15 Smart Changes That Can Turbocharge Your Health

The majority of experts agree that the most likely way to live a healthy life is to make small changes to the things you do every day.

They don't require as much effort and are easier to stick to over time than our attempts at big life-changing changes.

The good news is that these small, easy changes can also have big health benefits. A study that came out recently in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that men who are 3 percent more fit have a 35% lower chance of getting prostate cancer.

Because of these results, researchers at the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences in Stockholm said that guys should try jogging, cycling, or swimming even a little more to lower their risk of getting the disease.

Which other small changes can we make to our lives to improve our health? Here are 15 steps that experts say you should take...

Eat eight strawberries a day to improve your memory

A study that came out last year in the Journal Nutrients found that eating just eight strawberries a day can improve your memory and mood and may even help protect you against dementia and sadness.

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati's Academic Health Center gave a powder made of eight whole strawberries to half of a group of 30 overweight men and women aged 50 to 65 who said they were having a mild loss in their memories. Someone else in the group got a fake drug that looked like strawberry powder. During the study, both groups were told not to eat any other berries. In the 12 weeks that followed, the strawberry group did better on memory tests, made fewer mistakes on a learning task, and reported fewer signs of depression.

Robert Krikorian, professor emeritus at the university's department of psychology and behavioral neuroscience, said that the results were due to "the anti-inflammatory actions of the anthocyanins." Blueberries and strawberries both have high amounts of this type of antioxidant.

The idea is that lowers inflammation in the brain, which is linked to memory loss. The authors of the study even said that "strawberry supplementation has a role in dementia risk reduction when introduced in midlife."

Professor Krikorian thinks that the change in depressive symptoms might have been caused by the subjects' mental sharpening, which led to "better emotional control and coping and perhaps better problem-solving."

When strawberries aren't in season, try them frozen.

Exercise before breakfast to maximize weight loss

When you work out in the morning, you lose half a stone more weight than when you work out later in the day.

A new study from Franklin Pearce University in the US says that the best time to work out before breakfast, between 7 and 9 AM, is for people who want to lose weight. Researchers looked at the exercise habits of over 5,000 people and found that working out before breakfast, when your body is still hungry, helps you lose weight.

"After fasting overnight, the glucose that our muscles use first for fuel is low in our cells," says Dr. Tongyu Ma, an assistant professor of exercise physiology who worked on the study that was published last year in Obesity, The Obesity Society's Journal.

So, if we work out, our muscles will probably burn more fat instead. I think you should do 40 minutes of physical exercise like running or biking before breakfast.

Focus on three things each morning to boost mood

As soon as you wake up, think of three things you're excited about for the day. This will help you avoid bad thoughts that might come up otherwise. We tend to think about bad things because the amygdala, which is the emotional center of our brains, is more active when we are feeling bad than when we are feeling good. It's a survival strategy that helps us focus on threats, even if it means we think about the things we fear first thing in the morning.

"The "feel-good" chemical dopamine is released when we expect a reward," says Dr. Faye Begeti, a neurologist and neuroscientist at Oxford University Hospitals and author of the new book The Phone Fix: The Brain-Focused Guide to Creating Good Digital Habits and Breaking Bad Ones.

"Having things to look forward to, even if they're just simple pleasures like a cup of coffee or texting a friend, makes daily life more enjoyable and makes us feel better when we wake up," she says.

She says, "Three things seems to be a useful sweet spot; it's easy to stick to, and people naturally move to the number three."

Studies have shown that anticipating good things makes us more resistant to stress and improves our ability to control our emotions and brain health. In one study, which came out in 2018 in Frontiers in Psychology, volunteers were asked to think about things they were looking forward to in the future while their brains were being scanned. The researchers say this made the middle frontal cortex part of their brains work more, which is linked to better "wellbeing."

Take up activity snacking to stay slim

A new study from University College London (UCL) says that doing almost any exercise for 30 minutes instead of sitting down will help you lose weight and keep your heart healthy.

More than 15,000 people were given movement-tracking devices by researchers. Using the data, computer models predicted what would happen if the people stopped being idle for 30 minutes and did something else instead. Even giving up 30 minutes of sitting for a nap during the day lowered their BMI and waist size, in part because it stopped them from eating.

But the best results came when that 30 minutes was swapped out for an exercise. A study published last year in the European Heart Journal found that "exercise snacking"—getting up and doing a quick exercise like jumping jacks, dancing to a song, or walking while on the phone or doing a chore around the house like vacuuming the floor—is an easy way to get more active.

Neuroscientist and UCL research fellow Dr. Jo Blodgett, who wrote the lead article, says, "The main thing to take away from our research is that even small changes in how you move can have a positive effect on your heart health. However, the intensity of your movement matters."

