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The question of the hour. And answering it is not easy – we still don’t have all the answers. Many different things impact your health and these things affect us all differently. The task itself can seem like too hard, too much work. But just think – wouldn’t you like to know how to achieve your best levels of energy, efficiency, vitality and overall satisfaction with your body?

Was that a “yes, where do we start?” Good. 

The factors that will improve your health are numerous. However, each individual on this planet has different genetics, lifestyles, attitudes and habits – this makes the ‘one size fits all’ approach inapplicable. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses in different combinations. On the journey to health, we do need some kind of roadmap. And, of course, we need some way to know when we have reached our destination. Let’s start with the latter.

First, Know Thyself

We can gain clues of our future health from that of our parents and grandparents – their genes are our genes, and genes give us susceptibility to certain diseases e.g. high cholesterol, cancer, etc. That is not to say that we WILL suffer from the same conditions – how you look after your health and your environment have a more significant role on your overall health than (most) inherited factors.

Next, it is a good idea to gain some clue as to your current level of health – this is done best through testing certain markers of health. These markers are commonly used to assess your level of risk regarding certain conditions – they are used as risk factors. Examples include blood sugar levels, cholesterol, blood pressure, weight – get these checked at your doctor, pharmacy, or local clinic. Other important risk factors are smoking and alcohol.

Choose a Focus

A good place that we can start would be the variables that are not optimal (or at least within the ‘normal’ range). E.g. If a parent suffered from diabetes and you have raised fasting glucose levels, your focus should be on preventing diabetes. But a word of caution: fixating on one factor or one possible disease can become counterproductive. And one of the nice things about health is that changes you make to one area of your life e.g. eating more vegetables, will have beneficial effects on MANY if not ALL other factors and disease risk e.g. reduced risk of heart disease, obesity, cancer, diabetes, etc, etc.

Make A Plan

Health can be complicated, but we do have some general answers. The funny thing is that most of the best recommendations regarding the improvement of health are surprisingly well known. A recently published research review looked at all the factors that will improve health and extend life. Millions of dollars and thousands of hours spent on it. The result? The top four factors:

  1. Eat better
  2. Exercise
  3. Don’t smoke
  4. Drink alcohol minimally

That’s it. The basis of a healthy life. It’s stuff your parents taught you (I hope). Of course it becomes slightly more complicated in the details e.g. what makes eating ‘better’? What exercise for how long? What about secondhand smoke? But this study is not about giving us all the answers: this gives us a place to start – on which to build our health and our lives.

Wait… Is That It?!

People love to overcomplicate things. It is a combination of human curiosity, obsession and, unfortunately, the desire to make money that contribute to the quagmire of medical minutiae. “Only eat this fruit – the others are bad. Only do this exercise – the others will hurt you. If you don’t sleep exactly 8hrs, you will spontaneously combust.” All the teeny, tiny ‘tips’ and ‘tricks’ and even some of the ‘rules’ and ‘systems’ are based on some sort of logical reasoning process, and even some evidence (to varying degrees). But most of these are what’s known as “majoring in the minors”. So try not to worry too much about whether or not you’re eating this “superfood” (I mean, does it have a cape and tights?) or taking that “nutriceutical supplement” – just stick to the basics day in and day out and good things will happen.

Our future posts will focus on more of the specifics – the meat & potatoes (dirty words these days) of being healthier: Eating Better, Getting Active, Quitting Smoking, and Learning To Relax.

Thank you for reading.

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