Healthy living recommendations for young professionals?
December 1, 2012 11:54 AM   Subscribe

You are a young professional in your late twenties, and have just realized you are not invincible after all. What healthy practices do you start to ensure the best quality of life moving forward?

Over the last few months I've discovered that I am, indeed, not invincible. Many tests have been done, many more to follow, but is increasingly probably that I have non-bacterial prostatitis. Fun!

I used to be able to live pretty hard. Think "Late night college parties followed by a 10 mile run at 6 am" hard. Now, at 27, if I don't get a full 8 hours of sleep before work I'm dragging. I guess this is the natural progression towards "get off my lawn, you young whippersnappers!"

So now I'm on a health kick. I want to make sure that my actions today don't lead to a terrible future. I already exercise and weight train, have started drinking tea, have dropped beer, and am in general trying to live / eat better.

Which leads to my question: What practices have you implemented to be healthier, and procure a better, longer life? What super healthy foods do you eat? Any vitamins / supplements that made a significant impact on your life?

posted by platosadvocate to Health & Fitness (30 answers total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
Go to the dentist regularly. Floss.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:58 AM on December 1, 2012 [8 favorites]

Don't sit for prolonged periods.
posted by phrontist at 12:00 PM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Only drink socially. Since I cut out the beer-after-work-by-myself-while-doing-laundry thing I feel a million times better, and then beer is a treat again and it encourages me to invite friends out and over, which is another treat. Treats makes the world go round.
posted by cakebatter at 12:03 PM on December 1, 2012 [6 favorites]

Mental health status-wise and to answer the 'better life' aspect of your question, accept that some things will go 'wrong' with your health no matter what you do. And then, deal with them as they come up.

I don't mean this snarkily - I get that you are looking for active, things to 'do', but I think that your mindset about the things that are out of your control (and which will go 'wrong' more and more often as you age) can contribute to your health, too.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 12:08 PM on December 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

In my experience, the best healthy habits are any ones I actually stick to. And I've found that the way to make any healthy habit stick is to make it enjoyable. This will take some up-front experimenting, but it will make it worthwhile.

So: don't force yourself to eat bland (or outright gross) vegetables because they're good for you. Try different kinds of vegetables until you find ones you like. And remember that the same vegetable or fruit can taste totally different depending on how it's grown. In particular, big chain supermarkets are notorious for choosing fruits and vegetables based on how good they look, and how long they'll last on the shelf, rather than how they taste. If you think you don't like fruits and vegetables, shop around. If you have a local farmers' market, you will often find tastier produce there, because it's fresher, and the farmers can choose the breeds that taste good without having to worry about shipping them.

Similarly, don't condemn yourself to endless boring hours of an exercise you hate. Find one you will look forward to-- or convert a boring one into a fun one by (for example) only letting yourself watch The Daily Show on your DVR while you're running on the treadmill.

If you can't make something fun, you can at least piggyback it onto a habit you already have. I only started remembering to put on sunscreen when I found a sunscreen that I liked using as an aftershave.
posted by yankeefog at 12:11 PM on December 1, 2012

Healthiness starts from the ground up, so you've got to make a healthy environment for yourself in order to live a healthy lifestyle. So that means - in a literal sense - keep your home clean, uncluttered, and organized. Throw/give away anything at home that is "unhealthy" - things that give you bad memories, unhealthy foods, old things that you never use, etc. Your home is your life base, so you should keep it healthy. Then, put in useful things that are healthy - healthy recipe books, a fridge stocked with healthy foods, good quality cookware, nice clothes. Having "nice" and "healthy" stuff makes you happier and more motivated to stay that way.

