Our health is without a doubt our most important asset.
And with our busy lives, even given the resources we have at hand, it is sometimes difficult to maintain good health.
But it is even more difficult if we need to recover it, once we experience disease, or begin to accumulate toxins in our bodies as we age.
Fighting chronic illness has become a common pass time in our society. Chronic diseases accounting for at least 70% of the deaths in America, HALF of which are preventable.
Most people understand now that obesity and type 2 diabetes have become an epidemic, as is cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
But with a focus on five key areas of health, you should be in good shape to age gracefully and without illness, dependent on prescription drugs and in chronic pain.
And if you are in poor health, it takes the willingness to make some critical changes, taking small steps consistently, which will eventually result in turning your health around.
I have written about these topics in individually, but although this article is by far my longest ever, I think it may be helpful to highlight the top five areas that we should continually be focusing on.
I. Emotional Health
This is number one for a very good reason. Thousands of studies have shown for hundreds of years a profound connection between the mind and body.
As many physicians know, the brain controls the genes, the cells, the entire body.
And your mental attitude is absolutely key to your ability to maintain good health, heal, and fight disease.
Mental and emotional stress have a great deal to do with the deterioration of our physical condition.
In fact, there are definite physiological effects that have been studied and documented over the years.
Sleep is another important factor in maintaining your emotional and physical health.
It is in my honest opinion that the second most important thing you can do to invest in your health is to ensure that you do get enough sleep.
There is significant evidence that there is a link between lack of sleep and obesity, cancer, heart disease and diabetes just to name a few.
Your body needs proper sleep in order to make use of the nutrients you consume. Studies show that we need at least 7 hours of sleep a night.
Sleep is responsible for cellular and nervous system repair and muscle building, increases energy level and strength, improves skin tone and even vision. It is also vital to the functioning of the digestive system.
III. Staying Hydrated
Water comprises two thirds of the body’s mass. It is the most necessary element for survival next to air.
Water is required for the elimination of toxins and waste through the digestive system, lymph system, liver, kidneys, and sweat glands.
It also promotes metabolism, provides oxygen to cells, and fills spaces inside/between cells for healthy skin & toned muscle.
So, in fact it was a struggle not to put this one as #1 in rank of importance, and probably should be!
Deficiencies in water can result in excess body fat, poor muscle tone, digestive diseases, muscle pain, and water-retention.
How much water should you be consuming?
IV. Reducing your Toxic Load, Oxidative Stress and Inflammation
This is a huge topic because the impact of your compounded toxicity without the level of nutrition that we truly need is what is at the root of disease due to the oxidative stress and resulting chronic inflammation at the cellular level.
Your toxic load, coupled with prolonged periods of stress, lack of sleep, hydration and exercise (our last key), the risk of disease is more than double what it would be if all of these keys were utilized.
What happens with toxicity is the same thing that happens with oxidation, which occurs naturally as we burn energy.
Our cells release their waste by-product which is more concentrated with a higher sugar and fat content in our foods.
Between the oxidative stress and other toxic buildup, a rampant domino affect of free radical damage occurs. Free radicals are molecules that because they are missing an electron, steal it from nearby cells which damages all of the cells’ components, the proteins, lipids and DNA.
When our bodies fight injury, inflammation is the natural mechanism which kicks our healing capabilities into action.
And chronic inflammation is known to be at the root of many categories of preventable diseases.
Evolution has provided anti-oxidants in the plant life that we consume. Anti-oxidants are the protective mechanism that stops the production of free radicals in the body, and prevents the resulting chronic inflammation.
A balance of essential minerals, electrolytes, and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids also facilitate a proper balance of hormones that regulate the inflammatory response.
And fiber, the most important cleansing agent aside from water, helps our bodies to process the nutrients, absorb the anti-oxidants and is the one most important aspect to your colon health. And our health is, as it is often said, begins in the colon!
So to reduce our toxic load, aside from limiting toxic exposures (household chemicals, food packaging and preservatives, pesticides, herbicides, smoke and air pollution), we really need to ramp up our intake of anti-oxidants, natural anti-inflammatory compounds, get our required fiber intake, and balance our essential fatty acids.
The obvious choice to make is to eat more whole, fresh fruit and vegetables. Eat a variety of color so that you get as many of the tens of thousands of phytonutrients available.
Secondly, eat more complex carbohydrates and less meat protein and saturated fats. And finally, supplement your diet with good quality anti-oxidants and phytonutrients.
V. Exercise, Stretching and Breathing
The last and not least important investment that you can make in your living a healthy life is getting enough exercise.
This includes cardiovascular, strength training (resistance or weight training), stretching and breathing.
Cardiovascular exercise is known to be necessary for good heart health and circulation, preventing hypertension and other circulatory conditions. Just 20 minutes a day of walking, yard work or house work combined can suffice.
An increase of heart rate is desired for at least 10 minutes at a time, but not advisable for more than 20 minutes at a time without the supervision of a physician, coach or physical trainer.
Strength training builds muscle and bone mass, enhancing strength and balance and aiding in the prevention of osteoporosis.
Weight training should be done beginning with small weights and gradually increasing, and under the guidance of a coach or health practitioner.
Pilates is also a good method of strength training, particularly in the core region. At least a day of rest in between sessions is needed for your muscles to properly regenerate.
Stretching, such as with yoga, is critical for circulation and balance. It keeps the joints flexible, improves circulation, and decreases stress.
Deep, slow breathing is also a great stress reducer, and also improves circulation.
Many ancient practices are based on breath, which is as a matter of fact the closest link between the mind and body. Specific exercises are practiced for targeting various parts of the body.
Which brings us back to the mental and physical connection. With exercise, stretching and breathing comes a better feeling, endorphin release, and mind-body connection.
All of these areas require attention, and changes can be affected a little at a time.
The key is persistence and belief that the results will come, albeit sometimes not as quickly as we’d like. But you should immediately notice a difference if you change a bit of something in each of these areas.
Be in the best of health to enjoy the best of life!