Humans have never been sicker than they are right now. Today we have more drugs, more technology, more medical advances and yet chronic diseases are killing approximately 3 out of every 4 people in the developed world!1 The amazing thing is that chronic diseases, or non- communicable diseases as they are called in medical terms, are all caused by life style choices, the wrong ones! Which means if we change our choices, we change our health outcomes. In this article we’ll look a four things you can do to improve your health forever.
As we all know, change is not something we enjoy, so before starting it’s important to take some time to consider how important our health is. Consider this: what will it benefit you to be the richest person in the world but to be chronically ill in hospital with little hope of recovery? Or, what is the point of having all the toys you could wish for but being too sick to enjoy them? Or, what good will that promotion do you if it takes a heart attack to achieve it? We need to take a good look at our priorities, what we spend our time and money on. Health ought to be one of our top priorities. Without it, everything else is pretty meaningless.
It’s important to remember that our health is our responsibility, not the doctor’s. Too often people think they can neglect their health and then, when something goes wrong, visit the doctor and expect an instant cure. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Good health needs to be worked at, just like a relationship, a career or a sport/hobby.
So what are the four things you can do to improve your health forever? Diet, exercise, supplementation and changing our mindset. These four things have been scientifically proven to bring significant, lasting improvements to our heath. What is exciting is that none of them is difficult or complicated and we can all implement them in our lives. Let’s look at each one in detail.
Some scientists say that a poor diet is a greater indicator of poor health than smoking! We are what we eat is not an old wives tale, it’s a scientific truth! Unfortunately, in this day of excessive information there is a lot of confusion about what a good diet is. There are so many fads, opinions and people pushing agendas that it’s difficult to separate the facts from the hype. Eating a sensible diet of mainly fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains, with sufficient good fats and proteins, while cutting down on sugars, processed, packaged, convenience, precooked and fast foods is the answer.
Good examples of a healthy diet are the Mediterranean2, DASH3 and MIND4 diets. A recent review of diets by a panel of leading experts found that nutrient specific diets, like keto and Atkins are great for weight loss, but they are not as effective for long term health improvement. They commented “….. it’s best to focus on sustainable changes rather than quick fixes.”. Everyone is different and some people will thrive on a high protein diet while others will do better on a high unrefined carb diet.
The key to healthy eating is nutrient diversity5, not calorie counting, weighing, food combining, etc. Nutrient density simply means eating a large variety of nutrient rich foods, like fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fresh fish and lean organic meats. The bigger the variety, the more different nutrients (vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, phytonutrients, etc.) you’ll be giving your body. For more info on this please read my blogs on Understanding Nutrition.
There are some exciting new studies that show just how much improving one’s diet can contribute to improved health and vitality:
- Getting more plant protein may help women avoid cancer, diabetes and other conditions6
- Changing your diet is one of the biggest ways to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease7
- How dietary factors influence disease risk8
- Eating a healthy diet can reduce the risk of developing dementia by 88% and Alzheimer’s by 92%9
The bottom line is that diet is one of the four things you can do to improve your health forever.
The next of the four things you can do to improve your health forever is exercise. Humans were designed to move, but modern lifestyles have turned us into sedentary creatures, with adverse effects on our health. Weight gain, due to inactivity and poor diet, is one of the most important factors associated with chronic disease. In fact, some health authorities are calling ‘sitting the new smoking’. Getting off the couch can do wonders for your health and lifespan. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise, something as simple as a brisk 30 minute walk daily can add years to your lifespan and make dramatic improvements to your health.
A new study10 of a half-million people found substantial increased risk of death in individuals who sit most of the day at work. The risk was even greater for cardiovascular disease. HOWEVER, the researchers found that just moving intermittently, even for as little as 15 minutes throughout the day, appears to mitigate the risk, as does regular exercise.
