In Singapore’s fast-paced city life, we all want to live better. There are eight habits that can make a big difference. Enjoying the delicious hawker center foods in moderation, taking strolls in beautiful places like the Botanic Gardens, and staying physically active are some of them. Building strong connections with friends and family, managing stress, and getting enough sleep are also essential. By embracing these habits, you can boost your chances of living a longer, healthier, and happier life in Singapore.
Singaporeans are now living longer
With Singaporeans living longer, it becomes imperative to shift our focus towards promoting successful ageing. Successful ageing refers to the process of optimising physical, mental, and social well-being in later life, enabling individuals to maintain independence, engagement, and a high quality of life as they age.
As life expectancy increases, it is essential to recognise that longevity alone does not guarantee a fulfilling and happy life in the later years. Successful aging emphasises the importance of adopting healthy habits, staying mentally and socially active, and nurturing meaningful relationships to enhance overall well-being.
What habits increase longevity?
A study conducted by Xuan-Mai Nguyen and her team at the VA Boston Healthcare System unlocked the secrets of living better and longer. By incorporating eight healthy habits into your life before you turn 40 could potentially add about two decades to your lifespan. This means that adopting these habits early on can significantly enhance your overall longevity compared to those who do not follow these practices. However, even if you begin embracing these habits at the age of 60, there is still a noticeable positive impact on your lifespan. So, it’s never too late to start making positive changes to improve your health and increase your chances of living a longer and healthier life.
To gather this data, the researchers collected information on physical activity, diet, sleep, mental health, relationships, and alcohol use from over 700,000 US veterans aged between 40 and 99 years old. The participants completed lifestyle surveys between 2011 and 2019, and these responses were analyzed alongside their health records.
Living a longer and healthier life can be within reach if you adopt the following eight essential habits:
- Exercise regularly to keep your body fit and healthy
- Limit tobacco use to safeguard your respiratory and overall health.
- Practice good stress management techniques to cope with life’s challenges effectively.
- Embrace a healthy diet that nourishes your body with essential nutrients.
- Consume alcohol in moderation to protect your liver and overall well-being.
- Maintain good sleep hygiene to ensure quality rest and rejuvenation.
- Foster positive social relationships that provide emotional support and happiness.
- Steer clear of opioid addiction to safeguard your mental and physical health.
Preventing chronic disease to increase lifespan in Singapore
The primary types of chronic diseases in Singapore are cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes. These conditions are influenced by metabolic risk factors that lead to four significant metabolic changes elevating the risk of chronic illnesses. These changes include:
- Increased blood pressure
- High blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia)
- Elevated fat or cholesterol levels in the blood (hyperlipidemia)
- Being overweight or obese
High Blood Pressure
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a condition characterised by consistently elevated pressure in the blood vessels. This serious medical condition significantly raises the risk of heart, brain, kidney, and other organ diseases. Unfortunately, most individuals with hypertension are unaware of the problem since it often shows no warning signs or symptoms. Globally, around 1.4 billion people suffer from high blood pressure, but only a mere 14% have it under control. In Singapore, the prevalence of hypertension increased from 24% in 2017 to 36% in 2020.
Diabetes mellitus is characterised by high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) caused by defects in insulin secretion, insulin action, or both. If left uncontrolled, diabetes mellitus can lead to severe complications such as blindness, kidney failure, coronary heart disease, and stroke. In Singapore, the prevalence of diabetes among residents was 10% for 2020.
High Blood Cholesterol
High blood cholesterol, or hyperlipidemia, is a significant risk factor for coronary heart disease. Elevated cholesterol levels lead to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a condition in which fatty deposits, cholesterol, and other substances build up on the walls of your arteries to form plaque. This increases the likelihood of developing coronary heart disease. Specifically, high levels of LDL-cholesterol play a crucial role as an independent risk factor in this process.
In Singapore, the prevalence of high blood cholesterol among residents rose to 39% percent in 2020. The prevalence for males is stable though prevalence among females increased from 29% in 2017 to 36% in 2020.
