How old are you?
How old do you feel?
How old do you want to feel?
“As the years click by, and our age increases, our health may decline. Older adults generally face a greater risk of illness and chronic disease.”
Is this a fact?
Does it have to be a fact?
Does it have to be a fact for you?
Dr. Mark Hyman, MD says, “Chronic decline in our health, and the shrinking of our health span, is a result of pathological processes that can be treated.” He goes on to say that if we think these “aging problems” are treatable, we can as a society actually have a health span that equals our life span.
How does that sound? Would you like to live to an old-age if your health span equaled your life span? Sounds wonderful to me.
Typically we (as a society) spend the last 20% of our lives in poor health, which means our health span is 80% of our life, and 20% is not healthy.
So if we live to be 60 in good health, and then live to be 80, the last 20 years of our life we (as a society) are in poor health and on medications.
Another truth is that 80% of people over 65 have one or more chronic illnesses. And chronic illness is affecting 6 out of 10 Americans, and 4 of those 6 have more than one chronic illness.
Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, dementia, frailty, disability, insulin resistance, inflammation, mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress…
Is this inevitable?
Dr. Hyman refers to the way we currently age, as in the decline of our health, increased illness and chronic disease, and becoming less independent, as abnormal.
If we “cure” all heart disease and cancer from the fact of the planet, we might see a life extension of 5 to 7 years. If we optimize the “hallmarks of aging” and corrected those dysfunctions, it would be possible to see 30-40 years of life extension.
The majority of the illnesses of aging are modifiable.
How could this be possible??
Functional Medicine always looks at the root cause.
What’s the cause of aging? It’s dysfunction in the hallmarks of aging (poor health markers, except with “big words”.
What’s the root cause of this dysfunction? Mostly, our food.
What’s the root cause of our food (Standard American Diet = junk food)? It’s the Food System.
What’s the root cause of our Food System? It’s our Food Policies.
What’s the root cause of our Food Policies? Well…the Food Industry.
In a nutshell, we’re ill and dying because of too much bad stuff, and not enough good stuff.
Solution: Remove things that are bad for health and add things that optimize health.
(Dr. Mark Hyman is founder and chairman of the “Food Fix Campaign” dedicated to transforming our food and agriculture system through government policy.)
Food is not the only culprit in our aging process. We do need the correct food. We also need exercise, as our bodies were made to move—not to be still. We need to lower our daily stressors. There are lots of ways to do this. We need to consider toxins in our environment—some things we use in our homes and on our bodies every day. We need to get good rest at night so our bodies can repair and get ready for the next day. We need to have nurturing relationships in our lives.
There are many places around the world (called Blue Zones) where people live long, vital healthy lives well into their 90’s and 100’s, and are highly functional. Most of the typical diseases that we see in America are absent in those places.
When those same people move to America, they follow the same disease patterns that Americans get, and at the same rate.
These people in the Blue Zones eat a basic traditional diet (not Standard American Diet), very vegetable- and fruit-rich (phytochemicals); they rarely eat starch or sugar, and no processed food. They eat animal products, but the animals roam around eating lots of wild plants (with high levels of phytochemicals.
Another really important thing is that these people were a tight-limit community with no social isolation at all. Everybody was part of the fabric of the society. They celebrated together, played together, worked together, and helped each other. They talked; they relaxed; they enjoyed their lives; they actually savored their life. You can’t do that while you’re “rushing around”.
Here are a few things we can all do to increase our length of our productive life, and to increase our enjoyment of it.
1. Exercise. If there is one intervention that is somewhat more powerful than anything else, it would be exercise, especially resistance exercise. This directly helps diabetes, and decreases stress better than any pill. (And diabetes and stress take years off your life). High intensity interval walking in older adults with stable rheumatoid arthritis brought improvement with reduced disease activity, improved cardiovascular fitness, improved innate immune functions, and reduced infection risk. It enhances immune function, and skeletal muscle.
2. Stress Management: Meditation. It has a bad wrap in some places, but it can reduce your stress, and increase your mental state and productivity. It’s proven to be so. There are many other ways to reduce your stress also. One of those ways is exercise. One is rest.
3. Hot/Cold Therapy. The idea is, it’s good to feel uncomfortable sometimes; our bodies are good at adapting to stress, and these hot/cold baths, etc., do temporarily stress our bodies—as with high impact exercise. Our bodies adapt, then heal, increasing our stamina (and our health).
4. Food. Starch and sugar are killers, and accelerators of aging. We need to get lots of phytochemicals, enough protein and good quality fat (as opposed to cooking oils of most kinds, margarine, etc.)
5. Social connections and Relationships. Concentrate on fostering, cultivating, building, nurturing your social community, friends and family.
6. Sleep. At least 7 hours per night. There are many, many ways to improve your sleep if you have trouble with this.
7. Intermittent fasting allows our bodies to take time to digest our food and rest a bit before we “break the fast”. In our country, so many people eat “all the time” not allowing time for our food to digest. It’s good to have a “fasting time” of at least 12 hours to give our digestive system some time to catch up. There are lots of research details on this, but this gives you an idea of it.
8. Spiritual Connection. We’re not just bodies and minds. Our spiritual side is just as important—to recognize that there is a higher power beyond ourselves that connects to the universe. Healthy spiritual practices absolutely tie into better overall health and wellness, which equal a longer and happier life. Prayer and meditation have been linked to numerous health improvements. It’s good to focus on your spiritual health, which can help you handle negative experiences, and help you make positive decisions.
I have practiced each of these in my own health journey from “ill” to good health, and I can personally attest to the strength of the words here in this article.
Our health journey is one of the most important journeys we make on this earth. Something so important, truly deserves our focus. It doesn’t start off being an “easy” task. But as you make adjustments here and there, and as a little time goes by, your tastes change, you have so much more energy, your frame of mind improves, you feel better getting out of bed, aches go away, rashes go away. The changes your body and mind experience will truly amaze you.
If you don’t embrace health, chances are your later years will likely be harder to navigate.
It’s a decision.
Make a good one.
I am very happy to help you in any way. Figuring out “details” of how to move forward, helping you research, find a Functional Medicine Doctor, helping you find your path to good health. Private message me, or email me at sharon@WhereisYourCalm.com
Thank you for reading my article.
Until next time…
A lot of my comments in this article came from Dr. Mark Hyman and other functional medicine doctors in articles published on the Institute for Functional Medicine website, ifm.org. Dr. Hyman is Senior Advisor for Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine and Board President for Clinical Affairs for the Institute for Functional Medicine. He is dedicated to transforming our foods and agricultural system through government policy. And If you’d like more information about functional medicine, you can learn a lot of valuable information on their site.
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