I’ve been doing what I do for almost 20 years now. It was almost 27 years ago that I turned my own life around and said goodbye to overweight and high blood pressure. I made my success my passion and became a personal fitness trainer, and then subsequently got coaching certifications in lifestyle coaching, wellness coaching and a specialty certification in behavioral change coaching. Over the duration of these 20 years I have tried to make it my priority to stay educated in what I do, including nutrition and have taken many courses over that time. I have learned through both my learning and through my experience that there are many things that work for one person but not for another and that it is imperative to stick within the bounds of good and current science when helping people with their physical and mental health. I consider my self indeed fortunate to have worked with people of all ages, genders and backgrounds and have been able to help them achieve a better life by achieving better health.
So, here’ the thing. I’m frustrated! When one looks at the state of health care today, it’s a mixed bag. On the one hand, look what we’ve been able to accomplish. Our life expectancy has been increasing steadily for 120 years with only two exceptions. In 1900 in the United States the average was about 48 years and now it is more than 76. We can cure many cancers today and we have medicines, vaccinations, and surgical procedures that save lives. Many diseases that devastated lives and families only 50 or 60 years ago are all but eradicated in the Western world. But then there is the other side of this story. Life expectancy dropped last year—they are blaming obesity and overweight more than anything else and predict this trend to continue in the near future. We still view medicine as fixing problems rather than preventing them to begin with. We are fatter and lazier than ever and those are the two biggest contributors to most of the disease we are experiencing in adult life and heart disease isn’t really diminishing in spite of the statins prescribed by doctors for cholesterol. Our doctors have done a great job extending our lives, but how is the quality of that extended life? There is so much overwhelming scientific evidence about how to lead a healthy life that is mostly ignored. So, I’ve been thinking about all these things and would like to share some of them with you, my readers.
I’ve been thinking about food and nutrition….
One of the things about people like me and your friendly dietician is that we are in an ever-evolving field. As time goes on, more and more research is completed and reexamined and we can draw conclusions. The first conclusion is that no two people are the same. There is no perfect diet for the population as a whole, but we do know the basic parameters of what healthy eating is. That means that we have to avoid some foods pretty much completely, reduce others, increase some and make sure to eat other no matter what. There are things out there on the shelves of your supermarket that cause great harm to your health. Stay away! Avoid all trans-fats (margarine, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils). It is a leading cause of heart disease. Saturated fats may not be the best choice, but it’s not the culprit that they told us it was a few years back for heart disease. It’s the Trans—don’t consume it and avoid high fructose corn syrup or sucrose—they’re everywhere and will contribute to diabetes and heart disease and will mess up your hunger response. And it’s everywhere—check your ketchup and tomato/pasta sauces and soft drinks!
It’s not just what you don’t eat. You also NEED to consume an abundant amount and a variety of vegetables and fruit too. Eat more seeds and some more nuts and it’s long overdue to put away products made from white flour. Keep your white rice, bread and pastas to a minimum and increase your use of whole grains of all types. Omega 3 filled fish is also of great importance. Why is all this important? It is among the most important things you can do for yourself to prevent heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer. Yes, preventable, all of it!
I’ve been thinking about activity and exercise….
There is no more powerful tool for your overall health than exercise and activity. Study after study has shown how it prevents and even can cure diabetes and high blood pressure. It is a key tool for depression and anxiety and most of all, it keeps us fit and functional and gives us energy. The number one risk factor for all-cause mortality is lack of cardiovascular fitness. This doesn’t mean you need to run long distances or run at all. Brisk walking, biking, swimming, jump roping are all valuable. Are we all so busy that we can’t fit in 35 minutes a day so that we can stay healthy? Can you possibly find 15 minutes 2x a week to do some resistance exercise? That’s all it takes to make a big difference. To an extent, a little more could be better but this can do the trick. And when you get good at it, throw in some intensity and move faster and further. Your odds of avoiding serious health issues goes way up and your mood will greatly improve as well.
I’ve been thinking about Cholesterol….
When are we going to start paying attention to the prime causes of heart attacks and stroke and put this to rest once and for all? Cholesterol became a prime culprit because if was one of the first readings we could take a blood test for. But we need cholesterol and that so-called evil doer LDL cholesterol can also be broken down into big and small particles and even if yours is high how do you know if it’s the better or worse stuff? Very low LDL, after they drug you up can have devastating side effects including increasing your chance of hemorrhagic stroke and can possibly be linked to Parkinson’s disease. Low LDL is also being investigated in regard to causing some cancers. Big pharm certainly benefits from keeping this in the limelight. The calculators devised to see your heart disease risk and who should take a statin drug or not for lowering cholesterol in the United States don’t even include your activity and exercise levels so something does not add up. Yes, keep an eye on it but think twice about taking a statin drug to reduce it. We’ll get back to that subject at another time.
In Part 2 of this article we will see what I have been thinking about the doctor and diets among other things in order to “add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.”