"The most helpful change we saw was replacing sitting with moderate to vigorous activity." This could be a run, a brisk walk, or climbing stairs—anything that makes your heart beat faster and your breathing faster, even if it's just for a minute or two.

People who took naps instead of sitting had a slightly lower BMI and waist circumference, but their cholesterol and blood sugar levels didn't change. On the other hand, even small amounts of exercise made their blood sugar and blood pressure better.

Fill up on protein to beat hot flushes

A review that came out in January in the journal Nutrients said that women who are having problems like hot flashes should eat more like weightlifters to help ease their symptoms. Researchers from Semmelweis University in Budapest, Hungary, looked at 134 studies that looked at how different foods affected women going through menopause. They found that the best way to help them is to eat 1-1.2g of protein per kilogram of body weight.

For example, a woman who weighs nine stone (57 kg) would need 57g of protein every day. An egg has about 13g of protein, a chicken breast has about 31g, and a piece of salmon has 20g. Researchers said that half of that protein should come from plants, like nuts, soy beans, lentils, beans, chickpeas, and legumes.

Because estrogen levels drop during menopause, muscle strength decreases, which in turn affects metabolic rates.

Consuming protein at each meal can help you keep your muscle mass and make you feel fuller, which can help you keep a healthy weight and lessen the frequency of hot flushes.

Walk faster to live longer

If you want to live a long and healthy life, you should walk faster. A study from the University of Leicester released last December in the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases found that faster walkers live longer and are less likely to die of cancer or heart disease.

A total of 400,000 Britons were asked by scientists to rate how fast, slow, or average they walked. Researchers watched these people for more than ten years and found that people who walked quickly were more than 25% less likely to die of cancer and had lower rates of heart disease than people who walked slowly.

Lead author of the study and doctoral student at the University of Leicester, Dr. Jonathan Goldney, told Good Health, "The study doesn't answer why faster walking is so good for you. But physical activity in general, including walking, can make muscles stronger, and the effects last for a long time. Over time, these effects are also anti-inflammatory, and many diseases are thought to be linked to chronic low-grade inflammation." People who are fitter also have hearts and lungs that are used to providing more oxygen, which means they may be able to handle getting sick better if they do.

Eat fiber to clear bacteria from your gut

This is a simple health hack that can help you in many ways. A big review of 40 years of studies, published in The Lancet, found that getting an extra 8 grams of fiber every day can cut the risk of death and heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer by as much as 27%.

If you think of fiber as nature's toothbrush for your bowels, it helps clean out your gut by making stools bulkier and faster. Our gut microbiome is made up of many different bacteria that help with digestion, immunity, and brain health. It also feeds these microbes and slows down the digestion of food. "which will make you feel fuller for longer and better control your blood sugar levels," says Dr. Emily Leeming, a researcher and nutritionist at King's College London.

"We need 30g a day, but most people don't even get 20g, which is what kids ages 5 to 11 should eat."

Foods like beans, nuts and seeds, whole grains (like rye and oats), fruits, and veggies are easy ways to get more fiber in your day. About 7g of fiber can be found in half a can of beans. About 6g of pumpernickel rye bread is in a bite. Flax and chia seeds also have a lot of fiber. She says that you can add 2 grams of fiber to your breakfast yogurt by sprinkling a tablespoon of them on top.

Get short bursts of unprotected sun exposure to lower blood pressure

A study led by Richard Weller, a professor of medical dermatology at Edinburgh University and an honorary consultant dermatologist at NHS Lothian, says that we should try to get some unprotected sun every day. This is not only to keep our vitamin D levels up, but also because it may have other health benefits, such as lowering our blood pressure.

People with light skin should spend short amounts of time in the sun every day, bare-armed, between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Dr. Justine Hextall, a consultant dermatologist at Tarrant Street Clinic in Arundel, West Sussex, says the key is to stay out in the sun for long enough without turning red. This means that the exposure is below the level needed to get a sunburn.

According to research from Manchester University, getting 10 to 15 minutes of sun every day in the spring and summer should be enough to keep you from getting vitamin D deficiencies all year.

For people with darker skin, 25 to 40 minutes in the same conditions will keep them from falling short of vitamin D in the summer. During the winter, they should think about taking vitamin D pills.

Swap wine glasses to save your brain

A 125ml wine glass can help you drink less alcohol, and studies have shown that even modest drinking may be linked to health problems like Alzheimer's. Researchers from PLOS Medicine looked at more than 20,000 people and found that drinking seven or more units of alcohol a week is linked to high iron levels in the brain. This is known to be linked to conditions like Parkinson's disease.

