Strategies to achieve optimal health

Research reveals conclusively that our nutrition, lifestyle habits and environmental exposures have a tremendous impact on our health and the prevention of a wide variety of very common medical conditions. These include diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, dementia, cancer and even accelerated aging.

While genetics plays some role, what we do can influence our genetic predisposition by up to 80 percent. This concept is known as “epigenetics.”

The choices you make in diet, exercise, sleep and supplementation all affect your health, as do your emotions, hormone levels and exposure to toxins in the environment.

Nutrition: A core foundation of good nutrition and hydration is necessary to optimize your health. Fresh, natural food including lean protein, a colourful array of vegetables and fruits should be the main part of your daily diet. Drinking plenty of water is also important for good cellular function. As people age, their “thirst signal” diminishes and it becomes easier to become dehydrated. If your urine is dark, you need to drink more fluids.

Supplementation: A well-rounded multivitamin, balanced essential oils (a balanced omega-6 : omega 3 ratio of 2 : 1 from hemp oil and fish oil is a good combination), an optimal amount of vitamin D3 and possibly a phyto-nutrient supplement can enhance your nutrition.

Inflammation: Inflammation is a major common link to most, if not all, chronic illnesses. Reducing inflammation through proper diet, exercise, sleep and mind-body health will lower your risk of chronic illness and advanced aging. In your diet, sugar is a major cause of inflammation. Examples of natural anti-inflammatory substances include turmeric and fish oil.

Exercise: The integrity of our skeleton and muscles is critical for optimal health. Not only can strength training and cardiovascular conditioning (aerobic exercise) impact our fitness, but they can influence our immune, endocrine, heart, respiratory and metabolic health. Even mood, cognition and overall well-being can be impacted by exercise.

Sleep: Most Americans admit that they do not sleep well. Poor sleep causes stress. Poor sleep has also been linked to hormonal problems, gastric dysfunction, increased inflammation and immune system changes. All of these changes result in chronic disease and advanced aging. Behavioural techniques, natural supplements and the use of safe electrotherapy devices can be used successfully to help you sleep.

Emotional Health: Anxiety and depression are prevalent in our society. They are considered the silent killer of Americans. Fifty percent of chronic ailments are to some extent related to anxiety and/or depression. The use of natural supplements and biofeedback techniques can successfully address this often under emphasized issue.

Article by Eric Hassad, MD, a board-certified neurologist and anti-aging physician who practices at NorthBay Functional Medicine in Vacaville.

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