Are you hoping to live a healthier life? Most of us want to lose weight, have more energy and manage seemingly chronic health conditions without a lot of medications.
“As a primary care doctor, I have seen many patients who are frustrated with their weight and unhealthy habits,” says University Hospitals internal medicine physician Babak Moini, MD. “Most have spent a lot of money and effort on diet plans or supplements without any long-term results.” Dr. Moini transformed his own unhealthy habits into a sustainable, enjoyable healthy lifestyle about 10 years ago. Today, he feels energetic and healthy. And he has a deep appreciation and understanding for people who struggle to start or maintain healthy habits.
“Because of what I learned through research to gain a healthier life personally, I can help my patients learn the basic science of healthy living and implement realistic changes,” says Dr. Moini. “No pills, no supplements, no strict rules. Just healthy living in moderation.”
Five Pillars to a Healthier Life
Becoming healthy may have a different meaning or goal for each person. But regardless of your goals and current health status, Dr. Moini believes there are 5 pillars to a healthy life.
Exercise and activity
All five are interdependent and to be healthy, you need them all. But you don’t need perfection every day. By making simple, long-lasting and fundamental changes in your daily life, you can significantly improve your health in each category.
Review Your Lifestyle & Start with An Easy Change
On your own, or in partnership with your primary care physician, consider what you eat, your activity level, your stressors and your sleep. Identify something that can be quickly and easily addressed and changed. That first small change with its resulting success will motivate you to go further. As time goes on, continue to make small changes. Some changes may take longer to become part of your daily lifestyle, but if you stick with it you’ll find your health improving. Based on your personal goals and health status, consider the following suggestions. Remember to take small steps, incorporating healthy changes that will last.
To get the nutrition you need, focus on eating healthy, unprocessed, whole foods in 2-3 meals a day. Learn what truly healthy whole foods are, not what are advertised as whole and healthy. Learn quick and easy recipes that make healthy cooking and meal preparation easier. Don’t neglect certain types of foods as many diets suggest (unless your doctor recommends it for a particular health problem). Instead, include healthy carbs, proteins and fats in each meal. Eat a high fiber diet with 3-4 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Determine your portion size based on your caloric needs and lifestyle. Avoid snacking, which is bad for your metabolism. And stay hydrated. Save money and calories by drinking regular water rather than juices, colas and flavored waters that contain extra calories and unhealthy chemicals.
Exercise & Activity
Start by simply moving more throughout the day. Take the stairs, park farther from the door, and walk, exercise or stretch a few minutes every hour if you have a desk job. Actively exercising 30 minutes a day will improve your heart, brain, immune system, mood and more. Exercise brings in oxygen, strengthens your muscles and heart, improves blood flow, strengthens bones and moves toxins out. With small changes, blood pressure, joint and bone health, energy level and mood will improve, and your cardiovascular risk will decrease. Exercise has tremendous short and long term benefits and requires less time than you think.
Sleep rejuvenates your body and brain. It’s critical to health. Adults should sleep 7-8 hours each night. To set your body’s sleep rhythm, go to bed and wake up at the same times each day and put electronics away at bedtime. It’s likely that sleep will improve with better nutrition, exercise and the reduction of stress.
Take time to calm your mind each day. Just 5-10 minutes of meditation – relaxed mental downtime – can be helpful for anxiety, insomnia, pain, high blood pressure and depression. And practice mindfulness – be in the moment and embrace your experience without judgement or planning. For example, you know traffic will be bad on the way home, but accept it and use the time for positive thinking rather than stressing over it. Mindfulness allows your conscious brain to take over your subconscious reactionary modes. Taking things as they come, rather than fretting about something you can’t change, relieves stress.
Have a circle of close family and friends. Connect with them physically, not just electronically. Plan activities and outings together. Socializing is a great stress reliever.
Whatever your age or stage of life, prevention is the best medicine. That’s why it’s important to see your primary care provider for age-appropriate screenings and vaccinations that can prevent disease. Learn more.
Need a primary care provider? Use our easy online tool to find a PCP and book an appointment at a time that is convenient for you.