Life in the fast lane often leads to poor lifestyle choices. This could be an “on-the-go” diet high in sugar, refined carbohydrates and processed foods. Perhaps it’s insufficient sleep and a lack of exercise. Maybe it’s all three. Either way, we’re also bombarded by stress and, if we don’t take the time to manage it, it only accumulates.
Unfortunately, an unhealthy lifestyle leads to exactly that – an unhealthy life that’s susceptible to chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. While modern medicine will always have a very important role to play in healthcare, prevention is always better than cure and a proactive approach to your own health is the key to wellness.
The four essential pillars of a healthy lifestyle are; a healthy diet, lots of good quality sleep, stress management and exercise. If any of these elements are missing, it will lead to a loss of wellness and open the door to disease.
Healthy diet and good nutrition
There’s no substitute for a healthy diet and its impact on wellness is paramount. Sadly, a good diet is often the first thing that goes out the window when we are stressed, tired or busy.
- Modern diets are often too high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, junk food and processed foods.
- We are what we eat, and we cannot be healthy if we eat junk all day.
- A healthy diet should be based on good quality protein, plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, healthy fats, and gluten-free whole grains.
- Basic supplementation with a multivitamin, omega 3, probiotics and antioxidants are essential for wellness, even when consuming a healthy diet.
Sufficient good quality sleep
The restorative power of good quality sleep is an essential ingredient of wellness.
- Most of us don’t get the required 8 hours of sleep we need daily, and its impact on our health is underestimated.
- When we sleep, particularly during our deepest phases of sleep, our bodies go through many important processes of repair, detoxification, balancing of hormones and more.
- Poor sleep habits can prevent deep sleep and lead to health concerns even when sleeping enough. Alcohol use, certain medications, watching television or staring at an electronic screen, be it your computer or phone, before bedtime can interfere with your brain’s melatonin production, a hormone that helps put you into a deep sleep.
- A lack of proper deep sleep contributes significantly to conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease, type 2 diabetes, weight gain, anxiety, depression and even cancer.
- Sleep breathing disorders such as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) or Upper Airways Resistance Syndrome (UARS) can lead to a loss of deep sleep, fragmented sleep and significant daytime fatigue.
Relaxation and stress management
Stress is far more than just an emotional experience. When we’re under strain, our bodies produce stress hormones (primarily cortisol), that have a domino effect on our health.
- Elevated cortisol levels trigger the fight or flight response which is beneficial in the short-term to protect us from “danger”. However, if cortisol remains high for a prolonged period, it leads to unwanted symptoms such asanxiety, insomnia, weight gain, high blood pressure, poor digestion, high blood sugar and insulin levels, unbalanced hormones and more.
- Chronic long-term stress could also lead to a depleted state where the body can no longer produce sufficient cortisol. Low Cortisol levels lead to chronic fatigue, poor immune function, low hormone levels, autoimmune conditions, inflammatory conditions, fibromyalgia and more.
- Setting aside enough time for relaxation is crucial if you’re to manage stress long-term. Hobbies, time spent with friends and family, holidays and weekends away, enjoying nature, meditation, yoga, and exercise are all excellent ways of dealing with the daily stresses of modern life.
- Supplementation with certain herbs and vitamins can also assist with regulating our stress hormones. These formulations are called adaptogens as they help us “adapt” to stress. Some of them can help lower your cortisol levels and others can raise them.
Regular exercise has numerous health benefits and is essential for creating wellness.
Some of the benefits of regular exercise include:
- Better circulation and cardiovascular health
- Weight management
- Improved energy levels
- A more stable mood
- Reduced stress levels
- Lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels
- Better sleep
- Improved immune function
- Healthy skin
- Better digestive health
- Increased detoxification
Exercise becomes less of a chore when we take part in activities we enjoy. Find a form of exercise that you like, be it a competitive sport, a hike in nature or a gym class, and make it a part of your lifestyle.
A healthy lifestyle can prevent many of the serious chronic diseases that are prevalent today and significantly increase your quality of life. By creating wellness, we become proactive participants in our own healthcare as opposed to potential victims of illness. It’s never too late to change unhealthy habits, take charge of your health and start creating your wellness today.
Speak to one of our doctors about lifestyle changes you can make to create wellness.
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