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You already know the importance of eating your veggies, skipping the booze, cigarettes, and fake foods, daily exercise, and plenty of Zzzzz’s. But what you may not know about your health could hurt your health or even shorten your life. As I discussed in my TEDx talk “The Shocking Truth About Your Health,” the scientific data proves that, if you want to be optimally healthy, it’s not enough to be a health nut. Here are eight health tips your doctor may have never shared with you.
The Italian immigrants of Roseto, Pennsylvania ate meatballs fried in lard, gorged on pasta, and smoked, but they had half the risk of heart disease as the rest of the country. Why? Researchers concluded that it was because they lived communally, celebrated regularly, and had a huge network of friends. One study examining the people of Alameda County, California found that, in every age and sex category, people with the fewest social ties were 3 times more likely to have died over a 9-year period than those who reported the most social ties.
Individuals who attend religious services regularly live 7 ½ years longer (almost 14 years longer for African-Americans) than those who never or rarely attend religious gatherings. One study found that high levels of religious involvement were associated with lower rates of circulatory diseases, digestive diseases, respiratory diseases, and just about every other disease studied.
A UCLA study reviewed census data and found that those who never marry are 58% more likely to die at a young age than those who exchange vows.
Studies show that those with healthy sex lives live longer, have a lower risk of heart disease and stroke, get less breast cancer, bolster their immune systems, sleep better, appear more youthful, enjoy improved fitness, have enhanced fertility, get relief from chronic pain, experience fewer migraines, suffer from less depression, and enjoy an improved quality of life.
Failure to use accrued vacation time has been associated with early death. One study looked at 12,000 men over nine years and found that those who failed to take annual vacations had a 21% higher risk of death from all causes, and they were 32% more likely to die of a heart attack. Another study found that women who vacationed once every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack than women who vacationed twice a year.
Health benefits of creative expression include improved sleep, better overall health, fewer doctor’s visits, diminished use of medication, and fewer vision problems. Creative expression also decreases symptoms of distress and improves quality of life for women with cancer, strengthens positive feelings, reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, reduces anxiety, and improves mood, social functioning, and self-esteem.
Harvard physician Herbert Benson studied “the relaxation response” that meditation induces and found it useful in treatment of conditions as wide ranging as cardiac arrhythmias, asthma, allerges, herpes, diabetes, ulcers, hypertension, infertility, PMS, AIDS, and chronic pain.
Optimistic people fare better when suffering from cancer, recover better from coronary bypass surgery, enjoy healthier immune systems, and live longer than pessimists. People with a positive outlook are 45% less likely to die from any cause than negative thinkers (and 77% less likely to die from heart disease). In a study of nuns, researchers found that 90% of the most cheerful nuns were still alive at age 84, compared to only 34% of the least cheerful.