I HATE to admit it, but I am starting to feel the downside of getting older. With only a few months left before I reach the big four-O, I suddenly felt the pressuring need to take care of my health. This feeling even got worse when I watched the interview of Andrew Schimmer about his wife who is in the hospital for seven months now. Add to this the sudden news of actress Cherie Gil succumbing to cancer a few days ago. This prompted me to reevaluate my lifestyle and prioritize my health over all things. To remind myself and all the other readers, I wrote a column last year about Lifestyle Medicine:

To sum up the entire lecture given by Dr. Ethel Vital-Cornes, lifestyle medicine focuses on six areas to improve health and these are healthy eating of plant-based food, avoiding risky substances, increasing physical activity, managing stress, improving sleep, and forming and maintaining relationships.

Dr. Cornes shared that 75 percent of chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer among others are a direct consequence of the lifestyle of the individual. She added that the top five causes of death worldwide such as cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke are all lifestyle related. Hence, the answer to preventing such kinds of diseases from developing is lifestyle modification, especially for those people who practice unhealthy habits such as smoking, eating too much sugar and processed foods, living a sedentary lifestyle, and having poor mental health.

Here's how to start developing a healthy lifestyle:

1. Reduce calorie intake

Dr. Cornes stressed on the importance of being conscious of the amount of calories being taken in based on the food one eats. A cup of white rice has 200 calories while 2 slices of toasted bread only have 133 calories. A fried egg has 92 calories while a hard boiled egg has only 77 calories. 1 cup of ice cream has 267 calories while a cup of apple slices only has 72 calories.

2. Consume plant-based food

It is recommended that at least 40 grams of dietary fiber must be consumed each day. Dietary fiber is found only in food of plant origin, such as grains, legumes, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds.

3. Avoid ‘Crap’

Healthy eating means avoiding carbonated drinks, refined sugars, artificial sweeteners and processed foods.

4. Increase physical activity

According to Dr. Ethel Cornes, physical activity is "any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscle that results in energy expenditure" while exercise is "planned, structured and repetitive body movement done to improve or maintain fitness." For moderate physical activity, the recommendation is 150 mins/week and can be done through walking briskly (5 km/h), doing household chores, bicycling on light effort, and other leisurely activities like ballroom dancing, fishing, golf, and yoga.

For vigorous physical activity, the recommendation is 75 minutes per week and can be done through race walking, jogging, running, shoveling sand, aerobic dancing, basketball, bicycling fast, boxing, swimming hard, tennis singles, jumping rope, hiking, and volleyball.

5. Get enough sleep

For adults, it is ideal that they get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each day. Experts believe that lack or self-deprivation of sleep may have ill effects on the mental and emotional state and may affect work and productivity. With the lure of the internet affecting our sleep patterns, it is best that we control our use of the internet during bedtime and meditate before sleeping. Drinking water and praying before sleeping are also helpful ways in getting a sound sleep at night.

We should remember that it is our own responsibility to shape our own life. "If you don't make time for wellness, you will be forced to make time for your illness."