Lifestyle choices are our daily habits. There are times when we would love to have an extra helping of mashed potatoes or go back for seconds. These tiny indiscretions present no harm when done infrequently. However, when it happens often, then our lifestyle is changing.
We believe we can make up for our temporary diversions by exercising or not eating later. Many of us think we can correct some bad food choices by dieting. This is not true. Dieting is a temporary attempt to fix something that results from permanent lifestyle choices.
We negotiate our future for a temporary need. One might say, “It’s cold today, therefore I won’t go to the gym.” Or, “I can’t find the right things to eat at home, so I will go to a restaurant.” Maybe even, “I will worry about getting back on schedule tomorrow” (or the next day). We rationalize our daily decisions about food and exercise to our detriment.
The incremental changes we accept daily become a habit. Over time our lifestyle changes, and we change. What worked well at 20 years of age doesn’t work the same at 50 years of age. Metabolic changes and aging affect our body’s energy usage and hormone balance.
The power of our mindset should become our focus to be healthy. The Navy Seals’ slogan, The only easy day was yesterday, should be a motto we live to be healthy. We must control our health by our lifestyle choices.
I consider good health to be a combination of factors. A clean bill of health from your annual physical is foremost. This means that not one test performed during your physical was outside normal standards. I have accomplished this several times over the past decade. It is rare when I have more than two tests our of normal ranges.
There are three additional blood tests that I add to every annual physical. They are c-reactive protein, homocysteine level, and vitamin D. The blood test, c-reactive protein, is a good measure of overall inflammation. It should come as close to zero or unmeasurable. It won’t tell you where the inflammation is coming from, but it will tell you to start looking. It takes decades for a cancer tumor to get large enough to be a problem.
Heart health can be measured in a couple of ways – homocysteine level and the ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids. Homocysteine levels have a safe range between 4.4 and 10.8 micromoles/liter of blood. The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids should be as close to 1.0 as possible.
The typical American diet has a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in double digits. Omega-6 fatty acids are essential for our health. We cannot make them. They must come from the foods we eat. However, excess omega-6 fatty acid becomes inflammatory when the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 exceeds 4.0.
Dietary choices lacking B vitamins results in increased levels of homocysteine. Excessive protein (meat) can increase homocysteine. Sometimes high levels of thyroid hormone cause increased levels of homocysteine. High levels of homocysteine can damage the lining of our arteries. Consistent high levels of homocysteine increase the risk of heart disease.
A vitamin-D test should have results over 50 ng/mL. Some literature suggests that anything between 20 and 50 ng/mL is OK. The newer studies tell us that anything less than 30 ng/mL is not desirable. If you are fighting a disease (cancer, for example), your results should be in the 80-100 ng/mL.
Your weight should be in the normal range for your height. Your exercise levels should be something to brag about – the number of days per week, the total amount of time and the variety of activities performed. As we age, exercise becomes more important. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is an absolute requirement for longevity. Regular cardiovascular exercise is important. As is balance, flexibility, and strength.
Calories are important. The fewer calories you consume with nutritional balance, the longer, healthier life you should live. Many studies have been conducted on animals showing lifespans increased by 10-30% by restricting calories. We need nutritional balance because nutritional deficiencies lead to disease. Fewer calories and balance are optimal for better health.
Stress reduction daily is another absolute. Whether it is exercise, meditation, emotional freedom techniques, or other activity, we need to reduce/release the extra cortisol building up in our bodies by stress.
Good quality sleep is required. Scientists tell us that approximately 8-9 hours of sleep is needed depending on our age. Being in bed for 8 hours tossing and turning is not quality sleep. If you are continually tired during your waking hours, you may not be getting the quality of sleep needed.
Our bodies need time to digest food and process toxins from our bodies fully. Fasting is one of the easiest ways to give the body time to do what it needs to do. Eating several small meals a day is recommended by many in the medical community. However, it keeps your blood sugar levels high and works against you for a longer, healthier life.
pH is a gold mine for determining health. pH is the measure of acidity and alkalinity. 7.0 is neutral. Anything less than 7.0 is acidic. The lower the number, the higher the levels of acid present. Likewise, from 7.0 to 14.0, the level of alkalinity increases as the number goes higher.
pH levels can be tested easily with saliva strips. The foods you eat and the amount of exercise you do determine your body’s pH. Keep it above 7.0 and you should have better health. Disease loves to live in acidic conditions. It fights to survive in alkaline environments.
There are other considerations for good health, but these are at the top of my list. Don’t bet your future health on today’s temporary wants.