Opinion

Lifestyle As Medicine

Create a healthy and happy life just by viewing health as a habit.

Chronic illnesses account for 75% of the $2.2 trillion we spend on health care each year in the U.S.$327 billion: The amount spent treating Diabetes. $316 billion: the amount spent on Cardiovascular Disease. $1.65 trillion spent to treat chronic disease each year. So what are we buying with this kind of money? Good health? A happier and longer life?Unfortunately clinical care is associated with only 20% of the health outcomes emerging from the US. The larger counterpart of 80% is directly related to health behaviors, socioeconomic status and physical environment, in other words our lifestyle choices.Using medication to battle chronic disease might put a band-aid but rarely brings us back to a state of resilience and well-being.

A New Paradigm

A recent study concluded that only 3% of the US population is considered to be healthy. Typically being healthy sounds very hard. The truth is that if we just need to change 4 things. The 4 factors were never smoking, being in a body mass index of 27 or lower (not obese) , performing 30 minutes of physical activity (yes this includes walking) a day and adhering to nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain bread and low meat consumption.

At some point we need to realize that visiting the doctor once a year to get the same old "Eat less junk food" or "Exercise for 60 minutes a day" or  "Sleep more" isn't good enough.

So we focus on the future of medicine. Lifestyle as medicine.

Lifestyle As Medicine

An interesting case study is the one of the people living in Ikaria, a Greek Island.

Health researchers have long praised the Mediterranean diet for promoting brain and physical health and keeping chronic diseases at bay. So what makes the diet of the people on Ikaria, a small island in the Aegean Sea, so special? People in Ikaria are known to live 90 years on average.

"Their tradition of preparing the right foods, in the right way, I believe, has a lot to do with the island's longevity"                                               
                                                                                                                                 Dan Buettner

In fact, Ikarians enjoy spending long periods of time wlaking their sheep and goats in warm places which demonstrates an active lifestyle.

And "what set it apart from other places in the region was its emphasis on potatoes, goat's milk, honey, legumes (especially garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas, and lentils), wild greens, some fruit and relatively small amounts of fish."

Ikaria has a few more "top longevity foods:" feta cheese, lemons and herbs like sage and marjoram that Ikarians use in their daily tea. What's missing that we usually associate with Greece? Lamb. The Ikarians do eat some goat meat, but not often.

The most interesting thing though is that they all reinforce these healthy habits, as a team. Ikarians are the proof that living in a healthy ecosystem with like minded people makes it so much easier to develop a healthy lifestyle.

Nutrition

Taking incremental steps to eventually building a healthy lifestyle is beneficial for many reasons. The first one is sustainability. Remember that crazy diet you were fed up with after 2 weeks? Well thats because a diet tries to change who we are and our habits. On the other hand, taking the time to educate ourselves about what and the way we eat can help us reach a sustainable, tasty and healthy diet. It's definitely fine to have a cheat meal or a cheat day to treat yourself. That's called being human. But having a healthy and sustainable diet can reap many health benefits such as lower the risk of chronic disease. In fact, men with Type-2 diabetes went back to a normal blood sugar level after altering to a high carbohydrate and fiber nutrition. It took only 16 days. In another study, a plant-based nutrition achieved coronary artery disease (CAD) arrest and reversal.

We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one

Exercise

Exercise has numerous benefits, impacting not only your physique but also your mental health and physical health. Increased physical activity has been proven to have a reduction in relative risk of death. Physically inactive people (i.e. engaging in less than 1 hour of exercise per week) experienced an increase in all-cause mortality, doubling of cardiovascular-related deaths and an increase in cancer-related deaths. These relative risks are similar to those for hypertension, hypercholesterolemia and obesity, and they approach those associated with moderate cigarette smoking.

The positive aspect to this is that an increase in physical fitness will reduce the risk of premature death, the effect appears to be graded such that even small improvements in physical fitness will result in a significant reduction in risk. Plus, it can give you a boost in energy and lead to better sleep!

You don’t have to run a marathon every day, either — even just 30 minutes of walking can offer significant rewards. The best way to increase your physical activity is to make it part of your daily plan and schedule it in your day!

But what's the best type of exercise?

The one you enjoy most, but also the one you can easily incorporate into your daily schedule. What’s important is that you're engaging in an activity where you're  breathing rapidly or sweating.

It shouldn't be as hard as running weekly marathons. Overworking your body is not a good idea. If you think about a car, why is it that no one wants to buy a car with one hundred thousand miles on the odometer? Because it has been driven too much. So make sure you are also resting enough and enjoying the process. Remember, sustaining our healthy habits is the most important thing of all!

Stress Management

It’s normal to feel stressed from time to time, but high stress levels can leave you vulnerable to a number of health conditions and problems, like depression and elevated blood pressure to name a few. In our busy lifestyles, it can be easy to forget an important activity - resting.

Our bodies simply aren’t built for spending all day working without a break. Over time, the lack of rest will drain your energy (and enthusiasm) and you'll likely burn out, thereby killing your productivity altogether. But you can easily mitigate this by making sure you build in some structured rest time in your day.

Find a relaxing activity, and set aside some time every day to do it as part of your daily routine.

Meditation in particular has an exponential effect on the restorative effect a few minutes each day can have. Like exercise, regular meditation has plenty of benefits, including stress reduction. Regular meditation practice is proven to reduce blood pressure and lower cortisol, which in turn helps to increase focus and make you happier.

As human beings, we are social animals. Hence, a sense of belonging is important for our mental state. Depending on your goals, finding people with similar goals and mindset will help motivate and create a safe space for you all your ideas and ambitions without the input of negative energy and judgement.

Sign up for Early Access to our healthy community and let's partner up with people with the same health goals!

Sleep

Consistent, adequate and quality sleep is the best natural 'drug' we have to improve our health. It might seem obvious, but if you want to feel your best, then you must get enough and consistent sleep. But it's not enough to just aim for a sleep time. Getting your body to a state of sleep is a trained condition and a state that requires consistency to accomplish.

For example, your body naturally gets energized according to the chronotype you fall into and this will also determine what time you'll be primed to fall asleep. If you don't follow a consistent sleep pattern and don't know what your body's natural time is, you'll find yourself struggling with sleep and possibly end up chronically sleep deprived.

Read more about the Circadian Rhythm

The easiest way to be healthy is to view health as a habit. Decide what healthy activities you like and plan them out in your week. Even better, explore new ones! Building a healthy regiment that you love is what will make it sustainable and enjoyable. Create a healthy and fun lifestyle, your lifelong medicine.

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