Individual health depends in part upon a number of factors that a person has control over, including diet, exercise, alcohol and drug use, and stress levels. Those born into families with a history of illness or disease, such as dementia or cancer, should pay special attention to whatever factors they can control in order to live the healthiest life possible.
According to WebMD.com, the average amount of sleep needed for teenagers and adults is seven to 10 hours a day. The consequences of too little sleep include "Memory problems, Depression, [and] A weakening of your immune system, increasing your chance of becoming sick" (WebMD.com). Sleep disturbance and deprivation are known to increase one's mortality risk faster than smoking and high blood pressure. Furthermore, actual sleep disorders often go undiagnosed while over 70 million Americans suffer from at least one of the 85 diagnosable sleep disorders.
High stress levels have been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, headaches and migraines, depression, erectile dysfunction and essential tremors. While all people experience stress from time to time, stress that occurs "too often or lasts too long...can have bad effects. It can be linked to headaches, an upset stomach, back pain, and trouble sleeping. It can weaken your immune system, making it harder to fight off disease. If you already have a health problem, stress may make it worse" (WebMD.com). First, one must learn how to recognize abnormally high stress levels, determine where the stress is coming from, then take practical steps to eliminate or reduce it.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that "Alcohol affects every organ in the body. It is a central nervous system depressant...the liver can only metabolize a small amount of alcohol at a time, leaving the excess alcohol to circulate throughout the body" (CDC.gov). Binge drinking and other substance abuse can result in an increased risk of certain cancers, stroke and liver diseases. Substances that impair judgment also may give the user an exaggerated sense of self-confidence, which may result in dangerous activity such as drunk driving.
According to a survey done in 2008 published by the CDC, only 32.5 percent of U.S. adults engage in physical activity during their leisure time. Exercising regularly strengthens the heart and cardiovascular system, lowers blood pressure, strengthens bones, helps reduce stress and anxiety, improves sleep and improves circulation, among other things (WebMD.com). The recommended amount of exercise for optimal health is at least 20 to 30 minutes three or four times a week; however, individuals should seek their doctor's opinion based on their current weight and fitness level.
The Harvard School of Public Health states that "when all the evidence is looked at together...the best nutrition advice on what to eat is relatively straightforward: Eat a plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; choose healthy fats, like olive and canola oil; and eat red meat and unhealthy fats, like saturated and trans fats, sparingly. Most important of all is keeping calories in check, so you can avoid weight gain". All people will require a unique amount of calories to maintain their ideal weight. See the Resources section for a personal diet evaluator provided by WebMD.com.
Despite how healthy a person may be, there are certain conditions that "might be described as "running in a family" if more than one person in the family has the condition. Some disorders that affect multiple family members are caused by gene mutations, which can be inherited (passed down from parent to child)" (Genetics Home Reference.com). People with a history of a certain disease or illness in their family should pay special attention to how the lifestyle choices and environmental factors listed above affect them and take steps to minimize their risks.
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