4 Cornerstones of a Healthy Life

In order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, we first have to know what it looks like. The four most important aspects of a healthy life are:

  • Eat 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
  • Maintain a body weight that puts your BMI in the 18-25 range.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes 5 or more times per week.
  • Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep nightly.

These habits are the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle. Your body needs these habits in order to properly function. Eliminate one of these cornerstones and you set the body up for sickness and disease in the long run.

Eat 5 servings of vegetables and fruits daily. Vegetable serving size is defined as 1 cup for dark, leafy greens and 1/2 cup for all others. A nice size salad at lunch can easily meet your vegetable intake requirement for the day. Vegetables and fruits serve several functions. First, the majority of our vitamins and minerals are obtained from these foods. Second, they act as a “street sweeper” for the digestive system. Without these foods, the intestinal tract gets gunked up and that interferes with proper absorption of vitamins and minerals. Without these vitamins and minerals, your body lacks the proper building blocks to synthesize the materials it needs for proper functioning. No fruits and vegetables=improper functioning.

Maintain a body weight that puts your BMI in the 18-25 range. This range is considered healthy because of the lower percentage of stored body fat. Anything above this range leads to fat being stored as visceral fat. Visceral fat actually secretes hormones that interfere with the body’s normal functioning. Visceral fat also crowds abdominal organs. This can lead to inflammation. And inflammation is just bad. Bad. Bad. Bad.

Exercise at least 30 minutes 5 days a week. Exercise provides oxygen and oxygen is critical to the body’s energy production process. The body converts glucose into ATP, the body’s fuel. In the presence of oxygen, 1 molecule of glucose produces up to 38 molecules of ATP. Without adequate oxygen, 1 molecule of glucose can only produce 2 molecules of ATP. This is why exercise provides a person with more energy. Exercise creates a deeper breathing pattern, which leads to more oxygen intake which leads to better ATP production. Daily walks can easily satisfy this requirement.

Finally, get 7-8 hours of deep sleep nightly. Sleep is the body’s way of repairing itself and restoring balance. Modern life provides many stimulants that disrupt normal sleep patterns. Caffeine, late eating, and even technology prevent the body from entering its normal sleep cycle. Caffeine acts on the central nervous system up to 12 hours after ingestion. Plan your caffeine intake so it’s out of your system before bedtime. Late eating can lead to digestion occurring during your sleeping hours. The digestive process is active, hindering the body’s normal process of sleep-time repair. And, if you’re tired already, stomach acid production is low, which slows down the digestive process even more. In order to allow your body to hit deep restorative sleep, allow at least 3 hours between your last meal and bedtime. Lastly, our phones, laptops and TVs emit blue light which stimulates the brain. Checking email, playing a game, posting to social media. Any of these things within an hour of bedtime wakes up the brain. You need an hour free of screen time prior to bedtime to allow your brain to return to its baseline before going to sleep. If not, the brain is awake and unable to enter into its proper sleep cycle.

These four cornerstones are the foundation of a healthy life. By creating these habits, you can eliminate many lifestyle diseases, improve your energy levels, as well as improve your mental well-being. Shall we choose health?  I think so.

Til next time. ..

The Power of Choice: How to Take Control of Your Health

Suppose you’re in your thirties and you’re having issues with acid reflux. (The body does start to change once we cross the threshold into our thirties.) Say that you ended up going to the doctor because the acid reflux was so bad it kept you up at night. You’ve exercised the power of choice.

Scenario 1

“So it’s keeping you awake at night?” asks your doctor. “Here’s a prescription for a proton pump inhibitor. It’ll reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces. Take one a day and you’ll be back to your old self in no time.”

“Pop a pill? Feel better? Well, okay doc.” And off to the pharmacy you run.

Sure enough, your doctor was right. You are feeling back to yourself by the end of the week. And, with health insurance, that prescription is only $5. You can’t beat that for feeling good. How’s that for the power of choice?

Fast forward 5 years and you’re at the doc’s office for your annual physical. Your doctor notices your blood pressure has started creeping up. He tells you he wants to put you on a low dose blood pressure medication. You already take an allergy pill and the proton pump inhibitor. So, you tell him you’ll exercise and eat right. And you do. For a while. But, next trip to the doctor, your blood pressure is even higher. So, you take that prescription he’s just written and run off to the pharmacy. Your blood pressure returns to normal so all is well and good.