Gill Livingston, a professor of psychiatry of older people at University College London, says that most people "who wouldn't see themselves as problem drinkers regularly drink two large 250ml glasses of wine a night with dinner."

Stretch five minutes daily to ward off infections

In the past, stretching wasn't given much thought. But, a study released last year in the journal BMC Public Health found that people who did simple stretches five times a week had a 20% lower risk of dying early than people who didn't stretch at all.

Dr. David Behm is an exercise scientist at Canada's Memorial University of Newfoundland. He has written a number of studies on the topic of stretching and says that it has many benefits, including keeping muscles strong as we age.

He says, "Stretching makes our range of motion bigger, which makes us less likely to hurt ourselves and be out of action for weeks or months, which is bad for our health."

"Think of our muscles as our savings account. You get sick when you're 70 years old and have to stay in bed for a while." You use up your protein stores when you're sick, but if you don't have much muscle, you don't have much protein. "The more muscle mass you have, the more likely you are to be able to fight off infection," he says.

Researchers have already found that stretching can lower blood pressure by keeping the blood vessels flexible.

"An artery that is more flexible will be able to widen more easily and have less pressure on its walls," says Dr. Behm.

As many muscle groups as possible should be stretched every day for five minutes. Some ideas are front lunges, side lunges, shoulder and chest flies, chin ups and pull-downs, and chest and shoulder flies.

Famed personal trainer Dalton Wongs says that a daily chest stretch can help fix the rounded shoulders and forward head posture that come from using a laptop or phone for long periods of time:

Stand in front of an open door. Straighten both arms out to the side and put the palms of your hands forward. Put your hands on the door frame and take a slow step forward with one foot. You can feel the stretch in your forehead and across your chest.

Call a friend to ward of dementia

Keeping up with friends as you age can be good for your brain. The journal Elife reported that over the course of six years, people in their 50s who kept up a good social network saw no changes in the structure of their brains. Brain scans showed that people who were socially isolated, on the other hand, had worse cognitive ability and shrinkage in the hippocampus, an important part of the brain for memory. This may make them more likely to get Alzheimer's, the researchers said.

Bring meal times forward to protect your heart

Eat all of your meals earlier in the day. Researchers in Spain looked at data from more than 100,000 people and found that eating breakfast and dinner after 9 pm was linked to a higher risk of heart disease.

According to a study published in December 2018 in the journal Nature Communications, your chance goes down if you fast at night for a longer time.

Like being exposed to light, eating changes the way our body clocks work in many organs and has an effect on heart and metabolism, affecting things like blood pressure control, the researchers said.

Reduce your wood burner habit to protect your lungs

Polluted air, especially tiny particles called PM2.5, can get deep into the lungs and heart and cause inflammation. PM2.5s are linked to a higher chance of heart disease and lung diseases. It has been shown that they can get into our minds and raise the risk of getting dementia. The Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs says that wood burners put out more of this harmful type of air pollution than all the cars and trucks in the UK put together.

Not using your wood stove as much could help, and you could also buy smokeless fuel, which gives off up to 75% less PM.

Slow your breathing to beat stress

Cycling sighing is a way of breathing that can help you feel better and less anxious if you do it for just five minutes a day.

A study that came out in January 2023 in the journal Cell Reports Medicine said that.

Dr. David Spiegel, a famous psychiatrist and director of the Center on Stress and Health at Stanford University School of Medicine, says, "Most of the time breathing is automatic, like digestion, heartbeat, and other bodily functions. But you can very easily take over and control your breath, which then affects your overall physiology and stress response."

Setting a timer for 5 minutes will help you do circular breathing. You can sit or lie down. When your lungs are full, breathe in through your nose. Then, try to breathe in even more to make sure they are really full, even if the second breath is very short. Then slowly breathe out through your mouth. The breath out should last about twice as long as the breath in. Do this for another five minutes.

Dr. Spiegel says that slowly breathing out turns on the parasympathetic nervous system, which manages your body's rest and relaxation reaction. When this happens, your heart rate slows, your blood pressure drops, your digestion gets better, and your mind starts to relax.

Write a to-do list to help you sleep

Researchers have found that making a list of things you need to do the next day before bed can help you fall asleep faster. There were 57 healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 30 at Baylor University in Texas. They were asked to either write down everything they had done that day before going to sleep or make a thorough list of things they needed to do the next day. The people who wrote down their to-do list fell asleep in 15 minutes, while those in the other group took an average of ten minutes longer. The researchers said this difference could be "significant" over time.

"We think that when people get rid of everything that might be hard to remember otherwise, it helps them stop dwelling on it," says Michael Scullin, an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University and the lead author of a 2018 study published in Experimental Psychology.

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