Eating apples was associated with a lower risk of death from both coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease in the Iowa Women's Health Study, which has been tracking more than 34,000 women for nearly 20 years. And Finnish researchers studying dietary data collected over nearly 30 years from 9,208 men and women also found that frequent apple eaters had the lowest risk of strokes compared with non-apple eaters. What explains the heart-healthy benefits? Researchers say it's the strong antioxidant flavonoid compounds found in apples. These compounds play a key role by stopping inflammation and preventing the buildup of plaque in arteries. Apples are also rich in pectin, a form of soluble fiber known to help lower cholesterol, and they provide a decent amount of vitamin C, another antioxidant.
It's been a diet staple in Mediterranean countries—where people tend to live longer—for thousands of years. And for good reason: olive oil is not only excellent for cooking, but it also delivers powerful heart-healthy benefits. Stacks of studies confirm that extra-virgin olive oil in particular helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol and prevents blood clots. It also fights inflammation: researchers have found that oleocanthal, a compound in virgin olive oil, has anti-inflammatory properties similar to ibuprofen. Rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, olive oil has another plus: studies show it can help you stick to a healthy weight, which can further slash your risk of heart disease. The bottom line: If olive oil isn't a staple in your pantry yet, it should be.
Learn how to breathe. Believe it or not, most of us have never been taught how to breathe properly. Diaphragmatic breathing is a hidden gem that needs to be shared with more of the population because the benefits are life-changing. Breathing at one-third capacity, which is how most of us breathe, can cause tension and exhaustion and even encourage aches and illness. Breathing with your diaphragm ensures your lungs are filled to their capacity and allows your muscles (including the brain) to be in a more relaxed state, aiding stronger decision making and enhanced performance. Here’s a handy video to show you how it’s done:
The more muscle you have, the higher and hotter your metabolism runs. In fact, strength training can help boost your metabolism by as much as 15 percent! A faster metabolism means you'll burn more calories all day long (even sitting in front of your computer) and get lean and toned faster. (The other benefits of lifting weights will also convince you to get to the weight room.)
Creating a healthy lifestyle doesn't have to mean drastic changes. Making small changes in how you live may seem like a slow process, and it is. You may adapt to change better when it doesn't require you to overhaul your entire life. Just pick one thing and work on that one thing every day, letting the rest of your life and habits stay the same. You may be surprised that those small changes really can make a difference.
Sleep may be one of the most important, yet often overlooked, components of getting lean. Sleep helps your muscles recover. What's more, according to a 2010 study from the University of Chicago, skipping sleep can sabotage your efforts to lose fat through dieting. You should aim for seven to eight hours of quality sleep every night, so it your top priority tonight. (See: Why Sleep Is the Most Important Thing for Weight Loss and Overall Health)
Eating a healthy diet is another part of the healthy lifestyle. Not only can a clean diet help with weight management, it can also improve your health and quality of life as you get older. You already know about the food groups and the fact that you should eat more fruits and vegetables and less processed foods. You probably have a list of things you know you should do for a healthier diet but, again, making too many changes at once can backfire. Going on a restrictive diet may make you crave the very foods you're trying to avoid.
Although there are many other risky behaviors that may impede an otherwise healthy lifestyle (for example, working with toxic or radioactive materials, drug addiction, travel to areas with unusual endemic diseases), these are too numerous to cover in this general article. However, the reader is advised to visit such topic sites on MedicineNet.com, eMedicineHealth.com or WebMD.com because most of the specific articles will provide tips to avoid health-related problems.
It's no secret that whole grains are a healthier choice than their overly processed, refined-grain cousins. A recent analysis of 45 studies found that eating at least three servings a day of whole grains was linked with a 22 percent lower risk of heart disease. That's because whole grains are rich in antioxidants, phytoestrogens and phytosterols—all nutrients that protect against heart disease.