Question: Is there a "list" of things you should do to live a healthy life? There is so much information about this topic that I would like a simple guide to follow.
Answer: The reason for all the guidelines is that living a healthful lifestyle involves many different factors. One of the first healthy lifestyle "lists" was published by Belloc and Breslow in 1972. They reported that health status, measured by the frequency of need for medical care and life expectancy, was significantly related to seven simple health practices.
In their study, good health was maintained by individuals who ate three regular meals each day with no eating between meals; always ate breakfast; exercised moderately, two to three times a week; slept seven to eight hours each night; did not smoke; maintained normal body weight; and drank alcohol not at all or only in moderation.
Forty-five-year-old men who practiced three or fewer of these practices had an average life expectancy of 22 additional years. Men who followed six or seven of these health practices could expect 33 more years of life - adding 11 years through healthful living.
In a more recent attempt to "list" things to do for good health, Dr. Ted Adams and his colleagues wrote the book "Maintaining the Miracle," which listed things to do daily, monthly, yearly/periodically to maintain good health. The daily health checks included things such as watching your body weight, getting enough sleep, driving safely (seat belts, etc.), wearing sunscreen, taking care of teeth properly and avoidance of smoking.
Monthly health checks involved a breast self-examination for women, a self-skin examination for both men and women, a testicular self-exam for younger men and an oral cavity self-exam for older men. The yearly/periodic health checks involved medical procedures and immunizations and were done in conjunction with regular physical examinations.
Another interesting "list" was just published in Reader's Digest (September 1995). I'll summarize this list for you below:
1. Make love not war. Apparently a happy marriage is important for health; and those who enjoy a normal sexual relationship gain protection from disease.
2. Get your shots. Immunization of adults against flu, pneumonia, hepatitis and other diseases could have a major impact on health.
3. Be a people person. Most robust, healthy people have a strong support system of friends and family and like people.
4. Don't skimp on sleep. Some research suggests a link between deep sleep and the immune system, and getting enough sleep (seven to eight hours a night) has also been linked to longevity.
5. Listen to your body. A study found that people who pay attention to their body's signals are less apt to get sick than those who ignore their problems.
6. Love what you do. Being dissatisfied with your work can lead to a host of ills.
7. Enjoy a Mediterranean diet. Eat an abundance of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and low amounts of red meat.
8. Consider your soul. Some evidence links a belief in God to better physical health.
According to this article, achieving robust health is more than following a list; it also involves achieving an exuberant, hopeful, fun-loving state of mind. Good luck!