Healthy Lifestyles

A healthy lifestyle can help you thrive as you move through your life’s journey. Making healthy choices isn’t always easy – it can be hard to find the time and energy to exercise regularly or prepare healthy meals. However, your efforts will pay off in many ways, and for the rest of your life.

Steps you can take:

  • Be physically active for 30 minutes most days of the week. Break this up into three 10-minute sessions when pressed for time. Healthy movement may include walking, sports, dancing, yoga or running.
  • Eat a well-balanced, low-fat diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Choose a diet that’s low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and moderate in sugar, salt and total fat.
  • Avoid injury by wearing seatbelts and bike helmets, using smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the home, and using street smarts when walking alone. If you own a gun, recognize the dangers of having a gun in your home. Use safety precautions at all times.
  • Don’t smoke, and quit if you do. Ask your health care provider for help. UCSF offers a smoking cessation program.
  • If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. Never drink before or when driving, or when pregnant.
  • Ask someone you trust for help if you think you might be addicted to drugs or alcohol.
  • Help prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS by using condoms every time you have sexual contact. Keep in mind, condoms are not 100 percent foolproof, so discuss STI screening with your provider. Birth control methods other than condoms, such as pills and implants, won’t protect you from STIs or HIV.
  • Brush your teeth after meals with a soft or medium bristled toothbrush. Also brush after drinking, before going to bed. Use dental floss daily.
  • Stay out of the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. when the sun’s harmful rays are strongest. Don’t think you are safe if it is cloudy or if you are in the water, as harmful rays pass through both. Use a broad spectrum sunscreen that guards against both UVA and UVB rays, with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. Select sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of the sun’s rays.

Healthy Outlook

You may feel pulled in different directions and experience stress from dealing with work, family and other matters, leaving little time for yourself. Learning to balance your life with some time for yourself will pay off with big benefits – a healthy outlook and better health.

Steps you can take:

  • Stay in touch with family and friends.
  • Be involved in your community.
  • Maintain a positive attitude and do things that make you happy.
  • Keep your curiosity alive. Lifelong learning is beneficial to your health.
  • Healthy intimacy takes all forms but is always free of coercion.
  • Learn to recognize and manage stress in your life. Signs of stress include trouble sleeping, frequent headaches and stomach problems; being angry a lot; and turning to food, drugs and alcohol to relieve stress.

    Good ways to deal with stress include regular exercise, healthy eating habits, and relaxation exercises such as deep breathing or meditation. Talking to trusted family members and friends can help a lot. Some women find that interacting with their faith community is helpful in times of stress.
  • Get enough sleep and rest – adults need around eight hours of sleep a night.
  • Talk to your health care provider if you feel depressed for more than a few days. Depression is a treatable illness. Signs of depression include feeling empty and sad, crying a lot, loss of interest in life, and thoughts of death or suicide. If you or someone you know has thoughts of suicide, get help right away. Call 911, a local crisis center or (800) SUICIDE.

Happy family is preparing a healthy dinner in the kitchen. Mother is cutting vegetables.

Mediterranean Lifestyle Can Help Lower Your Risk of Cancer, Early Death

Eating foods associated with the Mediterranean diet has been associated with lower cancer risks. 

  • New research shows that individuals adhering to a “Mediterranean lifestyle” have 29% lower risk of all-cause mortality and 28% lower risk of cancer mortality compared to those who do not.
  • The Mediterranean lifestyle includes a variety of factors including diet, eating habits, and rest.
  • The study suggests that the health benefits can be replicated outside of the Mediterranean.

The Mediterranean lifestyle — including factors like diet, eating habits, rest, and physical exercise — has consistently been touted for its myriad health benefits, being both heart-healthy and protective against cancer. But can those benefits be replicated outside the unique geography of the Mediterranean region?

New research says: yes.

In a study published this week in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, researchers found that adherence to the Mediterranean lifestyle by middle-aged individuals living in the United Kingdom reduced all-cause and cancer-related mortality by 29% and 28%, respectively.

