How to live longer, better

The Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute shares some tips for preventing disease through a healthier lifestyle.

Written by Tom Marwick
Portrait of a senior surfer holding his surfboard, being satisfied after a good surfing day

Australians are living longer than ever, yet rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease are skyrocketing. Many of us want to lead healthier lives but struggle to cut through all the conflicting advice, myths, misinformation and marketing hype around health and wellbeing.

The experts from the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, one of Australia’s most respected medical research institutes, are here to help make sense of it all. In a new book, The Baker IDI Wellness Plan, they provide evidence-based advice on diet, exercise and healthy lifestyle, in the hope of preventing the further spread of life threatening diseases.

Professor Tom Marwick, a cardiologist, CVD researcher and Director of the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, shares a few gems of wisdom.

What are some of the most common myths about healthy living?

  • Quick fixes like fad diets are possible. If a diet sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The key to living longer is establishing sustainable healthy eating habits as early as possible. The processes of developing heart and other diseases start young, so it’s important to act early.
  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is easy. Wrong again! A range of issues can impact your general health including fatigue, decreased ability to exercise and depression. The proliferation of screens - phone, computer, television - in our modern lives also creates barriers to wellbeing.
  • Healthy living is solely about personal responsibility. Maintaining good health is everyone’s responsibility - individuals, families, schools, businesses and policy-makers. And collective action can have a huge impact - just look at the decrease in smokers and smoking-related illnesses since everyone got on the same page.

Can you tell us three interesting things that your research has uncovered?

  • Where you gain weight matters. People who gain fat around organs like the gut, liver and heart and get a pot belly are at a greater risk than those who put weight on at the hips.
  • Artificial sweeteners may not be the saviour people think they are. Studies suggest that common sugar substitutes can alter bacteria in the gut and impair metabolism, increasing the risk of the very metabolic diseases that dieters are trying to avoid.
  • Exercise doesn’t reverse the damage of sitting all day. There are strong links between a sedentary lifestyle and heart disease, weight gain and type 2 diabetes.

Can changing your diet and exercise really prevent disease?

The World Health Organization estimates that, if started early enough, lifestyle changes could prevent 80% of all heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, and up to 40% of all cancers.

What is a wellness action plan?

A wellness action plan guides you through making realistic changes to improve your health and wellbeing. It helps identify what action you need to take, how to do it and how to monitor your progress. When treated seriously, a wellness action plan can keep you happy, healthy and active for longer.

The Baker IDI Wellness Plan by the Baker Institute of Heart and Diabetes is published by Penguin Random House and available nationwide for RRP $39.99.

Written by Tom Marwick

Professor Tom Marwick is a cardiologist, researcher and Director and Chief Executive of the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute.

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