Envision the big picture, then start painting it! No masterpiece is created without the artist having the final vision in mind. If you want to paint a garden, starting with a shrub or a flower is a good idea! But a better idea is going in with full awareness that this flower or shrub is a significant but small part of the larger landscape. And that larger landscape is the gorgeous garden you want to paint. Same is true for our bodies.
So what does the big picture look like for us in the context of our health? What do we all wish for as we advance through this journey of life? Many of us will agree that we want to live a long, healthy life, and possibly score a century. Now, per the World Health Organization – Health is a state of “complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This definition makes a lot of sense. Just how do we accomplish that? Let’s refine that goal further.
Long life – Current human age expectancy is around 74 years. It’s a projection, but it’s based on solid data. Life span is only getting longer every decade with advances in science, medicine and technology. So assuming we have a decent chance of scoring a century, depending on how old one is, we have at least 4, 5, 6 or more decades on this planet. Break that down and imagine how you would want your 4th, 5th, 6th or last decade of life to look like.
Healthy life – Do we want to be strong enough to pick up our grandkids as exuberant grandparents? Be the backbone/support system for the next generation as they make greater strides into whats going to be an exciting century for humanity? Do we want to travel, exercise, eat and enjoy leisure well into our last decades ? OR Do we want to be that elderly patient who can barely pick themself up to go to the rest room and just survive on medicines for as long as they can help?
The choice is largely ours. Sure genetics are an element in play here, but the epigenome is what gives us the power to control and modulate the expression of our genes. To explain that further, our genome is the complete set of genes present in us and our epigenome, literally meaning above the genome, is what turns these genes on and off. So when philosophers across various cultures around the world said that, we are our own making, they definitely had some insight into human biology and its workings!
If we look at the WHO data for mortality in humans and classify the key mortality causes into categories, it boils down to largely Four Drivers of disease – Cardiovascular, Metabolic, Neurological and Cancers.
Down below I’m sharing with you key strategies that you can incorporate into your own life to best prevent these conditions. These tips are very beginner friendly and are tailored to get you started even if you have put taking care of yourself on the back burner. Nevertheless, they are powerful enough to benefit the fittest equally. Keep reading …
Cardiovascular Health – Take note that the ruling cause of a majority of Cardiovascular disease is Atherosclerosis, which simply put is the building of plaque(fat, cholesterol, and other substances) in and on the arteries. This plaque buildup blocks blood flow and when it bursts it can lead to blood clots. Although atherosclerosis is the major cause of heart disease, it can affect arteries anywhere in the body. So, how we can take charge?
- Begin with a Lipid panel – We love data – start with a blood test and get your numbers. Repeat every 6-12 months to track progress. Even if the first few times don’t show changes, there’s value in having these numbers to remind oneself about the work that needs to be done.
- Walk – Start with 10 minutes and build up to 30. It’s ok to stay at 10 minutes for months or years. It’s a lot better than doing nothing. Walking is the safest and easiest cardiovascular exercise one can employ to improve heart health and blood circulation.
- Include omega 3’s – Chia, Flax and Walnuts are easiest to incorporate and work well with many kinds of diets like vegetarian, vegan, and Keto as well. Be sure to powder Chia and Flax seeds to ensure absorption. Once powdered these seeds powders should be refrigerated for freshness over weeks. They help significantly to reduce triglycerides and are also shown to improve HDL levels.
- Fasting – Incorporate some type of fasting. This is the granddaddy of all techniques for the prevention of every single driver of mortality. You will see this as a repeat in every category. Intermittent fasting has been shown to lower cholesterol levels and is a highly effective method to cut down the risk of coronary disease. Periodic longer fasts have been shown in many studies to help reduce arterial plaque.
Metabolic Health – Simply put, this is how well our bodies generate and process energy. How stable our blood sugar levels are and how well we control the swings in glucose levels will play a major role in preventing metabolic diseases like Diabetes, Hypertension, and Obesity. Here are small but very powerful ways to take control –
- Scan for sugar and be clever with it – Be on the lookout for known and unknown sources of sugar in your diet. Cut out sources that don’t come with pros outweighing the cons. The mantra is eating for the nutritional benefits and timing it right. For example, it’s perfect to have a banana (14g of sugar) before a workout or a game but NOT ok to have ice cream for dessert before hitting the bed. Inspect your life, activity, days, and weeks and be smart to get your sugar from the right sources, at the right times.
- Be deliberate about when you move – If one has only 15 mins to spare in a day, then it’s smart to use 7 minutes to get some intense exercise in a fasted state, preferably early in the day, and the remaining 7-8 minutes for easy walking after meals. The post-meal movement helps get insulin quickly out of the bloodstream and that is your target state for metabolic health.
- Fasting – Again, incorporate some type of fasting. There are many variations available to suit different health levels. Fasting allows for prolonged periods of absence of insulin spikes in the body and therefore brings back a state of insulin sensitivity. Note that, insulin sensitivity is what we want, we want to walk away from insulin resistance, which over the long can turn into diabetes.
Neurological Health – This, I believe, is the most important one! If we have our brains in good shape, we can deal with other problems(health included) as and when they arise in life. But if the brain is shrinking, not much else will matter. It’s sad but not surprising that rates of degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s are rising in our generation, with people getting it at a younger age. Dementia is the umbrella term for several conditions involving some type of brain function loss, and Alzheimer’s is the most common type. This is one of the saddest things for the patient certainly, but more so for the family and caregivers. Age-related cognitive decline does not have to be the norm. Diet, exercise, smoking, and alcohol cessation play a significant role in prevention. Below are a few intelligent ways to keep it at bay.
- Reading – Has been shown in several studies to prevent age related cognitive decline and lower the risk of dementia. Learning facts is a great benefit that reading offers, but thats not it! Reading rewires the brain to strengthen connections in the brain, improves memory, and helps reduce stress. It’s a great health habit to inculcate in children, adults and the elderly.
- Play a sport – We recognize the importance of play in early childhood development. Like children benefit from play, adults can also use play, not only to get some physical exercise, but also to keep the brain healthy. Incorporate some sport in your routine. