Important topics in preventative health: exercise, nutrition, and sleep

Preventative health is an important aspect of medical care. Optimizing behavior and building healthy habits can promote longevity and prevent health decline.


I always discuss exercise, nutrition, and sleep with my patients during their preventative exams. Addressing these topics will improve physical and mental health.


Exercise


The American Heart Association and the United States Center for Disease Control provide physical activity recommendations.


Option 1: 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic activity (ie. brisk walk).

Option 2: 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity.

Option 3: An equivalent mix of moderate or vigorous aerobic activity.


Add muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week (ie. body weight exercises or dumbbells).


Getting more exercise than the recommended amount will provide even greater health benefits.


Many studies have looked at the effects of getting 7500 to 10000 steps per day. Doing so will decrease all-cause mortality and cardiovascular risk. It will also boost mental health.


Diet


Your diet is critical for your wellness and health. Poor diets correlate with many diseases. Some of these include obesity, cardiovascular disease, orthopedic conditions, and cancer.


Changing dietary patterns is very difficult. It takes time and dedication.


Two diets are very well supported by science: the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet. Both diets are similar.


They are rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

They encourage high quality proteins such as legumes and fish.

They emphasize high quality fats such as extra virgin olive oil and avocados.

They encourage the use of spices.

They cut out foods with added sugar.

They limit alcohol and red meat.

They avoid refined foods, processed foods, and fast foods.


Sleep


The United States Centers for Disease Control recommends adults get 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Chronic sleep deprivation is a major public health issue and is often unaddressed.


There is abundant evidence that lack of sleep has major implications on health.


- Decreases immune system

- Increases risk for dementia (Alzheimer's disease)

- Increases risk for psychiatric conditions (depression, anxiety, etc.)

- Increases risk for cardiovascular disease (heart attacks, strokes, etc.)

- Increases risk for metabolic syndrome (obesity, diabetes, etc.)

- Increases all cause mortality


Here are some things you can do to support your sleep.


- Limit bright lights near bedtime

- Keep your bedroom temperature cool, ideally around 65F

- Warm showers and baths before bedtime can help improve sleep

- Stick to a sleep schedule. Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day, regardless of weekends, holidays, and vacations

- Exercise daily, but not within 2-3 hours before bedtime

- Reduce fluid intake before bedtime

- Avoid alcohol and other stimulants (such as cigarettes and caffeine)