Nobody pretends that we’re going to live in a meatless world anytime soon, but moderation can make a big difference. If you do eat meat, keep your portions small, go easy on sugar, processed carbs and butter, and help yourself to plenty of vegetables and fruits. Also keep in mind that the quality of the animal fat matters, Sass says. “Grass-fed and organic dairy and meats provide some beneficial fats that are not in conventionally produced animal foods.”
The environment is often cited as an important factor influencing the health status of individuals. This includes characteristics of the natural environment, the built environment and the social environment. Factors such as clean water and air, adequate housing, and safe communities and roads all have been found to contribute to good health, especially to the health of infants and children. Some studies have shown that a lack of neighborhood recreational spaces including natural environment leads to lower levels of personal satisfaction and higher levels of obesity, linked to lower overall health and well being. This suggests that the positive health benefits of natural space in urban neighborhoods should be taken into account in public policy and land use.
Do you smoke even a little? If so, know this: “Smoking even a single cigarette can induce changes that lead to a heart attack,” Gianos says. Lighting up increases your risk of atherosclerosis, raises your chances of blood clots, reduces blood flow and puts you at increased risk for stroke. But it’s never too late to quit and start reversing the damage. “Heart disease risk goes down 50% in the first year [after quitting] and becomes equivalent to a nonsmoker after 10 years,” Gianos says.
In general, the only people who should be enrolling off-exchange are those who are 100 percent certain that there is no way they will qualify for a premium tax credit during the year – keeping in mind that the premium tax credits are available well into the middle class and are larger in 2018 than they were in 2017 in order to offset the higher premiums. (A family of four earning $98,400 is eligible for premium subsidies in 2018.)
Believe it or not, “stress can increase your risk of heart disease 2.5-fold—similar to smoking and diabetes,” says Gianos. That’s because chronic stress puts the body into constant fight-or-flight mode, triggering inflammation, high blood pressure and other unhealthy changes. But mindfulness can be a powerful antidote to that modern state of overload. By focusing on our thoughts and sensations, we can learn to control our body’s response to stress.
Given the premium increases that took effect in most areas for 2018, it’s essential for anyone who is eligible for premium tax credits – or who might be eligible with an income fluctuation later in the year – to enroll through the exchange if and when they have a special enrollment period. Don’t sign up for an off-exchange plan and miss out on the possibility of much more affordable premiums via a tax credit.