In terms of food, I found "food journalling" to be really helpful. I use an app called MyFitnessPal - basically, I enter in my height/weight/activity level and it calculates an estimate of my daily necessary calories and nutrients. Every day, I input everything I eat and drink, and at the end of the day I compare it to my vitamin/nutrient/calorie goal. It helps me stay conscious of what I have everyday and what I actually need.
posted by krakus at 12:26 PM on December 1, 2012 [8 favorites]

Eat more vegetables, less sugar. And take care of your teeth.
posted by Orinda at 12:27 PM on December 1, 2012

don't condemn yourself to endless boring hours of an exercise you hate. Find one you will look forward to-

Hi there, I'm 44. Let me speak to you from your future and say one of the best ideas I have had has been to incorporate exercise into my social times. Go hiking with friends, join a softball/volleyball/soccer team, find a friend to workout with, meet a friend at an exercise class or for a bike ride. The social aspect makes it more enjoyable, and the external accountability means I don't flake out on it.

And floss every goddamn day. Your dentist knows the truth anyway.
posted by ambrosia at 12:31 PM on December 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Find a primary care provider/genederal practitioner you feel comfortable with, with whom you can confidently discuss all aspects of your health, and who will take time to listen to you.
posted by Nomyte at 12:34 PM on December 1, 2012

I work in outpatient cardiac care. I see patients after they have had a heart attack or other cardiac events/surgery. Besides cardiac damage, the biggest problems I see in my patients are their crappy knees and hips. And shortness of breath (either from a damaged heart or COPD) and complications from Type II diabetes. Sometimes people have all of the above and it sucks.


Maintain a normal weight.

If you have high blood pressure, make sure you keep it under control like it's your job. I cannot tell you how many people think their hypertension is no big deal or dismiss it as "white coat syndrome", or blame it on other factors ("I just walked across the parking lot and that's why it's a little high".) I want to say, "It's high all of the time and it's killing you slowly, sir." Many people skip their meds. If you're ever diagnosed with high blood pressure, comply and take your meds as prescribed until a doctor says it's okay not to.

Don't smoke.

Don't drink too much. Too much alcohol puts you at risk for all kinds of health problems and makes you look like hell.

Don't eat crap.

Stay active. Walk. Do squats for a strong lower body. Strength in your lower body is what helps you get out of your chair. What a nice thing to be able to get out of your chair unassisted until the day you die.

I stand up when I'm on the computer. I put my laptop on a counter. Wander around the house/office and stand up. Don't sit too much as phronstist mentioned above. Sitting too much kills.
posted by Fairchild at 12:34 PM on December 1, 2012 [7 favorites]

Sleep as much as your body needs to.
Drink a bit more water than you actually want to.
Eat all the colors in the rainbow in veg&fruit on a daily basis.
Move a lot - be it circling your arms or dancing while cleaning.
Do whatever makes you happy - smiling/laughing keeps you healthy.
posted by travelwithcats at 12:47 PM on December 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

The obvious: Don't smoke, don't drink more than 1 alcoholic beverage per day (although some will say that men can drink two.)

The less obvious:

1. I know askme hates on multivitamins, but there was just a very large study showing that one per day reduces the incidence of cancer by 8%ish over a lifetime. I would also say that most people are deficient in at least one micro-nutrient on a regular basis, so take one per day, unless you track you nutrition daily and are a super-perfect askme answerer. (This comment should be balanced by statement that excesses of antioxidant vitamins like A and C have been shown to increase rates of some types of cancers, but those are excesses of the vitamins, not reasonable quantities of the vitamins.)

2. What to eat? I spend a lot of time reading about this topic, and here's what I can say for certain:

a. Eat non-starchy vegetables.
b. Get a balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids that approximates 1:4, if not greater. I don't know that there is a real answer to what form the omega-3s should be in, but I would guess that EPA and DHA are probably better than ALA.

... that's all I can say for certain. Everything else in nutrition is loaded with politics, and I can't even tell you for certain if a person should eat a high-fat/protein low-carb diet or a high-carb low fat/protein diet. Anyone who tells you they know the answer to that question hasn't read and thought about it enough yet.

