I recently listened to an American comedian, who in a sketch was advising a man whose girlfriend had just left him to let her go. “She’s not worth it” she told him. There was one thing she said really struck a chord with me. “There are only two places on this earth where you’ll have peace. Your grave and your house.” If you can’t have peace in your house “then there’s something wrong”.
And she’s right. And it’s not just whom you decide to make your life partner that impacts on your sense of well-being, but the friends you have round, the food you put in your fridge and even how much time you sleep has most significant impact on your health. And your ‘house’ is not the building you live in – but the body you inhabit too.
A few weeks ago myself and two eminent cardiologists wrote an editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. We called for a complete shift in the focus away from an obsession of lowering cholesterol through diet and drugs (which has been a failed experiment to curb the global pandemic of heart disease).
In its place, we suggested a focus on a number lifestyle factors to combat heart disease and improve your longevity. So here are my three top tips of how to make your ‘home’ a temple of health.
Three top tips
- Eat real food! Poor diet is now responsible for more disease and death globally than physical inactivity, smoking and alcohol combined. Chuck out all the processed snacks from your cupboards, especially the sugary and processed carbohydrate ones. Cook from scratch and replace daily dessert with low sugar fruits such as berries. And if you really have to snack opt for a handful of nuts or a piece of cheese.
- Keep moving. People taking a 30 minute brisk walk five times a week live on average three years longer. Walking may well be more effective than running in preventing heart disease. Sitting has been described as the new smoking so get up every 45 minutes and move around, stretch or even do a few squats in the living room or kitchen for a couple of minutes. It will do wonders for your health and will save you both time and money from going to the gym.
- Reduce stress and learn to relax. There is very compelling scientific evidence that chronic stress accelerates the ageing process – but it’s never too late to change. Research reveals just three months of improving diet and engaging in mindful movement might slow down the ageing process even in middle age. Aim to get at least seven hours sleep a night. Sleep deprivation has been shown to increase markers of insulin resistance in the blood stream which is the number 1 risk factor for heart attack and is linked to a hold host of diseases including dementia and cancer.
But bedroom benefits don’t just end there. Action between the sheets to get the blood pumping is also good for the heart. Middle aged men who have sex at least twice a week are almost 50% less likely to develop heart disease than men having intercourse once a month. The benefits are likely a combination of reduced stress and also a reflection of being in a close nurturing relationship. This in itself helps the body cope with life’s day to day stresses and is good for mental health too.
As Aristotle wrote, without friendship no happiness is possible. So spend more quality time with friends and family, something I personally find much harder to do now compared to 1992 when I was at the beginning of my teenage years enjoying the comforts of my parental home in greater Manchester. At that time my greatest day to day stress was making sure I didn’t miss the school bus.
If you, like me, want to drop dead healthy and happy then the solutions are right in front of us. Embrace them with open arms and your heart and home will thank you for it.