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Is your body benefiting from your healthy habits?

Sarah Kelsey is a lifestyle writer, editor and spokesperson based in Toronto. She was the editor of AOL/The Huffington Post Canada’s StyleList, Style and Living sites. Today, she's a freelancer writing for some of North America’s top pub...

Timeline for healthy habits

Whether you're trying to beat stress or build strong bones, taking care of yourself is one of the most important resolutions you can make. The only problem? Without tangible evidence (glowing skin or increased muscle tone), it can be difficult to tell if your body's benefiting from your healthy habits. To help, we've compiled a timeline of how long it takes your body to reap some of the most common health rewards. It's faster than you may expect.

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1Repair of skin cell damage

How long it will take to notice a difference: One week (depending on the extent of your skin's damage).

Why it matters: Free radicals (the sun, pollution) can cause irreparable damage to your skin and not taking care of it can lead to permanent negative skin conditions, including wrinkles, swelling and, in the worst cases, skin cancer.

What you should be doing now: Loading up on antioxidant-rich foods and fruits packed with vitamins A, C and E will boost your body's healing ability and will stave off skin infections.

2Lower your blood pressure

How long it will take to notice a difference: One week.

Why it matters: High blood pressure is one of the main contributors to heart disease and stroke.

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What you should be doing now: Upping your intake of healthy fruits and vegetables, especially those loaded with potassium and antioxidants, can drastically reduce your hypertension levels in as little as a week.

3Beat stress

How long it will take to notice a difference: One hour.

Why it matters: Anxiety, stress and depression can all adversely affect your health (from how strong your heart is to the way your skin glows), so it's important to find ways to reduce the negative stressors in your life.

What you should be doing now: Reducing your stress level can be as easy as popping B-vitamins (known to boost the body's feel good chemicals like dopamine) or writing in a journal. Some of the best foods you can eat? Fish, nuts, bananas and legumes.

4Boost your memory

How long it will take to notice a difference: One month.

Why it matters: Recent research shows exercising your brain and getting enough folate in your diet is not only important for staving off degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, it can also improve cognition (like memory and how fast you can do a crossword or solve a math puzzle).

What you should be doing now: By eating a diet rich in leafy greens or dark-skinned fruits, you'll be giving your brain the nutrients it needs to regenerate and repair. Another idea? Play games (like word games or puzzles) to increase your brain's reaction time.

5Build strong bones

How long it will take to notice a difference: Over one year.

Why it matters: Upping your intake of calcium, a mineral that the most common nutrient deficiency affecting women across North America, is an important way to reduce your risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures.

What you should be doing now: It takes a long time for your body to absorb and use the vitamin D and calcium you ingest to heal and repair damaged bones. Getting your daily dose of calcium by eating dairy or calcium-fortified foods is essential.


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