The science of wellness is still in it's infancy, as everyone has been trying to pin down the science of disease for the last 2 centuries.
posted by 517 at 12:53 PM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Buy long-term disability insurance.
posted by grouse at 1:00 PM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

In the same vein, buy long-term care insurance. I wish to God I'd done this before I was diagnosed with MS. Now I will never be able to buy insurance from anyone, ever, and my life as an unmarried, childless person on Medicaid/Medicare is not going to be pretty.
posted by jesourie at 1:08 PM on December 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Take care of your teeth.
Buy good quality long-term care insurance now. The older you are, the more it costs.
posted by michellenoel at 1:27 PM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Start doing more of your own cooking...I'm a couple years older and almost everyone I know has started to enjoy cooking more (I happen to love it) when they realize that the ability to cook gives you the gift of being able to make almost any vegetable or anything else tasty and healthy. For me it started as a way to eat decently and cheaply as a student. I had people over for dinner and cooked or just cooked for myself and it was healthier and cheaper than eating out. Nowadays we have access to such a huge array of different ingredients between CSA boxes, farmers markets, grocery stores, various ethnic markets, etc, that it is almost a crime to not browse them and experiment.

Also moderate alcohol...I don't think there is anything wrong with a nightly drink with dinner, but I realized that if I have dinner/wine too late it disrupts my sleep.

For supplements I sometimes take a B complex and have found that it helps with energy levels, but the only one that has really made a noticeable difference for me has been cod liver oil, and similarly, eating sardines regularly.
posted by fromageball at 1:48 PM on December 1, 2012

Yoga - I've gone up and down on various fitness and exercise programs through my life, but the combination of mental and physical strength, stretching and discipline associated with a Yoga practice really is amazing.
posted by meinvt at 3:41 PM on December 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Floss Every Day.
posted by KneeDeep at 3:54 PM on December 1, 2012

People keep recommending that you floss, but such statements would not have convinced me in your situation. The following might:

Lots of people always told me to floss, but they never told me why. Flossing never seemed to make a difference, so I didn't floss very much--hardly ever, in fact.

Eventually, my gums started to bleed a bit when I brushed my teeth. Just a bit of pink that I would spit out the toothpaste. Alarming at first, but I got used to it and it's not like my teeth were falling out. But they REALLY bled when I flossed, so I flossed even less.

Eventually I brought this up in (an already dentally-inclined) conversation with some friends, and they said "no, you idiot, you gums are bleeding because you are not flossing enough!" And they were right. If I floss regularly my gums do not bleed, presumably because they are not being assaulted with various unsavory organic food particles that lurk within the crevasses of your mouth, and they get stronger and healthier.

TL;DR If your gums are bleeding, floss more, not less. Simple logic that escaped me for too long.
posted by ropeladder at 4:14 PM on December 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Wear sunscreen everyday, clouds or sunshine. Just make it a habit.
posted by insectosaurus at 4:32 PM on December 1, 2012

Start tracking your weight, blood pressure, and how much movement you do. I have a blood pressure cuff and scale that synchs to my iPhone and I use a Nike FuelBand that also synchs to my iPhone. You'll start to notice trends. Optinal bonus points: mark when you've had alcohol and how you feel that day.

Limit intakes of alcohol and refined sugars. Increase your intake of fiber. They're not kidding when they say this. I was over 200 lbs earlier this year and I'm now down to about 170 or so just by making those two dietary changes ... starting to have some problems losing more weight though, so it's time to bump the exercise up a little bit.

When you go to the doctor, make sure they're tracking the condition of your major organs during blood tests. Also ask them to track your hormone levels and thyroid levels. These, especially things like your blood sugar average over time, are important early warning signs of health problems like Type 2 Diabetes / Metabolic Syndrome that will sneak up and bite you on the ass hard with permanent ramifications.

Make it a habit to take stairs and to walk places whenever possible. You need to actually put some effort into this. I don't find that gyms help me at all, but I do find that things like taking an evening walk with my girlfriend and dogs help me consistently shed pounds and maintain some muscle health/tone.