“This study adds to the literature that beyond diet, other components of the Mediterranean Lifestyle can play a combined and stronger role in the risk of mortality, cancer and cardiovascular disease, not only in Mediterranean countries but in non-Mediterranean,” Dr. Mercedes Sotos-Prieto, PhD, lead study author, Nutrition Epidemiologist at the University Autonomous of Madrid, Spain, and Adjunct Professor at Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health, told Healthline.

What is the “Mediterranean Lifestyle”?

Sotos-Prieto and her fellow researchers utilized data from a cohort of individuals from the UK Biobank, a population-based study across England, to analyze the lifestyle and eating habits of 110,799 individuals between the ages of 40 and 75, with a nine-year follow-up period.

Using the MEDLIFE system, researchers were able to establish point-based scores for members of the cohort that indicated adherence to the Mediterranean lifestyle. MEDLIFE factors were broken down into three major categories: Mediterranean diet, eating habits, and physical and social habits.

The Mediterranean diet is defined by high consumption of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats (like olive oil), and lean protein, predominantly fish. Eating habits of the region include limiting salt and sugar consumption, reduced exposure to processed foods, and moderate consumption of red wine. Social factors and “conviviality,” as the study terms it, include socializing with friends, especially at meals, collective sports, limited sedentary activities, and taking naps.

Using self-reported assessments about diet and physical activity, researchers were able to determine how well members of the UK Biobank cohort adhered to the primary components of the Mediterranean lifestyle.

What the Study Found

The results of the study found that those with the highest level of adherence to the Mediterranean lifestyle had the highest protective benefits compared to those with the lowest levels. Those with the highest levels of adherence had reduced all-cause and cancer-related mortality by 29% and 28%, respectively. In fact, researchers determined that every two-point increase in an individual’s MEDLIFE score was associated with a 9% lower risk of both all-cause and cancer-related mortality.

Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RDN, a dietician and president of KAK Consulting, told Healthline that the results of the study weren’t surprising.

“The Mediterranean diet has been consistently found to reduce the incidence of many chronic conditions. Related to cancer, it shows an example of how a dietary pattern high in nutrient-dense foods can help with overall health and cancer prevention. For example, many of the foods found on the Mediterranean diet are high in polyphenols and flavonoids, which have been found in other studies to play a protective role against certain chronic conditions including cancer,” she said.

Beyond the Mediterranean

While evidence has continued to grow about the salutary effects of the Mediterranean diet, particularly in relation to cardiovascular disease questions have emerged as to its feasibility outside of the geographic region from which it originated. Indeed, an article published just this year simultaneously noted the benefits of the diet, while also raising concern about it: “The requirement for strict adherence to this diet for the best preventative effects is not practical for most people in today’s world. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to realize benefits appear to be significantly diminished when adherence occurs in an episodic nature or when only certain parts of the diet are followed.”

However, the work of Sotos-Prieto and her colleagues published this week further lends credence to the health benefits of not only the Mediterranean diet, but the synergistic effects of the entire Mediterranean lifestyle, even when it is undertaken in a country and culture outside its native geography.

“It is important to recognize that each country has its local habits, food consumption and, thus, food patterns should be culturally adapted to ensure both that it is accepted by the population and that it is feasible within the existing food market,” she said.

“Our study makes an important addition to the literature by showing that adherence to the Mediterranean diet based on locally available products was associated with lower all-cause and cancer mortality and, furthermore, that the overall Mediterranean way of life was also strongly protective of such outcomes.”

Speaking on behalf of the American Cancer Society, Dr. Caroline Um, PhD, RD, Principal Scientist, Epidemiology Research at the ACS, told Healthline “The findings of this study support those of other studies that suggest there are health benefits associated with a Mediterranean diet and lifestyle, and adds to the limited evidence that benefits may also extend to non-Mediterranean populations.”

“While the ACS Diet and Physical Activity Guidelines for Cancer PreventionTrusted Source do not specifically endorse the Mediterranean or any specific diet, they do contain several similar recommendations to the Mediterranean Lifestyle, such as a dietary pattern that includes fruits and vegetables and limits red and processed meats and sugar-sweetened beverages, as well as being physically active and limiting sedentary time. In contrast, the ACS Guidelines do not recommend any alcohol consumption for cancer prevention.”

