Your healthy lifestyle.

In addition to physical fitness and weight management and nutrition, there are a number of other lifestyle changes you can make to improve your health.

Smoking
Each year more than 400,000 people die from illnesses caused by smoking. Smokers die prematurely and smoking-related deaths are often associated with long periods of illness and suffering. Direct medical costs for smokers totaled $50 billion in 1993 and indirect expenses such as time lost from work due to smoking-related illnesses represents another $47 billion each year. By far the most important lung cancer risk factor is tobacco smoking. The longer a person has been smoking and the more packs per day smoked, the greater the risk. If a person stops smoking when pre-cancerous signs are found, the damaged lung tissue often returns to normal, usually within five years.

Alcohol
Alcohol is a potent nonprescription tranquilizer and a member of the Family of sedative-hypnotic drugs. Alcohol use is involved in:

  • One-half of all accidental deaths, homicides and suicides.
  • One-third of all drowning and boating and aviation deaths.
  • Almost half of all fatal automobile accidents.

In moderate doses, alcohol has beneficial effects: relaxation, appetite stimulation, and creation of a mild sense. Moderate daily drinking may be good for the heart, but for many the risks outweigh the benefits. Even moderate alcohol consumption affects cognitive abilities, while larger amounts interfere with the oxygen supply to the brain. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines moderate drinking as an average of not more than two drinks per day, and estimates that 15 million adults consume more than that amount. The 15% of men and 3% of women who ingest more than four drinks a day risk a serious drinking problem.

Alcohol adversely affects motor ability, muscle function, reaction time, eyesight, depth perception, and night vision. As a drinker continues to drink, alcohol depresses lung and heart function, slowing breathing and circulation. Death can occur if alcohol completely paralyzes breathing. The health problems associated with alcohol include brain damage, cancer, heart disease, and cirrhosis of the liver. Alcoholics who do not quit drinking decrease life expectancy by 10-15 years.

Caffeine
Just as your car needs high octane fuel for top performance, your body needs high octane nutrients (raw materials for the manufacture of hormones), which are your ticket to keeping the adrenaline coming without decimating your adrenals. Depending on caffeine and prescription drugs to keep the rush coming is like whipping a tired horse and will only accelerate adrenal exhaustion.

Sleep
Much remains unknown about sleep, but one thing is clear - it's not a luxury. You need sleep. The vast majority of people seem to need close to a median of about 8 hours of sleep a night. A small fraction are fully alert all day with a routine of about 6 hours of sleep per night, while another small group regularly seem to need at least 9 or more hours to feel rested. For many reasons, most typically related to the work week, people don't get their basic requirements of sleep. There is growing evidence that sleep deprivation is cumulative day after day. However, usually after two nights of full, unrestricted recovery sleep, sleep patterns return to the baseline level even if the chronic deprivation has gone on for a week or more.

Insomnia

The term insomnia refers to an inability to fall asleep or to remain asleep for an adequate length of time. This may causes chronic tiredness that badly affects your daily life.

This said, it is important to stress that virtually everybody has problems sleeping at some time or other.Stress, depression and worry are well known causes of insomnia. Illness is another possible cause, especially if there is pain or discomfort.

Good advice for people with insomnia

  • Exercise often helps you sleep, but avoid exercising shortly before you go to bed.
  • Write down your worries rather than fret about them while you're trying to sleep.
  • A warm bath before bed can help.
  • Try not to eat large meals before bedtime.
  • Drinking alcohol may also disturb your night's sleep, though a small night-cap can help you to fall asleep in the first place.
  • Cut down on drinks containing caffeine (coffee, tea, cocoa, and cola), especially late at night.
  • Make sure you have a comfortable bed. The bedroom itself should be well ventilated and cool and as dark and quiet as possible.
  • Don't go to bed until you feel tired.
  • Sex just before bedtime can both promote and impede sleep. Men may sleep well after sex, whereas women may liven up.
  • Read a book until you feel dozy. Get up again if you are not able to sleep within half an hour. Sit down, read the paper, listen to some music and go back to bed half an hour later.
  • Get up at the same time every morning. Set the alarm and get out of bed quickly, even if you have had a late or sleepless night. This way, at the end of the day you'll probably feel tired and sleepy at just the right time. If you do this for a sufficient number of days, you will successfully adjust your inner clock and get tired when you need to.
  • For long trips by bus or plane, it might be worth taking a sleeping pill if you expect to have problems sleeping. This should be a fast-working pill with a limited effect - about five or six hours. You will need to consult your GP to get a prescription.

Many people find herbal remedies get them off to sleep better than other treatments - for example using passiflora, valerian or lavender aromatic oils as aromatherapy can aid relaxation prior to sleep. These are more difficult to prove with scientific study - but may reward personal experimentation.

 
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