Your Health

7 New Year's resolutions that can add years to your life

New Year's resolutions

BY JOEL SCHLESINGER
Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, January / February 2011

The arrival of the new year offers a chance for fresh beginnings. Having just celebrated the passing of the year gone by, we are now free to focus on the future and the things we can do to enhance our lives in the months ahead.

These thoughts often form the basis of resolutions - New Year's resolutions - that are designed to help improve our lot in life. For some, it may mean resolving to read one book a month, or to put a little extra cash in the bank for a rainy day. For others, it may mean making lifestyle changes that could lead to better health.

Such resolutions can be tremendously rewarding. Research shows that even the smallest lifestyle changes can have a positive impact on your health. And once you start making changes, the benefits multiply.

A study by researchers at Cambridge University in 2006 underscores the point. They followed 25,000 individuals for more than a decade. Their study concluded that a person who quits smoking, eats five servings of fruits and vegetables a day and exercises regularly can add more than 14 years to his or her life expectancy.

Many Winnipeggers, of course, are already living a healthy lifestyle and the long life that comes with it. But a report produced by the Winnipeg Health Region late last year suggests some of us could benefit from making a few changes. The report found, for example, that the average Winnipegger can expect to live 79.35 years.

That's up from previous reports, but still a bit lower than the national average of 80.7 years.

"Overall, we are a relatively healthy bunch," says Dr. Michael Routledge, Medical Officer of Health with the Region. "You can see that reflected in the increase in life expectancy, and the declines in heart disease mortality rates and cancer incidence."

However, there are some other points to consider. For example, the report notes that too many Manitobans - about 18.9 per cent, compared to about 17.5 per cent of people across Canada - still smoke. Reducing that number would have a significant impact on the average life expectancy of city residents.

So would a change in our collective diet. The Community Health Assessment suggests that only 34.4 per cent of the population over the age of 12 consumes five or more servings of vegetables a day, the minimum number required to maintain a healthy diet. As for exercise, the report suggests that about 40 per cent of the population is effectively inactive.

Of course, not all health issues can be attributed to lifestyle choices. Genetics, poverty, education and fate all play a role in determining our overall health and life expectancy.

Still, the simple fact is there are things we can do to enhance our health. And it is with that in mind that we have developed a list of New Year's resolutions on the pages that follow that will help you do just that.

Click on the images to below to read more:

Wave

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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