But be sure to enjoy your favorite red in moderation. Drinking to excess is hard on your organs and can lead to liver disease and even cancer. In general, a man in good health can safely drink two glasses of red wine a day with no worries; it’s recommended that women, who are at higher risk for liver disease, limit themselves to one glass per day.
Most of us don’t think of our posture when considering ways to improve our overall health, but posture and ergonomics can impact your physical well-being in significant ways. Poor posture will, over time, cause chronic back pain and neck strain, and can lead to frequent headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome, a common affliction for people who do a large amount of typing every day. Good posture is an easy adjustment to make and its positive effects can be far-reaching. Try moving your computer monitor, use a chair with better lower-back support, and make sure to get up and move around every half hour or so.
Get more sleep
According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in three Americans don’t get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation is a serious health problem that can lead to everything from obesity and diabetes to depression and anxiety. So get to bed a little earlier at night to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Sticking to a bedtime routine, in which you hit the sack at the same time and get up at the same time each morning, helps your system get used to a healthy sleeping/waking rhythm. You’ll feel better, more energetic, and lessen your chances of heart attack or stroke. If you’re a problematic sleeper, consider investing in blackout curtains or a sound machine to help you fall asleep more easily.
Climb the stairs
Many people who complain that there’s no time for any exercise in their day may be overlooking a ridiculously easy solution. Try taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator to get a good cardio workout; it’s also a good way to work those leg muscles and help drop a few pounds.
Most of us could incorporate health strategies into our daily lives with relative ease. You don’t need a costly gym membership, and the health rewards are substantial. Simple, incremental dietary, exercise, and lifestyle changes can put you on the road to a healthier, happier you—and you don’t have to wait until New Year’s to start.
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