Getting Started

If you’re interested in bringing some of the Mediterranean into your life and your kitchen, Kirkpatrick offers a few simple tips:

  • Find opportunities to obtain nutrient density: go for veggies and hummus or mixed nuts instead of chips.
  • Get five colors in every day. “Doing so means you’re eating more plants and trying a variety of options in turn provides a variety of nutrients.
  • Aim to consume more fiber and add more whole grains to your diet.
  • Limit consumption of processed red meat, sugar, and refined grains.

Healthline also has a handy beginner’s guide to the Mediterranean diet to answer more of your questions.

The Bottom Line

The Mediterranean lifestyle is consistently shown to be one of the healthiest diets in the world. New research indicates that it is associated with significantly lower all-cause and cancer-related mortality.

It is possible to adapt your diet and exercise to more closely resemble the Mediterranean lifestyle, even if you don’t actually live in the region, and you’ll likely reap some of the health benefits.

High blood sugar may raise heart disease risk even if you don’t have diabetes

People with elevated blood sugar levels may have a 30–50% higher risk of developing heart disease, even if their blood sugar levels are below the diabetes threshold. CFOTO/Future Publishing via Getty Images

  • Researchers found that people with elevated blood sugar levels have a 30–50% increased risk of developing heart disease, even if their blood sugar levels are below the threshold for diabetes.
  • The findings show that males were more likely to be prescribed preventive antihypertensive and statin therapies than females, revealing a “prescribing gap.”
  • Healthy blood sugar levels are important for health and energy, and certain factors may spike blood sugar, even when a person does not have diabetes.

Every person needs a certain amount of sugar in their blood to stay healthy and energized.

A person’s blood sugar levels will fluctuate throughout the day depending on what they eat and is also impacted by their age and overall health.

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and University College London have found both men and women with raised blood sugar levels have a 30–50% increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease, even if their blood sugar levels are below the threshold for diabetes.

Additionally, researchers reported a potential disparity between the amount of preventive antihypertensive and statin medications prescribed to males and females, suggesting a potential “prescribing gap.”

This study was recently published in the journal The Lancet Regional Health – Europe.

How high blood sugar may be linked to heart disease

Researchers analyzed data from the UK Biobank of more than 427,000 UK residents for the study.

About 54% of participants were females and about 46% were males. All participants had different blood sugar levels including:

  • healthy
  • prediabetic
  • diabetic

Dr. Christopher Rentsch, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and lead author of this study explained to Medical News Today:

“We were interested to explore which risk factors drive known sex differences in the risk of heart disease between men and women with diabetes, and whether men or women with moderately elevated blood sugar below the threshold for diabetes are also at increased risk of heart disease.”

Upon analysis and after adjusting for age, the research team found both men and women with moderately elevated blood sugar levels below the threshold for diabetes were at increased risk for any type of cardiovascular disease.

“The finding that moderately elevated blood sugar below the diabetes threshold was associated with (an) increased risk of heart disease was not entirely surprising based on prior research in this area. For example, there is a recognized state of ‘prediabetes’ where blood sugar is elevated but not yet meeting the criteria for a diabetes diagnosis. Prediabetes is known to increase the risk of progressing to diabetes and potentially developing heart disease. Key novel contributions of our work were quantifying the risk of heart disease across a full range of blood sugar levels for both men and women and demonstrating these associations were largely explained by modifiable factors.”

What is considered high blood sugar? 

Sometimes a person’s blood sugar, also known as blood glucose, can become too high. Certain factors may cause a person’s blood sugar to spike, even if they do not have diabetes. These may include:

  • unhealthy diet
  • lack of exercise
  • insufficient sleep
  • stress from illness

There are a few different tests used to determine a person’s blood sugar levels.

One of those tests is the fasting blood sugar test, where a person’s levels are checked when they have not eaten. A fasting glucose reading of 99 mg/dL or below is considered healthy.

Another commonly used test is the A1C test, which measures a person’s average blood sugar levels over two to three months. An A1C test reading of 5.7% or below is considered healthy.

When a person’s blood sugar levels test in ranges above normal, it is considered high blood sugar, medically known as hyperglycemia. High blood sugar can signal either prediabetes or diabetes.

