By Dr. Dana Myatt
It’s that time of year again – when we make all sorts of “good resolutions,” promising ourselves to do better by our health. Often we set noble but unrealistic goals and then end up not achieving anything more than feeling disappointment in ourselves.
With that reality in mind here are some easy, achievable health resolutions for you to consider this year.
1.) Sleep. Get enough; which means 7 to 8 hours for most folks. Studies show that sleep performs many functions including allowing the brain to detoxify, and creating melatonin (a potent antioxidant for the brain) which also serves to regulate the release of many other important hormones, from cortisol to the sex hormones.
Easy start: if you are not getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night, resolve to go to bed just 15 minutes earlier than your regular bedtime, but do this consistently. After a week or two, turn back the clock a bit more. Continue until you have a regular bedtime that allows you to get your minimum 7 hours or whatever allows you to feel your best during the day time. Oh, and that time earlier in bed? It doesn’t count if you just use it to watch late-night TV… Lights Out kids!
2.) Exercise. Going from couch to refrigerator doesn’t count. “Running around” as required by work doesn’t provide as much exercise as you might think unless you’re a ditch-digger. Being on your feet all day doesn’t really count as exercise – it just gives you tired, sore feet.
Easy start: Resolve to do something (walk, jog, bike, strength training with simple weight, body weight exercise (push-ups, squats, etc.) for just 15 minutes per day. Do this consistently. After a few weeks, you’ll notice improvement and will probably decide to add a second 15 minutes per day just because it makes you feel so good.
3.) Breathe. Silly, right? Of course you already breathe. I mean deep breathe. Your belly should move outward as air enters your lungs. Then exhale completely. Repeat this several times.
Easy start: take 3 slow deep breaths several times during the day, especially when you are feeling stressed or anxious. Deep breathing changes the acid-alkaline balance of the body in a favorable direction (more alkaline) and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system for a calming effect.
4.) Get some sun (or take some vitamin D): To get the full story, visit our medical white paper on Vitamin D here: Vitamin D deficiencies are common, even in the Southwestern US, especially during winter. Low vitamin D levels are associated with increases in cognitive decline, depression, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even cancer. Optimal levels correlate to improved immunity, reduced risk of heart failure and cardiovascular disease, reduced inflammation and neuropathy in diabetics, and even reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease.
Easy start: add 5,000IU of vit D daily to your supplement routine, especially in the winter. This is a conservative dose that is highly unlikely to result in excess levels. You can start at this dose and then test your blood levels in 2 to 3 months in order to know if you should go up or down on dosing. Vitamin D is an inexpensive, broad-spectrum health-saver. Vitamin D testing is an easy, inexpensive, way to find out what your levels really are.
5.) Stress less. I know, I know… it’s easier said than done. But learning mental patterns than respond to stimuli in a positive and productive manner IS possible. If it weren’t, there would be no such thing as emergency room physicians, airline pilots or combat soldiers.
Chronic stress causes elevated cortisol levels and increases in blood glucose levels which are related to inflammation, altered immune function, hormonal imbalances, impaired sleep, and of course “metabolic syndrome” and Type II diabetes.
Easy start: try deep breathing as described above. Consider learning meditation and practicing it for just a few minutes — even as little as 5 minutes at a time is reported to help reduce stress. Go for a quick walk in nature, call a friend and chat for 5 minutes, or enjoy some happy-time with your dog or cat.
6.) Get real. (Real food, that is). Man-made and altered fats, grains, sugars and chemical-ized foods contribute to weight gain, low thyroid function, altered gut bacteria and a host of other ill effects like digestive and immune impairment and body-wide inflammation. Foods closer to how nature delivered them, such as fresh vegetables, unadulterated meats, eggs, cheese and whole grains contain more nutrition and fewer anti-nutrients than their processed counterparts.
Easy start: resolve to have just one serving of vegetable or salad with lunch and another with dinner. Experiment with vegetables and salads you like so the addition is sustainable and remember that if you add a bunch of highly processed, trans-fat salad dressing to your salad, you are largely undoing the good it offers. Try flax or olive oil with balsamic vinegar and spices for a refreshing dressing.
7.) Kick that soda can to the curb. Pop is slop. Regular soda is high in sugar – around 44 grams or 10 teaspoons in a regular sized can of pop – and is associated with liver and kidney problems, heart disease, and digestive issues such as acid reflux. But even diet soda is unhealthy and related to everything from bone mineral loss to weight gain. We’ve talked about this before – Pop Is Slop.
Easy start: decrease your soda intake by one can per day for a week. Repeat next week and continue until you’ve kicked the habit. Oh, and remember – those “sports drinks” and “energy drinks”? They really are just pop, with all the problems and dangers of regular and diet pop – read those labels!
8.) Drink more. Coffee, tea, and water that is. You don’t need to float a boat, but many folks do not get sufficient daily fluid intake. Why do you care? Mild dehydration results in highly concentrated urine which can strain the kidney and make urinary tract infections more likely. Joint and disc material is gelatin-like and requires sufficient fluid to stay hydrated, so mild dehydration is associated with back and joint pain. Skin requires hydration and mild water deficiencies increase the appearance of wrinkles. Regular and healthy bowel function is dependent on adequate water intake and dehydration can quickly lead to constipation and a buildup of toxins that would normally be eliminated by a healthy bowel.
Easy start: Begin you day with a cup of hot water, tea or coffee. Make it a point to have several more during the day and remember that adding sugar, cream, artificial flavored syrups and other stuff to your beverage can undo some or all of the benefits.
So, will you do all of these healthy things consistently this year?
Maybe not. But if you do even a few of these things consistently you will feel better for it – and an amazing thing will happen: As you feel better from doing just one healthy thing for yourself, it will be easier to do another. Suddenly, you’ll feel even better, and adding yet another good health habit will be easy – and you’ll feel better – and you’ll want to try more healthy things, and so on.
Try it: Remember, no matter where you are starting from, your journey to good health begins with just a single step.
Posted in Family Health | No Comments »