Did you know? Each year, there are roughly six million car accidents on roads across the United States. Just like simple choices you make while driving can have major consequences, the personal health and lifestyle choices you make affect you for the long term.
Most people know that if they frequented the mall of the jewelry store every week, the impact on their budget and financial life would be significant. For that reason, many people avoid window shopping in order to avoid the temptation to spend needlessly. But it’s less obvious what kind of impact your personal health and lifestyle choices can have on your future. Fast food and frozen dinners are cheap and convenient, and skipping exercise can seem like a good strategy for saving time. But although those choices seem small and inconsequential, you know that if you make bad personal health and lifestyle choices too many times, you’ll end up worse off in the long run.
In this article, we’ll expose how your personal health and lifestyle choices can impact your entire life, and what decisions you should make to enjoy a life that’s long and healthy.
Impact of Personal Health and Lifestyle Choices on Health
Most people would admit to knowing that their lifestyle impacts their health, but they might not be able to articulate exactly how, or what choices affect them in what ways. The Iranian Journal of Public Health published a detailed article on the impact of lifestyle on health, helping to clear up some confusion. The following are nine significant ways that your personal health and lifestyle choices affect your long-term health.
Diet and Body Mass Index
Your diet is the single greatest factor in how your lifestyle impacts your health — in fact, the foods you eat have a direct relation with the level of health you enjoy. Poor diet can have many consequences, the most common of which may be obesity, which very common in urban societies.
Because of the impact that diet has on your health, an unhealthy lifestyle can be measured by BMI, or body mass index. Unfortunately, the urban lifestyle that most people are accustomed to is notorious for problems resulting from fast foods and poor diets. This leads to a direct increase in problems like cardiovascular disease.
Exercise and Activity
Correct and appropriate exercise is essential for treating general health problems, as well as for maintaining good health. Most people already know that exercise is important for staying healthy. What’s less commonly known is that physical activity also correlates with happiness, seeming to be a natural mood booster for people who work out.
Sleep is undeniably one of the bases of a healthy life. Unlike exercise, it’s not something we can simply avoid doing. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done wrong. Many people have erratic sleep schedules, going to bed and getting up at random times. Worse, it’s all too common for people to get far less sleep than they need to feel their best. This can lead directly to irritability and poor cognition during the day, setting the stage for expensive mistakes, accidents, and even injuries.
Sleep disorders have many social, economic, psychological, and health consequences for communities. Not only does sleep have a direct impact on your daily life, but the way you live each day has an impact on your quality of sleep. If you work out and eat well during the day, then go to bed and get up at the same time every day, you’ll be more likely to enjoy a restful sleep at night.
Normal sexual activity and relationships are essential to healthy living. Dysfunctional sexual relationships and behavior are a significant problem for communities everywhere. They can have significant repercussions on your health, from anxiety or depression stemming from dysfunctional relationships to STDs.
Addiction of any kind is considered an unhealthy lifestyle, but substance abuse can have especially severe consequences. Cigarette smoking, for example, can result in multiple problems, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, asthma, and even brain injury. Substance abuse interventions may be necessary for people stuck in an addiction.
Medications can save lives, but only when they’re used correctly and in the appropriate context. Unfortunately, it’s all too common for people to use medications in ways that are far from healthy. Some people attempt to treat themselves with drugs their doctor didn’t prescribe them, while others share their prescription medications with friends or family members. Doctors are also to blame for some medication abuse, as they sometimes prescribe the wrong medications, or prescribe too many to one patient. This can have significant adverse effects on your health.
Misuse of Electronic Devices
You may not think of your smartphone or computer as being causes of poor health, but they can have a negative impact on your health if you use them irresponsibly. Using brights screens too much can cause eye strain and disrupt your sleep while sitting at an uncomfortable desk or looking down at your phone for long periods can result in back pain or poor posture. The psychological effects of technology can be even worse, as some people develop anxiety and other mental conditions from negative social media use.
Rest, relaxation, and healthy pastimes are important parts of a good lifestyle. It’s good to unplug from the world and do something relaxing, whether it be taking an afternoon power nap or pursuing an enjoyable hobby. Even if all you do is plant flowers for fun, hobbies and leisure activities give you an important chance to relax. However, as many most good things, they can have a dark side. If you fail to organize your time, you can spend too much time on leisure activities, compromising the rest of your life, including your health.
You might not think of study as belonging on a list of things that impact your health. But it nonetheless makes it onto the list as an exercise for the soul, which not only improves your life as you learn new things, but may also help prevent or slow down mental conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Programs like life coaching can not only help you learn, but also hold you accountable to building healthy habits.
These are the top ways your personal health and lifestyle choices impact your long-term health. Next we’ll talk about the role genetics play in determining your health, and the surprising way that your lifestyle alter gene expression.
