Be More Proactive About Your Health in 7 Easy Steps

Photo: Isaiah and Taylor Photography

It’s a new year and a new opportunity to prioritize your health in a big way. Instead of setting a goal to lose those 5 pounds or finally fit into that pair of jeans (which, let’s be honest, usually doesn’t last much past February), improve your health in the long haul with these science-backed habits. They’ll leave you feeling like the best version of yourself, not just in 2018, but for life.

1. Take a high-quality supplement.

Photo: Elysium Health

Elysium—a consumer health company working to take important discoveries out of the lab and turn them into products available to people in their everyday lives—is on a mission to help people live healthier for longer. They’ve pooled 25 years of research and worked with the world’s leading scientists and clinicians to create Basis, a dietary supplement that supports cellular health by boosting the body’s NAD+ levels.

Scientists have determined that NAD+ is one of the most essential enzymes for whole-body health, present in every cell in our body. However, as we age, our NAD+ levels decline, no matter how well we eat or how much we exercise. Basis has been clinically proven to increase NAD+ levels by 40 percent in a randomized trial (the results were published in Nature Partner Journals: Aging and Mechanisms of Disease.)

This speaks to the next generation of supplement—one that is shaped entirely by science. No wonder 10 percent of Basis customers are doctors.

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2. Sequence your genome.

Our genome is a master storyteller of our health. And we now have the capacity to learn more about our genes than ever before with the various kinds of genome sequencing technologies available today. For instance, services like 23andMe use genotyping to zoom in on a selection of important DNA base pairs, while specific gene sequencing provides data on particular bases. Whole genome sequencing (WGS), on the other hand, traces the entire genome of more than three billion plus bases. Certain researchers in the field predict that all sequencing programs will expand to this WGS system within the next five years, and currently you can have whole genome sequenced by companies like Veritas Genetics.

Whichever route you choose, sequencing your genome can give you an idea of your physiological vulnerabilities and disease risks, so you can take important, targeted preventative steps to improve your health. (Remember: Genes are only part of the equation. Lifestyle factors also play a substantial role in health.) The genome also holds secrets of our ancestry and can sometimes reveal if we are carriers of certain diseases, which can help make family planning much more predictable.

3. Protect your sleep.

In order to set yourself up for the 7 to 9 hours most people need, try to go to bed at the same time every night and keep all electronics and distractions out of the bedroom. Then, you can start to match your sleep schedule to your biological clock. While the optimal waking time differs from person to person, most people would be better off rising with the sun. When we find our natural rhythm, the parts of the body that are designed to be physiologically “diurnal”—meaning to be active during the day—can better help our bodies function at top form. Moving your body every day, exposing yourself to natural light first thing in the morning, and establishing a non-negotiable nightly relaxation ritual can all boost sleep, and good health, as well.

Why is this all so important? The science is fairly conclusive that insufficient sleep—whether it be lack of sleep in general or a shortage of restorative sleep—has been correlated with earlier onset of depression, cognitive decline, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and more.

4. Change the way you eat.

Small dietary changes CAN have exponential effects on our health. This year, aim to add more vegetables, leafy greens, and healthy fats into your meals, and draw a hard line between you and sugar-sweetened beverages, refined carbs, and processed foods of all kinds.

A proper diet can help protect the body from heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, reduce inflammation, and decrease the probability of cognitive impairment, too. Conversely, research finds that leaving key nutrients out of your diet can increase your risk of cardiometabolic disease.

You can further support a proper diet by experimenting with a time-restrictive feeding routine (only eating within a 8-to-12-hour period throughout the day) as it can help decrease the metabolic burden that food has on cells and give them a chance to generate the necessary energy for healthy function. In lab studies, this technique has proven effective at reducing the risk of age-related diseases.

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5. Up your happiness quotient.

Photo: Isaiah and Taylor Photography

The is a significant positive correlation between joy and contentment and decreased reports of sadness and dysthymia. While it’s easily to become mired in the external stressors of everyday life, it is important, for the sake of our health, to take time to look within.

Each day is an opportunity to get quiet, take deep breaths, express gratitude for everything you have, and be mindful of your accomplishments. This year, make an effort to start and end every day with a simple gratitude practice. Sit up, take deep belly breaths, and list three things you are grateful for in that moment, either silently or aloud. Making an effort to do so every day has actually been shown to boost well-being and stave off depression.

6. Use technology to your advantage.

Tech has made it so that we don’t have to work as hard to remember what we need to do to stay healthy. When used judiciously, health apps and gadgets can help keep us accountable and leave us with a feeling of accomplishment and a dose of feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Natural Cycles, a natural family-planning application, Kaia, a digital therapy for back-pain prevention, and WellBe, a biofeedback bracelet that tracks stress over time, are exciting ones that have recently hit the market and show just how much ground technology can cover in the health space. Explore the wellness tech space a little this year, and see if you find something that speaks to you.

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7. Plan to exercise.

Daily movement of any kind—be it running, weight-lifting, or yoga—is crucial for our continued health and well-being. Our bodies are designed to move. It’s as simple as that. Our heart, lungs, and muscles need to be challenged to push blood through the vessels and make us stronger, more flexible, and less likely to get injured. This year, set aside time to work out every day—literally. Slot aside time to exercise on your calendar, and recruit a friend whenever possible to keep you accountable. Science supports the idea that exercising with another person can double your performance.

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