Obesity is a condition that increases the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and even chronic pain. Besides genetic factors, obesity can be caused by controllable lifestyle choices, such as consuming too much high-fat and sugary food and not engaging in enough physical activity.
In 2019-2020, the prevalence of obesity in Singapore returned to the previous level seen in 2010 (10.5 percent) after decreasing in 2013 and 2017. It was found to be more common among males (11.9 percent) than females (9.3 percent).
For Asian populations, the risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes starts at a lower body mass index (BMI). Based on recommendations from the WHO, an additional BMI classification was introduced for public health action among Asians. In Singapore, residents with a BMI equal to or greater than 27.5 kg/m2 are considered to have a high-risk BMI.
Exercise and smoking cessation are biggest contributors to good health
Exercise and smoking cessation can both help with high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol. In Nguyen’s study, researchers discovered that low physical activity, opioid use, and smoking had the most significant impact on an individual’s lifespan. They found that these habits were linked to a 30% to 45% higher risk of death during the study period. If you want to improve your chances of living a healthier life, quitting these harmful habits is essential. Prioritising regular exercise and quitting smoking can make a significant difference in your well-being.
Regular physical activity such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling, individuals can lower their blood pressure, improve blood circulation, and enhance the health of their heart and blood vessels.
Exercise also improves insulin sensitivity, helping the body utilise glucose more effectively, which is beneficial for managing diabetes. Moreover, physical activity aids in weight management, burning calories and promoting the development of lean muscle mass. This, in turn, boosts metabolism and aids in fat burning, making it an essential tool for combating obesity.
In addition to exercise, quitting smoking is equally vital in addressing these health concerns. Smoking can narrow blood vessels and increase blood pressure, which can be detrimental to those with hypertension. Smoking also worsens diabetes-related complications and raises the risk of cardiovascular issues in individuals with diabetes. Moreover, smoking can lower HDL cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol that helps remove harmful LDL cholesterol from arteries, thus negatively impacting cholesterol levels.
Smoking is a major health problem in Singapore
In Singapore, tobacco poses a significant health threat. It causes approximately 2,500 deaths among smokers and 250 deaths among non-smokers each year. Even though the link between tobacco use and cancers (lung, oral, and nasopharynx cancer) is well established, one in 10 Singaporeans are smokers.
Smoking also has a significant impact on chronic conditions such as neck pain or slipped disc. It can exacerbate symptoms and make pain management more challenging. One of the main effects of smoking is increased inflammation in the body. Inflammation worsen pain conditions like arthritis and make a person more susceptible to pain.
Additionally, smoking can delay the healing process in the body, making it problematic for individuals dealing with injuries. Smoking can harm nerves and reduce their ability to transmit pain signals effectively, resulting in altered pain perception and increased sensitivity to pain. Studies suggest that smokers may have a lower pain tolerance compared to non-smokers, meaning they may perceive pain more intensely, making chronic pain conditions even more challenging to manage.
By incorporating regular physical activity into daily routines and quitting smoking, individuals can significantly reduce the risk of chronic diseases. These lifestyle changes provide a holistic approach to health, promoting longevity and a higher quality of life.
Do not overlook sleep hygiene
In the pursuit of good health, we often overlook the profound impact that sleep hygiene can have on our well-being. Inadequate sleep is a prevalent concern in today’s fast-paced society. Despite the National Sleep Foundation’s recommendation of getting at least seven hours of sleep each night, less 75% of people in Singapore get sleep cycle of seven hours or more.
In addition to causing irritability, moodiness, and poor concentration, lack of sleep have significant implications for our long-term health. Dr Toh Song Tar, the Head Consultation of the the SingHealth Duke-NUS Sleep Centre, said sleep deprivation is linked to a higher risk of diabetes, obesity and a poorer immune system. This has been attributed to the disruption of our body’s metabolism, which can lead to imbalances in our blood hormone levels.
Prioritising restful nights is vital for our pursuit of good health and longevity. Alongside sleep, addressing habits that significantly impact lifespan, as revealed by Nguyen’s study, such as low physical activity and smoking, should also be considered for a healthier and longer life. By understanding and acting upon these interconnected aspects of our health, we can pave the way towards a happier, healthier future.
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