Heavy drinking does the body no favors. It can lead to weakened heart muscle and irregular heart rhythms, as well as dementia, cancer and stroke. But could drinking just a little be heart healthy? The science is unsettled. While some research suggests that moderate drinking (up to a drink a day for women and up to two for men) is linked with lower rates of cardiovascular disease, the research does not prove cause and effect, Gianos cautions. For example, it could be that people who drink regularly take time to relax with loved ones, and that may be what is providing the heart benefit.
Sleep is an essential component to maintaining health. In children, sleep is also vital for growth and development. Ongoing sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk for some chronic health problems. In addition, sleep deprivation has been shown to correlate with both increased susceptibility to illness and slower recovery times from illness. In one study, people with chronic insufficient sleep, set as six hours of sleep a night or less, were found to be four times more likely to catch a cold compared to those who reported sleeping for seven hours or more a night. Due to the role of sleep in regulating metabolism, insufficient sleep may also play a role in weight gain or, conversely, in impeding weight loss. Additionally, in 2007, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is the cancer research agency for the World Health Organization, declared that "shiftwork that involves circadian disruption is probably carcinogenic to humans," speaking to the dangers of long-term nighttime work due to its intrusion on sleep. In 2015, the National Sleep Foundation released updated recommendations for sleep duration requirements based on age and concluded that "Individuals who habitually sleep outside the normal range may be exhibiting signs or symptoms of serious health problems or, if done volitionally, may be compromising their health and well-being."
Gianos recommends following the Mediterranean diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. Both are rich in plants, with an emphasis on leafy greens, whole foods and plant fats like olive oil. Your eating schedule matters too. “Sticking to three balanced meals and one snack works well for optimizing energy, blood sugar and insulin regulation, digestive health and weight,” Sass says. “Time your carbs for early in the day, before your most active hours.”
Rather than dwelling on cutting back on red meat, think of what you’re adding to your plate. “Focus on what to eat as much as what to avoid,” Sass notes, “and be open to experimenting.” Aim big: five cups of fruits and vegetables a day. It sounds like a daunting number, but by working in a cup at breakfast (with eggs, in a smoothie or mixed into overnight oats), two at lunch and two at dinner, you can get your fill.