Symptoms of high blood sugar include:

  • excessive thirst
  • frequent need to urinate
  • extreme hunger
  • unexplained weight loss
  • tiredness
  • blurred vision
  • headaches
  • mood changes

If left untreated, high blood sugar levels can lead to a variety of health issues, including:

  • nerve damage
  • chronic kidney disease
  • vision issues
  • foot ulcers
  • erectile dysfunction (ED)
  • skin problems

Previous research has also linked high blood sugar levels to an increased risk for certain heart conditions, including stroke and high blood pressure.

 Talk with your doctor if you’re concerned about your blood sugar levels and heart disease risk.

Young People Are Having Less Sex Than Their Parents Did at Their Age, and Researchers Are Exploring Why

Young adults aren’t behaving like their parents: They’re not drinking as much, they’re facing more mental health challenges, and they’re living with their parents longer. On top of that, computer games and social media have become a sort of stand-in for physical relationships.

All that means young Californians aren’t having as much sex.

The number of young adults going without sex was rising even before covid made dating harder and riskier. In 2011, about 22% of Californians ages 18 to 30 reported having no sexual partners in the prior 12 months. That crept up to 29% in 2019, and it jumped to 38% in 2021, according to the latest figures from UCLA’s California Health Interview Survey.

Other age groups in California also reported an increase in abstinence, but the trend was not nearly as pronounced.

“Everything happens later,” said San Diego State University psychology professor Jean Twenge, author of “Generations: The Real Differences Between Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Boomers, and Silents—and What They Mean for America’s Future.” She said the numbers reflect how young adults increasingly delay major life events, such as moving out of their parents’ homes and forging long-term romantic relationships.

Singles saw the most dramatic change.

It has long been the case that single people are more likely to report having no sex than married or cohabiting people. But as young adults delay marriage, the gap has widened.

Young adults may be putting off long-term relationships “due to their increasingly economically precarious status or stress related to completing education and looking for jobs,” said Lei Lei, a sociology professor at Rutgers who recently co-authored a paper that examined why fewer young adults are having sex. “They are busy with other domains of life.” Researchers also noted that hundreds of thousands of young adults identify as asexual.

Rising computer use may play a role in the trend. Young adults increasingly form relationships through playing video games with people they do not physically meet, Lei said. These distant relationships sometimes interfere with the formation of sexual relationships.

A Pew Research Center report from 2015 found equal numbers of men and women played video games but that young adult men were more than three times as likely as young adult women to identify as serious “gamers.”

Young adults also have access to endless amounts of free pornography online, a departure from the porn magazines, videotapes, and DVDs many of their parents bought. Much of the most popular online porn features violence or coercion, which gives some young adults a flawed perspective on sex and turns others off it entirely, said Debby Herbenick, director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University Bloomington’s School of Public Health.

“Those kinds of behaviors are really, really normalized among young people,” she said, referring to rough sex.

Sex also has a correlation with income. Young adults who make less money were more likely to go without sex than peers making more.

Much recent discourse about lack of sex among young adults has revolved around so-called incels, young men who contend — often in vile, misogynistic terms — that dating apps like Tinder make it easier for women to find conventionally attractive, wealthy, or otherwise high-status men and ignore everyone else.

Erin Tillman, a certified sex educator and executive director of the nonprofit Sex-Positive Los Angeles, said it makes her sad when she hears men blame women for not wanting to have sex with them. She said those men could likely change their perspective and find intimacy.

“They hold the cards in terms of making themselves better,” she said.

The sexless trend has the potential to lower rates of unplanned pregnancy. And it could also reduce the spread of sexually transmitted infections, though that has not yet happened.

Herbenick does worry about young adults who want sex but aren’t having it. “It can feel really lonely if you feel like people are rejecting you or wouldn’t be interested in you,” she said.

But Tillman remains optimistic, noting the latest group of young adults, like every new generation, is finding its way and approaching sex differently than their parents.

“I’m not worried, because people are just basically finding different ways to connect with each other,” Tillman said.

Phillip Reese is a data reporting specialist and an assistant professor of journalism at California State University-Sacramento.