What Does a Healthy Lifestyle Mean?

Many factors contribute to your health. Some things, like genetic predisposition to diseases and age, are beyond your control, but many lifestyle choices can have a profound impact on your wellness. Take control of your health by creating habits and making choices that will improve your physical and emotional well-being. Always talk with your doctor before making changes to your diet or starting an exercise program.

Be Active

Daily physical activity can greatly improve your quality of life and lifespan -- but according to the American Heart Association, 70 percent of Americans don't get enough exercise. Sedentary people are at a higher risk for developing problems with cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure and weight. For a healthy lifestyle, aim for a total of at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Find activities you enjoy and exercise with a friend. Make an effort to increase your day-to-day activities, like opting for the stairs over the elevator, or parking farther away from the store when you go grocery shopping.

Eat Right

Healthy diet choices can help you control your weight and reduce risk factors for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other health problems such as high cholesterol. Include fiber-rich whole grains in your diet, such as oatmeal, whole grain pasta and brown rice while limiting your consumption of sweets. Opt for lean protein choices such as skinless chicken, lean red meat and fish over fatty beef and pork. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and choose low-fat dairy products over full-fat versions. Top off your diet with healthy fats from unsaturated sources, such as olive oil and nuts.

Don't Smoke and Drink in Moderation

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, resulting in over 480,000 deaths each year. Smoking harms many body organs and increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes. If you smoke, kicking the habit may be the single most positive thing you can do for your health. Keeping alcohol consumption within moderation can also improve your overall health. Some of the long-term health risks of excessive drinking include cardiovascular problems, cancer, depression, anxiety and gastritis. Women should limit consumption to one drink per day, and men should have no more than two.

Manage Stress

Effective stress management is another key to healthy living. Stress can have a negative effect on emotional well-being, interrupt sleep, reduce energy levels and cause a variety of physical aches and pains. Stress isn't completely avoidable, but learning how to effectively deal with it can prevent it from negatively effecting your health. Practice positive self-talk, eliminate unnecessary stress, take time to do things you find pleasure in and devote time each day to relaxation or meditation to keep stress levels at bay.

Get Adequate Sleep

With busy and stressful lives, many people feel like they don't get enough sleep, but carving out time for quality shut-eye is a key component of a healthy lifestyle. Inadequate sleep can increase risks for developing obesity, diabetes, heart problems, depression and substance abuse problems. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep each day. However, your sleep needs really depend on your age, work schedule and activity levels. Pay attention to how you feel after different amounts of sleep. For example, if you're happiest and most energetic after nine hours, that may be an optimal amount of sleep for you.