And +1 to whoever said "find a way to sit less" ... that's a huge deal.
posted by SpecialK at 5:57 PM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure where you live, but try to drive as little as possible. If your trips are under 5 miles, bike. Walk as much as possible. Added benefit: You don't need to bother with the boredom of going to the gym.

Yes, sunscreen! I live in California and I see a lot of people with extensive sun damage--although I suspect most of them would call that "tanning". But that really starts to catch up with people very quickly.

Don't eat processed foods.

Eat kale. Roast it! It is awesome and tasty and I go through 1-2 bunches a week just making kale chips.

Yoga and meditation are daily musts for me now that I'm in my thirties, for mental and physical reasons. A day without either and the effects are very apparent.
posted by so much modern time at 6:06 PM on December 1, 2012

A lot of it is going to be genetics, but the above advice is all mostly good.

Moderation in everything. Find some way to keep active, both physically and socially.
posted by porpoise at 8:40 PM on December 1, 2012

A lot of people have already written advice that I would tell you, so let me just emphasize the importance of doing regular exercise throughout your life. I have been lucky to have an outdoor activity (cycling) that I love. It gives me socializing time in addition to a good workout. I'd like to think I look way better for my age than my friends who haven't been working out on a regular basis over the years.

You mention running, so keep doing that, but if your knees start to give you trouble, find another activity that is less stressful on the joints. Your knees and hips and shoulders last only so long. Being fit goes a long way toward recovery from stuff like ACL or hip-replacement surgery. Get a massage every now and again, or a facial or a pedicure. Take naps with your cat on your chest.

Also, don't be too rule-constricted about eating. I eat red meat, wheat, sugar, dairy and fat. I also eat a ton of vegetables and whole grains. I have learned how to cook the things I like--the simpler the better.

Lastly, I have a sign on the inside of my bathroom vanity that simply says "FLOSS!"
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 9:15 PM on December 1, 2012

Find ways to identify, cope, and hopefully eliminate stress. Stress doesn't help you work harder nor does it build character. Stress (and anxiety) impact physical health in many subtle ways that can accumulate over a period of months or even years.

So, if you find that you're usually doing healthy stuff, but you're still getting stomach/digestion problems, or getting sick often, or grinding your teeth when you sleep (all of which I've experienced), start being more self-aware as you go throughout your day and try to pick up instances where stress may be happening. Find ways to de-stress, especially ones that involve physical activity or constructive hobbies. Maybe, like mentioned before, take up meditation or consider therapy.
posted by FJT at 11:56 PM on December 1, 2012

Dental cleaning every six months.
posted by Dansaman at 12:18 AM on December 2, 2012

Become a vegan.

"The massive NIH-AARP study following a half-million people for 10 years looks at the relationship between meat consumption and total mortality. It's conclusion? Meat intake means increases in total mortality, cancer mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality.

Watch Dr. Michael Greger's very short video clip on the results from the largest study of diet and health in history.

And fish? Fish protein ages our DNA by 6 years by cutting down our telomeres.

Watch Dr. Greger's short video clip on research on aging and the impact of fish and other foods on the telomere caps that protect our DNA tips from fraying, which causes aging."

I got this in an email newsletter recently, but can't find a reference to the primary study the specifically discusses this result. But here is the study's publication page:

Here's a link to one of the videos mentioned:
posted by reddot at 6:39 AM on December 2, 2012

Fish protein ages our DNA by 6 years by cutting down our telomeres… can't find a reference to the primary study the specifically discusses this result.

Another recommendation: don't take health advice from people with an axe to grind, or from woo web sites/video that make claims that can't be documented in the medical literature.
posted by grouse at 9:22 AM on December 2, 2012 [9 favorites]

I only started remembering to put on sunscreen when I found a sunscreen that I liked using as an aftershave. -- yankeefog

You're keeping me in suspense! May I ask what you use?
posted by agog at 10:11 AM on December 6, 2012

Nivea Moisturizing Sun Lotion.
posted by yankeefog at 4:21 AM on December 12, 2012

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