Photography by Jeff Coulson Image by: Photography by Jeff Coulson
Photography by Jeff Coulson Image by: Photography by Jeff Coulson
Live long with these tips. Image by: Calaimage/ Paul Bradbury
Bad health habits are literally taking years off your life, according to a new Canadian study. But we have strategies for curbing the worst offenders.
We have bad news and good news. First, the bad: whether it’s being a couch potato, smoking, letting one glass of Chardonnay turn into the whole bottle, or indulging in a giant bowl of chips and dip, our most beloved vices are killing us. Or rather, they’re drastically reducing our life expectancy, says a new study recently published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS Medicine. It found that smoking, eating junk food, vegging out and drinking can actually slash almost six years off the life expectancy of both men and women.
The study, authored by Dr. Doug Manuel, a senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital and professor at the University of Ottawa, focused on the worst habits, which contributed to nearly half of all deaths reported in Canada. Using a predictive algorithm Manuel and his team created, population health surveys at the individual level were examined to learn just how dangerous these vices can be. The findings were dramatic—“smoking, by itself, was associated with 32% to 39% of the difference in life expectancy across social groups,” the study says.
But that’s where the good news comes in: though their impact can’t be understated, you can combat unhealthy habits—or at least tame them. Here are the 4 guilty pleasures that are worst for your health, and what you can do to curb them.
While only about 20 per cent of Canada’s total population smokes, it is still the reigning health hazard for Canadians. When lighting up again, remember that the overall loss of life expectancy is an estimated 2.8 years. Coming up with a smoking cessation plan can help you butt out.
2. Eating Junk Food
A poor diet can shave off 1.2 years of your life, so we think it’s safe to say that giving into your sweet tooth at every craving is not a good call. To head off that 3pm junk food craving, don’t skip meals, and keep healthier snack options on-hand.
3. Physical Inactivity
With all the hours you put in at the office, it can be hard to find the opportunity and motivation to head to the gym. But yoga, Pilates, running or even going on 15-minute walks will add an extra 2.6 years onto your life. The solution? Changing your perspective.
4. Consuming Alcohol
Drinking has the least impact of these four vices—drinking contributed to a two-week decrease in life expectancy, but we know heavy drinking impacts your health in other ways. That’s why it’s important to drink with restraint.
Our experts answer reader questions about dropping the last 10 pounds—or more.
Question: I've heard that lifting weights helps the body burn calories even when you're not active. True or false? — Reiko
Answer: That's true. A lot of women prioritize cardio because they want to lose fat, but that burns calories only while you're exercising; as soon as you stop, you're no longer burning as much. Instead, lifting weights revs up your metabolism, so you'll continue burning calories for a few hours after your workout. And don't worry about bulking up; women don't have enough testosterone for that. But you will get leaner!
— Trudie German, certified personal trainer and owner of bodyenvy.ca, Toronto
Question: Is it possible I'm meant to be this big? I've been about the same size all my adult life, give or take a dress size. My mom and my sister are both size 14, and so were my grandmas. Maybe it's genetics? — Anne
Answer: Your genes do play a role, but it's more important to remember that size isn't really a good measure of health. If you're active, feeling good and sleeping and eating well, you probably don't have to worry. According to the World Health Organization, obesity is defined as "abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health." Of course, as you get heavier, there's a greater likelihood your health could be negatively impacted. But it's impossible for me to tell just by having you step on a scale; I have to do all sorts of tests to see if your weight really is affecting your health.
— Dr. Arya Sharma, founder of the Canadian Obesity Network and professor at the University of Alberta
Question: I'm injured and I can't work out. Is it still possible to lose weight? (Even if I'm eating my feelings about not being able to exercise?) — Katie
Answer: It's certainly possible! In fact, what you eat has more of an impact on your weight than exercise. You won't be able to work off extra calories, so be particularly mindful of other factors that influence weight, too, by getting enough sleep, finding ways to manage stress and choosing healthy whole foods in appropriate portions. And try these tricks: Serve vegetables family-style so they're within easy reach, but keep richer foods on the stovetop; use a smaller plate; and focus on your food—you're more likely to overindulge if you're distracted, so try not to eat in front of the TV, in the car or at your desk at work. Lastly, don't deny your hunger; eventually, it will backfire and you'll find yourself overeating or grabbing a convenient but unhealthy snack. People often think they have to cut back on food if they're going to lose weight, but I counsel my clients to eat more during the day. The idea isn't to willpower your way to weight loss; it's to make sustainable changes.
— Casey Berglund, registered dietitian and owner of worthyandwell.com, Calgary
Aside from being an easy snack for the office, yogurt is chock full of ingredients that help your body run smoothly, no matter what age you are.
Although yogurt has long been a staple in the health food world, it has become even more popular thanks to Greek yogurt. Whether you eat it plain, low-fat, greek, frozen, from a tube or a bottle, or in your smoothies, yogurt has health benefits beyond good old calcium. Read on for the lowdown on its many health benefits.
1. The probiotics.
You know yogurt has probiotics because every commercial for yogurt says so, but what does that actually mean? In the simplest of terms, probiotics are good-for-you bacteria. They help in regulating your digestive system and decreasing gas, diarrhea and bloating. Research has even suggested that probiotics can aid in boosting your immune system, help you manage your weight and reduce the risk of cancer.
2. The calcium.
Just like all products in the dairy family, yogurt is a great source of calcium, which plays a huge role in the development and maintenance of strong bones and teeth. It is also important for blood clotting, healing wounds and maintaining a normal blood pressure. Some yogurts contain vitamin D, which helps the small intestine absorb calcium to its fullest potential, so finding those yogurts or pairing yogurt with foods high in vitamin D is always a good idea.
3. The protein.
Plain yogurt made from whole milk is a rich source of protein, which can increase the absorption of minerals, promote lower blood pressure and aid in weight loss.
4. The vitamins.
Yogurt made with whole milk contains every single nutrient the human body needs. Yogurt contains vitamin B12, which keeps your nerves and red blood cells healthy and can only be found in foods originating from an animal. Vitamin B2, or riboflavin, is also in yogurt. This helps the body convert carbohydrates into glucose, or 'food into fuel.'
Want to incorporate yogurt into your diet, but don't want to be stuck with buying processed, sugary yogurt cups? Check out Canadian Living's recipes:
Beverages account for a huge source of our sugar intake. Image by: Getty Images
Sugary drinks contain a lot of empty calories and have been linked to numerous health issues. Learn how to kick these drinks to the curb with five healthy alternatives.Trading in your sugary chai latte for a chai tea made with steamed milk may seem like the end of the world. But, changing your diet can be easier – and yummier - than you think.