The Nurses Study, one of the world’s largest and longest ongoing studies, has some remarkable conclusions about the benefits of exercise and long term health. These are just a few of their findings:11
Moderate physical activity
- reduces risk and improves survival in breast cancer patients
- reduces risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke
- reduces risk of colon cancer
- reduces risk of hip fractures
- reduces risk of cognitive decline
Alzheimer’s and dementia are increasing at alarming rates and we all know someone who has been afflicted. Nothing can be sadder than seeing an otherwise healthy loved one reduced to a vegetable because they have lost their mind. There are many studies12,13 showing that regular exercise can mitigate the effects and even help prevent cognitive decline. One study showed that just a 40 minute brisk walk 3 times a week can make a huge difference.14
Being active can make a massive difference to our quality of life, add years to our lifespans and prevent years of ill health when we’re older. So the message is – start exercising NOW.
it’s a sad fact that the quality of our foods is not what it used to be. Modern farming methods, depleted soils, artificial fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides all reduce the nutrient value of our foods. Tied to this is the fact that the majority of people live in urban areas, necessitating the transport and storage of foods before we can buy them. This further depletes nutrients. For more on this see my blog on Understanding Nutrition Part 2. So no matter how well we eat, there will always be a gap between what nutrients we should be getting and what is actually in our food. This makes supplementing a wise choice and one of the four things you can do to improve your health forever.
More and more evidence is emerging on the benefits of supplementing. A brand new study15 shows that taking a multivitamin daily delayed cognitive ageing by about two years.
Here are just a few studies showing the benefits of supplementing, there are many more:
- A review of studies suggests that CoQ10 is a promising treatment for heart failure16
- Probiotics linked to lower rates of allergies in kids17
- Study shows that Omega 3 oil protects the brain from the negative effects of junk foods18
- New study shows that Vitamin C may lower the effects of air pollution19
- Omega 3s inhibit breast cancer growth20
- Carotenoids help reduce breast cancer risk21
- An Australian study shows that Vit B3 (nicotinamide) helps prevent skin cancer22
- Women taking Vitamin E had a 24% reduction in cardiovascular death rates23
There are thousands of supplements on the shelves, how do you go about choosing a good one?
1. Look for supplements that are manufactured from organic, whole food sources rather than synthetic ones. Despite what the pharmaceutical industry tells you, there is a difference in how the body absorbs and utilizes natural vs synthetic nutrients.
2. Support companies that have independent oversight checking the quality of their products. The fact that a company says that it has scientists working for them means nothing. If they’re being paid by the company, they will say what they’re told to say.
3. Choose a company that has real science, published in peer reviewed scientific journals, backing their product claims. Many companies will quote studies done on nutrients as proof of their product’s effectiveness. This doesn’t mean that the same applies to their product, the study needs to be done on the product itself.
4. Look for a company that manufactures their products from the raw materials up. For example, most protein powder manufacturers buy ingredients and blend their own recipes, rather than making the protein from scratch. The bulk of ingredients are sourced from the cheapest suppliers, mostly from China, who have a terrible quality record.
5. Lastly, look for a company that adheres to international industry standards and better still, international pharmaceutical standards.
At first glance this may seem like a strange idea for improving our health, but there’s lots of science backing it. How we think determines how our lives turn out, including our health. Just take a look at what science has to say about this:
- A study showed that being stressed raises inflammatory markers even more than being depressed, but being cynical and negative was even worse! Not only did being cynical result in mental inflexibility, but it causes a parallel loss of physical flexibility, increasing the risk of arthritis for instance. It also shortens life span!24
- Another study showed that mind control can help modulate neurogenic inflammation, which can shorten telomeres and subsequently lifespan.25
- A study from University of Wisconsin discovered that people who dwelt on negative issues had a reduced immune response to a flu shot.26 The same study showed that those who habitually thought negatively had a 300% increased risk of getting a cold!
- Another study reveals that depressed elderly people have fewer lymphocytes and T-cells – white blood cells crucial for fighting disease.27
Having a positive, upbeat attitude, being able to laugh at ourselves and our challenges, and being grateful for all our blessings will ensure a happier, healthier and longer life. See my book Real Success for more on this.
In conclusion, these are four things you can do to improve your health forever. The choice is ours and it’s exciting – because it’s in our control. Here’s to a happy, healthy, long life!!
11. https://www.nurseshealthstudy.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/table v2.pdf