Another five years goes by. You’ve been feeling a low level anxiety that has crept up on you and it just won’t go away. You try to beat it on your own but finally decide to see your doctor again. He prescribes a selective serotonin uptake inhibitor. An antidepressant. By now, you know how well medications work for you. You take that prescription and head straight to the pharmacy. Again, your doctor was right. You are feeling almost back to yourself by the end of the month. You’ve got this power of choice thing down.

Time marches on. By now, you’ve been taking that proton pump inhibitor for almost 15 years. But there’s something that your doctor and your pharmacist never told you. That proton pump inhibitor can lower the serum magnesium level in the body. Due to this low  level, your arteries begin to harden. Your blood pressure goes up. Your anxiety level increases as your serum magnesium level continues to decrease.

One day, you tell your wife your chest hurts from a bad attack of acid reflux. You’ve been taking your medication but just don’t understand what’s going on. She encourages you to call your doctor. But, hey, work calls. The power of choice. Four days later, you end up in the emergency room because it hasn’t gotten any better. The emergency room doctor puts you through the cardiac protocol. Then you hear the news. The hospital will not release you because you have 70%, 80% and 90% blockage in your 3 major arteries. And the left anterior descending artery has several places where it’s blocked. A stent just won’t work. 48 hours later, you’re in the operating room undergoing quadruple bypass surgery.

Scenario 2

Consider another scenario. You’re back at the starting point with your acid reflux and head to the doctor. “So it’s keeping you awake at night?” asks your doctor. “Here’s a prescription for you . . . . increase your vegetable intake. 2.5 – 5 cups daily and make sure that at least one of those cups is a green, leafy vegetable. Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, leaf lettuce, spinach. Any of those will work. Do this and you’ll start to feel better in no time.”

You take your doctor’s advice and head for the grocery store on the way home. After about 4 days, you start to feel a bit constipated and call the doctor. “Increase your water intake. Half your body weight in ounces should do it.” Sure enough, that straightens things out.

By the end of 2 weeks, not only are you feeling better, but you’ve also noticed that your energy level has increased. You’re feeling so good you start to notice how bad you feel when you eat that junk food. So you start phasing it out.

Five years goes by. You’re loving life because you have the energy you need to handle life’s stresses. In fact, you’ve actively started managing your stress and you know how to step away to destress. You’ve never felt better.  The power of choice.

According to WebMD.com, “All medicines have side effects. But many people don’t feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them.” The FDA has decided that the side effects of any approved medication are worth the benefits that medication provides. What they don’t tell you about is the pharmaceutical spiral that may occur if you don’t actively manage your health.

The Power of Choice is simply this. Your health is the greatest asset you possess. It’s important to understand how the body reacts to what you put into it. It’s also important to understand that the risk for lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, and even cancer can be minimized by following a heart healthy diet. We can live to eat or we can eat to live. The choice belongs to us and there is power in our choices.

For those with heart disease and acid reflux, the following books have been helpful in my home.

“Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” by Caldwell Esselstyn, MD

“The Acid Reflux Solution” by Jorge E. Rodriguez, MD

Tracking Measurements Week Two

One full week under my belt and the lesson for the week is simply this: Tracking measurements is an important part of any weight loss journey.

Tracking Measurements Not Weight

Tracking Measurements Not Weight

We typically rely on the scale to measure our progress. Let’s face it. We have an emotional relationship with that number. If the number goes up, our spirits go down. A morning weigh-in can ruin our entire day. Here’s the thing. Weight fluctuations are completely normal and happen daily for a few reasons. Hormone fluctuations, hydration, exercise, eating habits, and even digestion are reasons why our weight may increase though our calories have decreased.

For instance, carb heavy meals can cause us to retain water because of the blood sugar rise. Constipation can add a few pounds while sweat-inducing exercise can cause us to lose a couple pounds if we’re not replacing the lost fluids. Hormones, too, can cause water retention. When we look at that number on the scale, we’re not just seeing OUR weight. We’re also seeing our water weight.

Tracking measurements along side our weight gives us a better measure of the progress we’re making. While our cells may be retaining a bit of extra water, our measurements will tell the truth about whether we’ve lost fat. If you haven’t already done so, you can Download Your Free Progress Log to help you keep track of your measurements.

This morning, my scale was up. Fortunately, I’d taken my measurements first, so I already knew I’d made progress this week. That number didn’t bother me one bit. So, take a tip from me and measure yourself first on weigh-in days. You’ll see your progress before that scale number can rob you of your joy.

Here’s my stats for the week:

week-2-progress-log

I’ll be back this weekend with some more thoughts on meal prep. If you’d like me to address a particular topic, please leave a comment.

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