- Your Quality of Life is just as important as how long you live.
- If you don't do it now, it won't get done
- The effects of some choices may not be reversible
- It's easier to make the right choices now versus later.
- It goes beyond you: future generations.
1. Longevity is about aging well.If you've ever been to a nursing home, you may find yourself surrounded with delightful people blessed with long life, but not necessarily good health. Sometimes the pain has made them bitter, and other times it brings out their sweet spirit. Obviously most of us want to live a full life, and be able to raise our children, see our grandchildren, and perhaps even our great grandchildren. While the greatest health care system in the world might be able to keep you alive that long, but not necessarily happy, healthy, and enjoying life. Watching my Great Grandma slowly waste away was hard for our family, and we can all vouch for the fact that she was bitter and in pain - not a happy woman! She smoked right up until the time she was taken to the hospital (where she died within two days) and her diet was horrendous, though pill bottles lined her cookie-filled shelves. Longing long does not mean living well. What steps will you take to prevent digressing health in later years? It is a decision you will have to make soon!
2. You can only run on empty for so longConsider your body an engine. Whatever you put into it, you will get out. Filling your engine with "empty" fuel, or even harmful substances, you are going to sputter out and your machinery will stop working, perhaps even in catastrophic ways. But since the body is so masterfully designed, it can take a lot of flack for a while without you feeling the full impact. Liver damage rarely presents its self in the immediate, shooting fashion that spraining your ankle would. And yet it is much more serious. Faithfully, your body works to sort through the fuel you put into it every day, and it does a good job. But just because you don't feel too bad now, doesn't mean you won't reap what you sow! There is only so long your body is able to put up with you. Ever wonder why it is so easy to recover from an injury when you're young, when the same fall for someone 30-40 years older might be serious to fatal? Let's look at the nature of the aging-process:
Most people consider life from your birth on, but your own individual, personal DNA - providing information for everything you need for your individual life - came into being at the instant of conception. In fact, you aren't even finished developing when you are welcomed into the world via mommy. Your brain, for example, is not fully constructed - "fleshed out" - until 25, when it stops regenerating. so from age "zero" to twenty-five, if you regularly dehydrate and deplete your brain of proper nutrients and fatty-acids, pollute it with excessive drinking or drugs, you will suffer later! The
same is true for almost every other function in your body.
Your joints and bones will only regenerate themselves for so long before they need support outside of themselves. Athletes often have severe joint, bone, and tendon issues later in life since they only worked on maintaining health instead of fully replenishing their bodies after exerting so much effort, and requiring their system to go into over-drive to keep them functioning up to their active-body demands. That's why I make sure I invest in high-quality vitamins and don't leave my body wanting in the basics before I'm seriously dependent on these supplements, like so many middle-aged persons I talk to. I don't want my "regenerating years" to be used up maintaining my basic structure and daily functions. I want to save my "get out of jail free card" for when I really need it; when my body starts slowing down and relying on my healthy habits to support it more and more.
3. The point of no return?The absolute worst tactic for motivation is the scare-factor. It might work for a while, but I would rather see people confidently taking control of their situation. But their are some things you may need to know about the scary results of a reckless youth.
In my previous point (2), I stated that the body can only regenerate its self for so long (usually age "zero" to 25 or 30) until it needs support to run without serious malfunctions. Here I'll touch on how certain activities can degrade upon your health, perhaps permanently.
1. Stress - It's hard not to be stressed in the 21st century! And I need not go into detail about what stress is, and what causes us to "stress out." It is fair enough to say that we all know how that feels! But how does stress work? When you are in a tense situation, your body senses that it needs to up its performance - literally a "fight or flight" reaction, no matter how simple the cause of your stress. Your adrenal glands release cortisol, which tells your brain that it needs to go into "survival mode." Your brain tells your blood pressure to go up, which pumps your muscles full of oxygen, so that you are able to defend yourself, or turn and flee for your life. When there is so much re-direction of your body's fuel (oxygen) your immune system gets left out, because that is pretty much the last thing on your mind... literally. Other things such as rebuilding your body (bones, brain cells, skin, etc.) are also put on hold, which is fine if this adrenaline rush is not a common part of your day-to-day life. But cortisol is also a problem, because too much of it damages your hippocampus - the part of your brain that recalls memories, and stores new ones. Your body will then release another hormone to calm you back down. Your body is very efficient, and can take care of most problems easily enough, and amazingly well. But when stress becomes part of your 24/7 routine, pair that with decreased sleep, you may start to harm your limbic system, which is essential for social function. You may notice you are moody, fatigued, fidgety, gaining weight, work harder but get less done, get sick easier, and look older - to name a few - simply because your body is pre-occupied. But in the long-run, stress can play a part in Dementia and Alzheimer's disease, which are reported to be irreversible.
2. Drugs/Alcohol - whether prescription or illegal, drugs can have detrimental and even deadly effects on your health. Even though a prescription drug could save your life, try and stay away from them if at all possible. Usually the only reason someone absolutely needs pharmaceuticals is for a severe genetic disease, or if their condition is untreated to the point of total toxicity. However, even in the necessary cases for a prescribed or over-the-counter drug, it will also have a long, long list of side effects. I hope that I do not come across as fearful and ignorant of the advancement and benefit of pharmaceuticals, but they should - in my humble opinion - be saved for emergencies, and not doled out to everyone with a health complaint. Illegal drugs should be avoided all-together, including cigarettes. My first concern is your liver. Your liver is like your filter. Everything you put into your body - whether you eat it, breath it, or absorb it through your skin - has to go through your liver. Drinking excessively, doing drugs, or even eating unhealthily will take a toll on your liver, and unless your filter is dealt with gently and cleaned out every once in a while, your body will suffer.
