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. Throughout these 20 years I have tried to make it my priority to stay educated, and I have taken many courses. I have learned through my education and experiences that there is no “one size fits all”, and that it is imperative to stick within the bounds of current science when helping others with their physical and mental health. I have worked with people of all ages, genders and backgrounds, and consider myself indeed fortunate to have helped many achieve 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!
- Life expectancy has been increasing steadily for 120 years. In 1900 in the United States, the average life expectancy 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—the blame is on obesity and overweight more than anything else. This trend is predicted to continue in the near future.
- We still view medicine as fixing problems rather than preventing
- We are fatter and lazier than ever! These are the two biggest contributors to most of the disease we are experiencing in adult life.
- Heart disease isn’t really diminishing, despite the statins prescribed by doctors for cholesterol.
Our doctors have done a great job extending our lives, but what about the quality of our 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 my thoughts.
I’ve been thinking about food and nutrition….
One of the things about people like me, or 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. However, we do know the basic parameters of healthy eating. This means that we have to avoid, reduce, or increase some foods we are accustomed to eating.
There are foods out there on the shelves of your supermarket that cause great harm to 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 they’re not the culprit that science told us they were a few years back for heart disease. Avoid high fructose corn syrup or sucrose—they’re everywhere! These ingredients will contribute to diabetes, heart disease, and will mess-up your hunger response. Unfortunately, many food products contain high fructose corn syrup or sucrose—check your ketchup and tomato/pasta sauces and soft drinks!
You also NEED to consume an abundant amount and a variety of vegetables and fruit. Eat more seeds, some more nuts, and put away products made from white flour. Keep your white rice, bread, and pastas to a minimum, and increase the 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, it’s ALL preventable!
I’ve been thinking about activity and exercise….
The number one risk factor for all-cause mortality is lack of cardiovascular fitness. There is no more powerful tool for overall health than exercise and activity! Study after study has shown how exercise can prevent, and even cure, diabetes and high blood pressure. Exercise is a key tool for depression and anxiety and most of all, it keeps us fit, functional, and gives us energy.
Brisk walking, biking, swimming, jump roping are all valuable fitness activities. 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. Your odds of avoiding serious health issues go way up, and your mood will greatly improve as well. And when you get good at it, throw in some intensity and move faster and further.
I’ve been thinking about cholesterol….
When are we going to start paying attention to the prime causes of heart attacks and stroke? Cholesterol became a prime culprit because it was one of the first readings we could take a blood test for. But we need cholesterol! The so-called evil doer, LDL cholesterol, can be broken down into big and small particles. Even if your LDL is high, how do you know if it’s the better or worse stuff? Very low LDL due to medications can have devastating side effects, including increasing your chance of hemorrhagic stroke. Low LDL is also being investigated in regard to causing some cancers. The calculators used in the United States to see one’s heart disease risk, and who should take a statin drug for lowering cholesterol, don’t include activity and exercise levels– so something does not add up here… Yes, keep an eye on cholesterol but think twice about taking a statin drug to reduce it. (We’ll get back to this subject at another time.)
In Part 2 of this article we will see what I have been thinking about doctors, diets, and more concerns in order to “add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.”