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.
Alexander Straulino/Trunk Archive
We lift the veil on the world of nonsurgical anti-aging procedures—what they can do, whether they'll hurt and how much of a dent they'll put in your wallet.
We all get older; it's a fact of life. But do we need to look older? The answer is no. Nonsurgical cosmetic procedures such as laser treatments and Botox injections can minimize wrinkles, remove excess fat and plump up and tighten skin. But they're also a bit taboo, because isn't it frivolous to want to "fix" your hard-won lines and sun-darkened brown spots? Our advice: Do what makes you feel good—you're the only one who gets to have a say about your appearance. We offer a breakdown of your treatment options, just in case your curiosity (or your frown lines) gets the better of you.
SLEEPLESS BEAUTY ("I LOOK TIRED")
If you see an exhausted face looking back in the mirror every single day, the culprit is probably your peepers. "The eyes are the very earliest place affected as we age," says Toronto-based plastic surgeon Dr. Jerome Edelstein. In order to brighten your appearance, you'll need to minimize dark circles, frown lines and crow's-feet.
To deal with wrinkling in the upper part of the face, try injections of botulinum toxin (a.k.a. Botox or Dysport), which relaxes the muscles that allow wrinkles to form and reduces the appearance of lines. It's possible to customize the number of units and injections so that your upper face will be completely frozen, be able to move slightly or be fully capable of movement, though more movement means less overall improvement.
Next, try a dermal filler to restore volume in your tear troughs, the areas under your eyes, which can appear dark and hollow. Dr. Andrea Herschorn, who works with Dr. Edelstein, recommends starting with half a syringe of soft, fluid Emervel, or Teoxane's Teosyal or PureSense Redensity II.
Pain and downtime: Injections of botulinum toxin feel like minor pinpricks. You might have a slight headache for a few house or days.
$$$: $12 per unit of Botox or Dysport. Forehead treatment costs between $300 and $600.
Lasting effects: Three to four months.
WEIGHTY MATTERS (SAGGING SKIN AND JOWLS)
There are two main reasons for jowls and sagging in the lower part of the face: skin laxity (due to loss of collagen and elastin) and decreased volume in the cheeks (caused by fat atrophy and thinning of the cheekbones). All of these changes are a natural part of getting older.
Usually, a two-pronged approach is best for treatment. The first step is dermal filler being injected into the cheeks. "I call it building a foundation," says VIctoria-based dermatologist Dr. Mark Lupin. "You start deep and work toward the surface." Adding volume back to the cheeks with one to six syringes of filler will lift the skin in the lower part of the face.
Then, your doctor or medical esthetician will likely recommend a skin-tightening treatment that uses radio-frequency technology. Thermage and ReFirme, for example, heat the collagen deep in the skin, prompting it to contract and tighten and kick-starting the skin's natural renewal process.
Pain and downtime: Pain is minimal, though some patients will take an oral analgesic.
$$$: $1,500 to $2,100 for one Thermage treatment. Most people require one treatment, but some may opt for a second treatment three months later. Meanwhile, each ReFirme treatment costs $250 to $500. Six treatments, each one or two weeks apart, are required.
Lasting effects: Up to two years for Thermage, and about a year for ReFirme.
YOU MISSED A SPOT (THE NECK)
Most of us spend so much time focusing on our mugs that we forget another important area: the neck. Your neck requires just as much love as your face, and many of the aforementioned treatments can be used to make it look slender and elegant. Botulinum toxin injections can correct vertical lines (also known as vertical banding or turkey neck) and create a more defined jaw line, and radio-frequency technology can tighten sagging skin. Meanwhile Fraxel laser treatments can smooth fine lines and correct papery texture.
One procedure that's exclusive to the region between your chin and your collarbone is Belkyra, a brand-new injection that uses deoxycholic acid (a bile acid that emulsifies fats for absorption in the intestine) to destroy fat cells responsible for the look of a double chin.
Pain and downtime: Belkyra is relatively painful. It will feel like burning in the neck for five to 10 minutes. There will be swelling and slight bruising that typically last for about a week but can last as long as a month, so winter is a great time to try this treatment (hello, scarves and turtlenecks).
$$$: Approximately $1,200 to $1,500 per treatment. Two to four treatments, each eight weeks apart, are required.
Lasting effects: Belkyra's effects will last forever; fat will never deposit in your double-chin region again—even if you gain weight. Can we get some of that for our thighs? Health Canada says no...for now.
PEAKS AND VALLEYS (DEEP-SET LINES)
"As we age, volume loss makes us look older, and most of that volume loss happens as a result of fat atrophy," says Dr. Cory Torgerson, a facial plastic surgeon based in Toronto. The loss of fat, in addition to increased skin laxity and repetitive muscle movements, can cause defined lines in certain areas of the face—especially above the lips (known as smoker's lines), along the sides of the nose to the corners of the mouth (nasolabial folds), and from the corners of the mouth down the sides of the chin (marionette lines).
For plumping up, all deep lines will need dermal filler injections, though each type of wrinkle requires a slightly different treatment process. There are several brands (for example, Juvéderm, Restylane, Emervel and Teosyal) that use the go-to ingredient hyaluronic acid. Doctors will have their preferred brands, depending on their personal experience, but each line has a full range of density options, such as a thicker, more structured filler for cheekbones and a thinner, fluid one for under the eyes. And if you don't like the results of your injections, don't worry; the hyaluronic acid fillers can be broken down with an injection of the enzyme hyaluronidase.