Drinking alcohol dehydrates your brain, which is made up almost entirely of water. It also dilutes your blood, and causes your blood capillaries to swell, making you feel warm, while at the same time making your blood thick and sluggish, inhibiting good circulation. Too much of this will cut off a good supply of necessary nutrition to parts of your body. Causing a host of problems. The side-effects of drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol are too numerous to list here. If you are addicted and need help, please contact a hotline.
3. Poor Diet - that is really a catch-all phrase that can mean many, many things. But first I'd like to clear up some misconceptions about the word "diet." Most people think it means "trying to lose weight," whereas in reality, diet is simply what your food intake consists of. Your diet could be cake and Mt. Dew, or it could be organic meats and vegetation. It's that simple! Diet is the food you eat, not your intentions for eating them. With that being said, let's move on.
The food pyramid - developed in the 80's - recommends lots of grains, fruits, and vegetables, moderate protein, and minimal fat and animal products. But overloading your body with carbs can create insulin resistance, leading to diabetes, which is linked to heart disease. Sugars and carbohydrates increase inflammation in the body, which is the root of 80% of known diseases. Carbs are also Candida's (a certain fungus') preferred fuel, which causes infection and skin problems, not to mention indigestion, inhibiting nutrition from being absorbed. While carbohydrates are definitely NOT the enemy, too many - and the wrong kinds - can urge your body down the wrong path. Instead, I would encourage a higher level of high quality fats and proteins. Protein is the building block for all of life. Every single part of our body needs the amino acids that protein is made up of, and every single function in the body relies on them. While it is possible to get enough complete protein (complete = containing all 17 essential amino acids) from plant sources alone, it is difficult, and very easy to skimp on. High quality, organic, animal sourced protein is rich in amino acids, vitamins, enzymes, and minerals, proving to be an incredible health food. But it your own decision to make whether you prefer herbivorous or carnivorous protein sources. I, myself, enjoy both. Which brings us to the last food-group: fat! This nutrient has been villainized as the "health demon" to run away from at all costs. But there is absolutely n evidence to support that fat is bad for our health. In fact, the opposite is true. There is overwhelming proof that fat is the proverbial "fountain of youth." Before you take me for a quack, let me differentiate between fat, and its impostor. Trans fat is the big bad monster that has wiggled its way into the very core of our diet. Fast food, margarine, bread spreads, fried foods, and pre-packaged foods reek of trans fats, which is really just a plain old vegetable oil injected with chemicals. This being said, let's move on and talk about the benefits of real fat. It develops the brain, cleans the arteries, coats the nerves (reducing stress), lowers triglycerides, and raises your metabolism. It repairs your joints, promotes healthy skin and hair, aids in digestion, preserves your reproductive system, and helps your immune system stay strong and on-task. Plus more!
4. Don't get stuck in that rut!When I was a child, my dad would often care for his boss's horses and other animals when they were on vacation. I'd get up at 5am and we'd drive out to their country home on several acres of open pastures and wooded paths. After all the chores were done, Dad would get out the four-wheeler, and we'd hit the trails! After a heavy rain, the paths would be solid mud. Going through them once or twice wasn't too hard, but when the tire-treads were set, there was no going to either the right or the left. Our course was determined by our first one or two rides. If we tried to blaze a new trail, we would likely get stuck or even tip over. Habits are very similar! Generations upon generations have kept the same traditions, made the same kind of food the same way, and hold to the same religions.
We are creatures of habit - no wonder we are sometimes scared to try something new or different! Some people jump at the chance to travel, or try new foods. Others are home-bodies, but are willing to follow each European trend, fresh from Prague. Perhaps someone else is fairly plain and modest in fashion, but doesn't mind zip-lining, parachuting, or rock-climbing. But another is afraid of heights, and simply enjoys meeting new people. Everyone is different, so each person will have to take different measures to incorporate a healthier habit in their life, or to kick an unhealthy habit.
Maybe your "next step" is to upgrade your multi vitamin to an organic, food-based multi, versus a synthetic, drug-store vitamin. Maybe your first step is simply to walk into a health food store and not feel overwhelmed. For others, it could be completely cutting out sugar or simple carbohydrates from their diet, or signing up for the local 5k fundraiser run/walk. You know what you need to do, and don't be discouraged by how far you think you have to go. Just put on your shoes and take the first step. (And while you're at it, take a leisurely walk around the neighborhood, and don't forget to stop and smell the roses.)
5. Your body, your health, your life... aren't just yours.What is one thing you do now that you've learned from your parents? Or one thing you swore you'd never do because they did? Whether you have children or not, you are setting someone else's standard for health. Perhaps positively, perhaps negatively.
The subject of epigenetics is complicated, but it is very possible to pass down certain problematic health tendencies to the next generation. A friend has a history of heart failure passed down from his great grandfather, but he is taking into his own hands a chance to change that, and maybe - just maybe - start a genetic "chain reaction" of his own: the trait of a healthy heart for his children and grandchildren. Remember: healthier you = healthier world. Just like I said at the beginning of this article, about the "NOW" mentality of so many people who cannot see past today, take time to think about what legacy you are leaving for those you are influencing today.