It is easy for us to neglect our health when we get caught up with work and personal commitments. Long hours spent hunched over the computer or attending to never-ending errands mean that vital activities like exercise, sleep, and sometimes even our meals take a backseat.
In short: poor lifestyle choices and habits can have severe health consequences in the long run, possibly leading to the onset of chronic conditions. Are you ready to make a positive change to improve your health? Here’s how to start.
Identifying your risk behaviours
Chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes and cancer are caused mainly by our personal risk behaviours. Examples of risk behaviours include poor nutrition, such as diets low in vegetables or fruits and those high in sodium and saturated fats, lack of physical activity, tobacco use and excessive alcohol intake1.
Statistically, chronic diseases such as CVD, diabetes and cancer account for almost two-thirds of deaths in Singapore2. Additionally, studies also suggest that 1 in 4 Singaporeans aged 40 years and above has one or more chronic disease3. And this risk does increase with age.
By making healthy choices and simple modifications to your lifestyle, you can reduce your likelihood of being saddled by a chronic illness.
Are you actively working out throughout the week? A study by the World Health Organisation recommends approximately 75 minutes of high-intensity physical activity (like running) or 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physicke walking) a week to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses like diabetes, breast cancer and stroke4.
Tips to stay active:
- Get the support of your friends and family. Invite them to join you on your workouts.
- Schedule physical activity (in tthe day or week) when you feel most energetic.
- Make physical activity part of your daily or weekly routine.
Choose healthier meals
They say we are what we eat. Sadly, that adage is true when it comes to the relationship between one’s diet and CVD — a health fact long recognised by medical experts. To reduce the risk of coronary artery disease, try replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats (or “good fats”) which contains less cholesterol5. Foods high in unsaturated fats includes avocados, walnuts, olives, sesame seeds and fatty fish6.
Instead of refined grains, choose wholegrains like those found in wholemeal bread and brown rice, as they are high in Vitamin E and phytochemicals. A diet rich in wholegrains also reduces risk of type 2 diabetes as well as colorectal and oesophageal cancers. Similarly, consuming more fruits and vegetables is linked to reduced risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, besides protecting against cancers of the mouth7.
Like your diet, getting sufficient sleep is just as important. However, many of us just aren’t getting enough of it. According to a study conducted by researchers from SingHealth Polyclinics, more than 40 percent of its participants slept less than seven hours on a weekday night. Many of them were students and full-time workers8.
Your body heals and repairs itself when you sleep. This is why prolonged periods of sleeplessness can affect your body and health in so many ways. Physically, sleep deprivation can lead to a higher risk of obesity and chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension, collectively known as metabolic syndrome. In addition, a lack of sleep also impairs your judgement, affects your memory and diminishes your cognitive perception.
To improve your sleep quality, try making some of these changes to your lifestyle:
- Put those mobile gadgets away
Avoid using your phone an hour before bedtime. This allowes your mind to rest.
- Stay away from caffeine
Acoid caffeinated drinks no less than two hours before you go to bed.
- Quit smoking
Smoking affects your sleep and increases the risk of vascular diseases too.
- Keep out the light and noise
Use blackout curtains to block external light and close the windows if it's too noisy outside.
Start living healthy today
You can improve your fitness and quality of life simply by increasing your levels of physical activity, improving your diet and making smart, targeted lifestyle changes. If you rarely exercise, fitting regular physical activity to your schedule can seem challenging at first. Start small and work your way up by gradually increasing its frequency and intensity.
When it comes to chronic diseases, it also pays to find out early. From health screenings to personalised health coaching, our specially curated Chronic Disease Management and Lifestyle Programme is designed to provide you with a dedicated care journey through expert dietary and fitness advice. Don’t leave your health to chance. Start taking charge of your lifestyle, fitness and nutrition by speaking to your Cigna Representative today.
1. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2021). About Chronic Diseases.
2. HealthHub. (2021). 5 Exercises to Prevent Chronic Illnesses.
3. Health Promotion Board. Tips to prevent and manage chronic diseases in the workplace..
4. HealthHub. (2021). 5 Exercises to Prevent Chronic Illnesses.
5. Walter C. Willett, Jeffrey P. Koplan, Rachel Nugent, Courtenay Dusenbury, Pekka Puska, and Thomas A. Gaziano. (2006). Prevention of Chronic Disease by Means of Diet and Lifestyle Changes.
6. Jennifer Moll, PharmD. (2021). Foods High in Unsaturated Fat Can Help Lower Cholesterol.
7. HealthHub. (2021). 8 Singapore Dietary Guidelines You Must Know.
8. Thava Rani, HealthXchange.sg. How Lack of Sleep Affects Your Health.