We get a lot of advice about how to stay healthy (heck, we give a lot of advice about how to stay healthy). According to one Toronto doctor, however, keeping yourself fit and living longer right all just come down to five things.
"If everybody were to eat properly, exercise and get enough sleep, doctors be a whole lot less busy than we are," says Dr. David Greenberg, a family physician and CityLine expert.
He adds quitting smoking and drinking water to the list, noting that all of the above could keep people from going to their physicians all year round, apart from genetic conditions. And even those could be alleviated.
"If everybody did all those things, the level of health would be so much higher, you would never have to see a doctor," says Dr. Greenberg. "Lifestyle management factors would even be able to offset, minimize or delay some of the genetic things you’re stuck with too."
So that's it. Five things to follow, and you could be healthy for life. But if you'd like to learn a bit more about how these pieces of health advice can change your life, read on.
"Everybody’s got to stop smoking," says Dr. Greenberg. "Period. It's one of those things that has no redeeming quality to it whatsoever." He notes that while some vices like drinking alcohol do some associated vague health benefits (like lowering risk of cardiovascular disease, according to Harvard), smoking will only ever harm your body.
"It is amazing the number of things we can fix with a reasonable amount of exercise," notes Dr. Greenberg. He lists off blood pressure, blood sugar, obesity, anxiety, depression and fatigue to start, and says time commitment shouldn't be an issue. "Even if you only have 10 minutes, go do something as hard as you possibly can for 10 minutes after you've warmed up a little bit."
"I don't talk to people about dieting anymore. I don't think people should diet, I think people should eat properly," says Dr. Greenberg. He emphasizes the importance of fibre in preventing certain kinds of cancer and in helping with heart health, and of course, reducing sugar and fat.
He mentions the Mediterranean diet (as in a way of eating, not a short-term plan) as a viable option for many. This method, which was recently named the healthiest diet in the world, focuses on whole grains, healthy oils, nuts and seeds, fish, beans and fruits and vegetables. It also intends for foods to be eaten in moderation.
"If you eat less calories as you get older, you live longer," he says simply.
"Most people are dehydrated," says Dr. Greenberg. When patients talk about their fluid intake, he says, they discuss coffee and tea, cola and alcohol. "Those are all diuretics — you're peeing out more than you're drinking in."
Drinking enough water (which is approximately eight cups a day, though it varies by body and health type, explains Canadian Living) can result in benefits like healthier skin, flushing out toxins, relieving fatigue and aiding in weight loss.
"Everybody in North America is chronically sleep-deprived," says Dr. Greenberg. His feeling is that we need to create better sleep hygiene, by which he means, environments where your brain knows it's time to go to sleep.
"Our grandparents had a lamp, a nightstand, a chest of drawers and a bed in their rooms. When you went into the bedroom, you were supposed to sleep. Now are bedrooms are flexspace — living room, dining room, entertainment centre, office."
He acknowledges that few people are going to take all of their modern conveniences out of their bedrooms, but suggests small changes, like reading from a book instead of an iPad, in order to keep brain stimulation to a minimum right before going to sleep.
"If you’re well rested and fit, the likelihood of you getting sick is definitely reduced," he says. "Everything I’m talking about is already in your capacity, so just do it."