Originally published 11/22/14, this article has been updated and reposted due to its popularity and importance for Optimum Health.
One of four deadly diseases will likely kill everyone reading this. I call these diseases the “Deadly 4”, and 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
We know HOW to prevent (or significantly delay) these deaths for most people. Research is clear that there is ONE thing missing that gives the Deadly 4 permission to kill. The ABSENCE of this ONE thing kills more people than all other deaths combined.
What is even more disturbing is that this ONE thing, once established, is so simple it is automatic. Yet most “successful” Americans are missing out on the health benefits. What is missing?
Healthy Habits are the most powerful KEY to a long and healthy life. Ask any 100+ year old, and they will tell you the Healthy Habits that are responsible for them getting to 100. Healthy Habits are always a key. (For more evidence, think opposites. How many 3 pack a day habitual smokers live to 100? Or, how many people living off “fast food” live a long and healthy life? Not many!)
A habit is an acquired behavior that is followed until it becomes “automatic”.
Research agrees with my experience that Healthy Habits are the most powerful approach to overcome health challenges such as:
- Genetic tendencies for diseases such as overweight or heart disease
- Unhealthy environments, such as living in the U.S. in our century
- Past health problems, like heart disease, high blood pressure, fatigue
- Unwanted weight gain
- Stress-induced health problems from financial, work or relationship stresses
- People’s wrong influences, including family or friends with bad habits
Routine behaviors matter! Unfortunately, for many of us, our behaviors are 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 over time.
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”.
The beauty of a habit is that, once established, it requires no effort. It feels natural and is “automatic”. And that’s powerful!
Although habits can be good or bad in nature, our goal is to establish the “right” healthy habits, because the truth is that…
What you do daily, 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. (Trim, fit, energetic, good mood, etc)
- 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.
Here are some of my personal Healthy Habits, although I’m not perfect and still working on some of them…
9 Examples of Healthy Habits:
- Sleep 7 ½ hours each night. According to research, this makes me smarter (and yes, I need all the help I can get!), happier, and more energetic. Heart attack risk drops 50%, colon cancer risk 33%, and early death risk drops 12%, compared to insufficient sleep.
- Fitness time daily. For me, this means a morning run lasting ~23 minutes. I make 9 minutes my minimum goal since 9+ minutes of fitness daily postpones death by 6.2 years on average. Running is not appropriate for many people. Joint pain, or not enjoying running, is enough reason to choose another activity. Find something that increases your heart rate and makes you short of breath for at least 9 minutes every day.
(Note: Kansas ranks 42nd out of 50 states for average amount of fitness time, so let’s do our part to improve our ranking! Kansans tend to lack the healthy habit of daily fitness time!)
- Nutrient Supplements. Twice a day is my habit. Because I know this is the only way to achieve recommended optimum intake of essential nutrients. (Read about 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.)
- Coffee at 3-5 cups daily to lower heart attack risk by 15%, diabetes by 34% and Alzheimer’s risk 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.)
- Water. I take a Thermos of purified 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 (2-5 oz) lowers heart attack risk 35%. (For me, this is 2-3 servings a week, which is enough for a benefit.)
The options are endless! The key is to get started. Identify your health goals and proper, “easy to achieve” behaviors. Sleeping and eating nuts for snacks might be the starting point, make it easy to get started! Then, use you discipline as you 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! It’s true….
What you do daily, determines your health eventually….
Remember, Optimum Health is ALWAYS worth the effort.
For Optimum Health,
Rick Tague, M.D., M.P.H.