Pain and downtime: Dermal fillers are one of the more painful nonsurgical treatments available. However, most offices order syringes that also contain lidocaine, which numbs the tissue and minimizes pain.
$$$: $600 to $800 per syringe. As a ballpark, one to four syringes can usually treat the nasolabial folds in a single appointment, with each syringe containing only one cubic centrimetre, or one-fifth of a teaspoon, of product.
Lasting effects: Six to 18 months.
Before considering a visit to the doctor's office, try these recommendations for a better at-home regimen.
Eye spy: Look for an eye-care profuct that contains a vitamin-A derivative, such as tretinoin or retinol, which will stimulate collagen production and target skin laxity. Olay Pro-Retinol Eye Treatment, $40, well.ca.
Here comes the sun: Protect your skin by applying a sunscreen with SPF30 or higher to ensure the results from your procedures last. SkinCeuticals Physical Matte UV Defense SPF50, $44, skinceuticals.ca.
Bright idea: Look for a serum or oil packed with vitamin C. The antioxidant helps brighten, repair and protect from free radicals. Ole Henriksen Pure Truth Vitamin C Youth Activating Oil, $56, sephora.ca.
In the neck of time: What did we say about taking care of your neck? That means moisturizing! StriVectin TL Advanced Light Tightening Neck Cream, $99, shoppersdrugmart.ca.
From lunges to overhead presses, our do-it-all workout routin gets your heart rate up, builds muscles and burns calories.If you're exhausted just thinking about what you need to accomplish at the gym—get your heart rate up, build muscle, protect your bones—you're not alone. This dynamic routine from certified personal trainer Justine Keyserlingk, owner of Toronto's Just Get Fit, lets you target all of your health goals in a single session.
Keeping a healthy lifestyle is important, of course, but quick fixes and flashy diets that you hear of online aren't the way to go. These trend diets, advertised to work wonders, can actually bring more hassle and danger than benefits to your health.
With flashy food shots and pictures of fitness gurus posted on social media pretty much every second of the day, it’s no surprise so many of us are scrambling to keep up with appearances through strategic self-branding and unhealthy diets.
“People are willing to try and pay anything in the hopes of losing weight. There are many self-proclaimed ‘experts’ on the internet providing health advice that may not be safe or even science-based,” says Andrea D’Ambrosio, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Dietitians of Canada. “It’s crucial to be critical of information that we find on the internet to avoid being misled by false, unsubstantiated claims.”
D’Ambrosio says she reminds her clients that despite what personalities like Dr. Oz say, there’s no magical food or diet for weight loss.
Here are five popular diets to be wary of.
Juicing encourages dieters to juice their plant-based meals. It’s based on the idea that nutrients from foods such as fruits and vegetables can be absorbed quicker, and fresh juice gives our systems a rest from digesting fibre. While some claim this helps in weight loss and the removal of toxins, the truth is that the amount of sugar from the fruit you eat to maintain a feeling of fullness can equal more calories, which contributes to weight gain.
“Diets that remove entire food groups run the high risk of leading to nutritional deficiencies unless you make up the lost nutrients in other foods or supplements,” D’Ambrosio says.
2. Low-carb diet.
A low-carb diet requires the restriction of foods high in carbohydrates such as pasta, bread and certain fruits and vegetables. Although dieters don’t need to cut high-carb foods from their meals entirely, the suggested limit being advocated on social media, is 60 to 130 grams of carbohydrates per day. That’s less than three plain bagels.
3. No fat diet.
A fat-free diet sounds tempting, but is it really? When we think of fat, we often think of the bad kind that’s found in junk food, but we can also find it in nuts and seeds, fish and fruits like avocado. According to a publication by the Harvard Medical School, unsaturated fats (the good kind!) supply the body with energy and can even help prevent heart disease.
A positive note, D’Ambrosio says, is that these types of diets encourage people to eat less processed foods, which is healthier and helps weight management.
4. 5:2 diet.
For those familiar with diets, fasting is no stranger. The 5:2 diet is one of many regimens floating around the internet that has dieters eating normally (read: unrestrained) for five days and reducing food intake to 500 calories a day for the other two.
“Eating less than 500 to 600 calories a day on fasting days is very difficult for many people and challenging to sustain,” she says. “Many who attempt fasting or severe restriction also find a corresponding increase in cravings or binging after their day of restriction.”
5. Activated charcoal “diet”.
Touted by both health junkies and beauty enthusiasts on social media, charcoal can be consumed via tablets or used in cooking. Aficionados of activated charcoal claim it soaks up surface fat so that calories are not absorbed into the body, plus they say it removes unpleasant gases and toxins and reduces appetite.
The short-term effects may be tempting for those hoping to quickly shed a few pounds or to maintain a healthier lifestyle, but D’Ambrosio says there needs to be more research conducted for diets that boast impressive results. “If you want to lose weight fast, remember that you did not gain that quickly.” she says.
D’Ambrosio says working with a professional dietitian to ensure nutritional needs are met and healthy weight-loss strategies are implemented is a good plan for those who need a helping hand losing weight. “Forming a healthy relationship with food and a positive body image—regardless of weight—is also important during any weight-loss journey,” she says.
Tip from D’Ambrosio:
Food-tracking apps, such as eaTracker, give you a better idea of what (unhealthy) foods you’re eating and what swaps you can make to increase the nutrition and healthfulness of your diet.
Andrea D’Ambrosio is also the owner of Dietetic Directions a nutritional counselling and education company based in Kitchener, Waterloo.