One of four diseases will likely kill each of us reading this. I call these diseases the “Deadly 4”. They take the lives of most Americans, yet these diseases are mostly PREVENTABLE! The “Deadly 4” Diseases are:
- Heart Disease
- Brain Disease: Stroke and Alzheimer’s
- Diabetes Type 2
These diseases, like many others, have straightforward, powerful approaches for prevention, which include:
- proper sleep
- proper nutrition
- weight control
It’s clear that we know HOW to prevent (or significantly delay) these deaths for most people. Research indicates there is ONE thing missing that gives the “Deadly 4” permission to kill. It turns out the ABSENCE of this ONE thing ends up killing more people than all other deaths combined.
Further, what makes the issue even more disturbing is that this ONE thing, once established, is natural and automatic. Yet most “successful” Americans are missing out on the many health benefits. What is it?
It turns out that Healthy Habits are the single most powerful KEY to a long and healthy life. Ask any 100+ year old individual and they will tell you the Healthy Habits they embraced to get to 100. Healthy Habits of some sort are always a key. (For more evidence, think opposites. How many 3 pack-a-day habitual smokers live to 100?)
A habit is defined as an acquired behavior that is followed until it becomes essentially “automatic”.
Research agrees with my personal clinical experience that Healthy Habits are the single most powerful agent to overcome health challenges such as:
- Poor genetic tendencies, such as family history of overweight or heart disease
- An adverse environment, such as living in the U.S. in our century
- Previous health problems, like high cholesterol, allergies, fatigue
- Unwanted weight gain
- Stress-induced health consequences, including from financial or relationship issues
- People’s wrong influences, including family or friends with bad habits
Routine behaviors matter! Unfortunately, for most of us, our behaviors are often not consistent with our goals. Establishing Healthy Habits in these areas are all that is needed. Do you see what is happening? We are smart people and we care deeply about our health. Yet we fail to embrace proper daily behaviors that can make all the difference in our health.
After interviewing thousands of patients who are struggling with health, I believe the most common reason for this inconsistency between our goals and our behaviors is simply the failure to initiate and then establish proper Healthy Habits. It’s not that we are intentionally doing the wrong things, but instead, it is that we have not yet established the habit of consistently doing the RIGHT things.
You see, when we do “right things” consistently, they quickly become, by definition, a “habit”.
And the beauty of a habit is that, once established, it requires essentially no additional effort, it feels natural and is “automatic”. And that’s powerful!
Although habits can be good or bad in nature and can deliver good or bad outcomes, our goal is to establish the “right” healthy habits, because the truth is that…
What you do habitually, determines your health eventually….
Establishing Healthy Habits does not have to be hard, but it does have to be intentional and it requires 6 simple steps. Here they are:
6 Steps to Developing Healthy Habits:
- Determine your health goals.
- Identify achievable behaviors to reach those goals.
- Initiate discipline to change behaviors.
- Persevere through distractions or discomfort for 21 days.
- Embrace your new “automatic” Healthy Habits.
- Celebrate when goals are achieved.
Let’s go through some of my personal Healthy Habits, although I’m not perfect and still working on a couple of them…
9 Examples of Healthy Habits:
- Sleep 7 ½ hours each night. This (according to research) makes me smarter (and yes, I need all the help I can get!), happier, and more energetic. Heart attack risk drops by 50%, colon cancer risk by 33%, and early death risk drops by 12% compared to those with sleep deprivation.
- Fitness time daily, each morning, of 23 minutes, with a 9 minute minimum since 9+ minutes of fitness activity daily postpones death by 6.2 years on average.
(Note: Kansas ranks 42nd out of 50 states for amount of fitness time, so I’m trying to do my part to improve our ranking!)
- Nutrient Supplements. Twice a day as a habit. Because I know that is the only way to achieve recommended intake of essential nutrients. (See blog on malnutrition in America)
- Flossing teeth at least daily to lower heart disease risk and the risk of needing dentures some day. (I keep flossing picks in my vehicles and at my bathroom sink.)
- Coffee at 3-5 cups daily to lower heart attack risk by 15%, diabetes by 34% and Alzheimer’s by 65%. (I take coffee with me to work each day.)
- Olive Oil at 1 oz daily, which lowers risk of death by 25%. (Working on this one, I’m at about 3 days a week now.)
- Water. I take a Thermos of purified or filtered water to work daily.
- Mixed Nuts. Eating 1 oz as a daily snack helps lower risk of overall death by 17%, heart disease risk by 29% and diabetes risk by 20%.
- Red Wine. Drinking small to moderate amounts of red wine lowers heart attack risk 35%. (For me, this is 2-3 servings a week, which is enough for a benefit.)
Note that the options are endless! The key is to get started. Identify some goals and proper, “easy to achieve” behaviors. Then, use your discipline to get started. 21 days later, your Healthy Habits will be in place. Then, sit back, enjoy your enhanced life, and wait to celebrate the improved health that will come your direction!
And remember, Optimum Health is ALWAYS worth the effort.
For Optimum Health,
Rick Tague, M.D., M.P.H.