How Health and Lifestyle Choices Can Change Your Genes
Ever since scientists cracked the human genome, doctors have enjoyed a heightened awareness of how an individual’s genetics contribute to diseases they’re likely to get. Different people are more likely to develop different health problems based on their genetic makeup, from cancer to depression to heart attack. Some people undergo genetic testing just to find out what diseases they’re most at risk of developing. This is helpful for people and their doctors as they take steps to avoid disease.
However, this knowledge about gene expression has become a double-edged sword in some ways. Some people assume that, because they’re genetically more likely to get cancer, it doesn’t matter how they live or what they do. Instead of seeing their genetics as a warning, they take it as a death sentence. Other people assume that, if their genetic makeup dictates their health, they have an excuse to forget their health altogether.
However, neither of these ideas could be farther from the truth. Although your genes make you more susceptible to certain diseases than others, your lifestyle choices can actually change the way your genes express themselves. In a way, by making healthy choices, you can “turn off” the genes that contribute to disease. Like being in the warm environment of a spa causes your body to sweat, changing the “environment” of your lifestyle choices changes the behavior of your cells microscopically.
How Choices Can Change Molecules
Smoking is a common example of how behavior can affect genes. We all know that smoking is linked to poor health, but how does that work on a molecular level?
In the case of smoking, carcinogens inside cigarette smoke affect molecules in our bodies directly. This triggers the growth of cancer cells by mutating anti-cancer genes, preventing them from functioning effectively. Even though anti-cancer genes were there, the presence of carcinogens from the smoke altered their gene expression.
Similarly, it’s been found that positive lifestyle choices — such as eating right and exercising — might have just as significant an effect on your genetic makeup. Eating well can “turn off” the genes that put you at a higher risk of heart complications, and exercise can cause stem cells to become healthy bone and blood cells instead of turning to fat, resulting in weight loss. The actions you take every day literally affect the way the cells in your body behave at a microscopic level.
Now that you know your genes can be altered through personal health and lifestyle choices, how should you start getting into good health? Keep reading to find out.
Personal Health and Lifestyle Choices That Promote Good Health
Although you can’t change your genes or the world around you, making educated and deliberate choices regarding diet, activity, sleep, alcohol use, and more can lead to a healthier and longer life. And while there are countless articles and books you could read on being healthy, the following are some of the top ways to make personal health and lifestyle choices for good health.
Get Adequate Amounts of Sleep Regularly
Sleep is often downplayed in importance compared to diet and exercise, which is why it’s first on our list. Many studies have demonstrated a relationship between quality sleep and life expectancy, but what’s surprising to many is that too much sleep can be just as big a problem as too little.
According to a 2017 review in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the ideal sleep duration is seven hours per night. However, it’s important to keep in mind that this is an average, and the true ideal can be slightly different for each person.
In order to get the best sleep possible, make sure you go to bed and get up at roughly the same time every day. Stop using devices with screens at least a half-hour before bed, to avoid disrupting your sleep cycle.
Eat Regular Balanced Meals
A healthy diet will provide your body with energy to get through the day, and lower your risk of diseases like hypertension, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. It can also help you maintain a healthy weight.
Don’t just jump into the latest diet fad, however. It’s much better to shift into a healthier dietary lifestyle. Everyone knows more or less what goes into a healthy diet: don’t eat too much, especially when it comes to starches and sugars, and try to eat mainly plants. But beyond this, you may need to do some research to feel like you know what goes into a well-rounded healthy diet. For starters, you could look into the Mediterranean diet, which helps you avoid many unhealthy food choices in favor of some of the healthiest options.
Be Active and Exercise Regularly
Just 30 minutes per day of brisk physical activity can improve your health by reducing heart rate and reducing bone loss from aging. You don’t have to go to the gym to live an active lifestyle — going for a run in your neighborhood can be a simple and cost-effective way to stay active.
Get Help When You Need It
If you love your pet, you wouldn’t think twice about taking them to the veterinarian when they need it. Likewise, you should value yourself and your health enough to get expert help and health care when necessary.
Don’t postpone or forget regular checkups at the doctor’s office. As you get older, you may need more than once per year, and you may even need to find specialists for different parts of your life. This is important for maintaining your health as you age.
While you’re at it, remember your dental health care. Many diseases can be diagnosed early by a skilled dentist because of the elaborate relationship between oral health and overall health.
Don’t ignore your mental health and wellbeing. If you suffer from significant stress, or even if your relationships simply aren’t what they could be, consider getting counseling from a good therapist or counselor. You’ll be glad you did.
Finally, if you have unhealthy lifestyle habits that you just can’t seem to get rid of on your own, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Specialists are available to provide coaching or addiction counseling for any problem you might face. It’s better to get help than to live with poor health.
As you can see, your personal health and lifestyle choices play a big role in your quality of life. Hopefully this article has helped you better understand the importance of the choices you make every day.