Prevention: Healthy living as easy as 5-2-1-0 – The Register-Guard

Those readers who have unpacked new gadgets as part of their winter holiday celebrations are usually grateful to find a quick-start guide telling them how to enjoy their new toy (I mean, essential household appliance) right away without reading a complicated instruction manual. Why cant there be a similar quick-start guide for getting healthy in the new year?

Good news, there is! The simple formula for healthy living is 5-2-1-0. This memorable set of numbers was first used to promote healthy living for children. But adults can learn from reviewing it as well.

Before explaining 5-2-1-0, it is vital to understand how healthy living compares in importance to other factors that influence our health.

While much media attention is focused on the U.S. health care system, that care really only accounts for about 10% of how healthy we are over the course of our lives. The traits our parents passed to us account for about 20% of our health. Roughly 19% is determined by where we live.

That leaves a whopping 51% of our health to be determined by a variety of lifestyle choices such as what we eat, what we drink, how much we exercise and the amount of daily stress that we endure. This category also includes choices that I hope you wont consider, such as smoking or drug use. However, 5-2-1-0 addresses the first, more immediately malleable set of choices that make a huge impact on every persons health.

Here is your quick-start guide to healthy living.

5: Eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables leaves less room for empty calories that give rise to obesity and other health problems. Fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients and fiber. Consuming fruits and vegetable with different colors supplies the body with a variety of essential micronutrients; I like to say, Eat a rainbow every day. Sadly, the average American diet is rich in calories, fat, sugar and salt, but poor in nutrition.

Are you hungry? That is an indication your body is starving for nutrients, and you should think about it that way. Reach for an apple or a carrot, and only indulge in the fatty, salty or sweet calories when you want a treat or a dessert not when you are hungry! Start your day with a full tank by eating healthy fats and proteins (low-fat yogurt, avocado toast or old-fashioned oatmeal with low-fat milk) to kick start your metabolism and get the energy to launch your day. It feels as if our taste buds have devolved to only appreciate salt, sugar and fats. Explore a variety of flavors and spices instead, and choose cooking methods that preserve nutrients in the food (e.g. roasting instead of deep frying).

2: Limit recreational screen time, including computers, video games, TV and mobile devices, to two hours or less. Think of what else you could do with that "extra time," such as taking up a new hobby (or an old one), exercising, spending time with friends or catching up on sleep. Spend more time doing rather than watching. Avoid having devices at the table and in bedrooms. For your children, consider a screen contract that enforces the two-hour limit in exchange for the privilege of having a phone or other device.

1: Get at least one hour of physical activity every day. Activity that makes you breathe harder and your heart pump faster makes you stronger and helps you feel better, think more clearly and sleep more soundly.

The "1" also reminds us to keep our spine in good alignment to avoid chronic neck and back pain, along with improving our mood. Ideally, physical activity will be done outside to connect with nature because that also is shown to reduce stress and improve mental and physical well-being.

0: Zero added sugar and artificial sweeteners in the things you drink. Sugary drinks such as soda and sports drinks, fruit punch and other fruit-flavored drinks have no health benefit. Sweetened beverages add empty calories and are terrible for your teeth. Diet sodas may increase your appetite, leading you to eat more and impacting your metabolism. These beverages also may negatively impact the beneficial gut flora that help us absorb nutrients, keep our gut healthy and may even play a role in our mood.

Alcohol also has many calories, and some drinks (think sweet, milky coffee concoctions) also have significant fat. Consider limiting your consumption of these as well.

The "0" is an unbroken circle also reminds me of the network of support of family and friends. It serves as a shield against bullying and violence. It can keep us going in the face of healthcare challenges.

The total of 5+2+1+0 is 8, reminding us to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. Sleep is vital to keep our immune systems strong and give our brains critical clean-up time to stay sharp.

Consider taking a personal 5-2-1-0 inventory to see how your current choices match up. How are you doing? Remember, 51% of your health is up to you!

Mary Loeb, M.D., M.P.H, practices family medicine at Kaiser Permanentes Downtown Eugene Medical Office. More information is at kp.org/lane.

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Prevention: Healthy living as easy as 5-2-1-0 - The Register-Guard

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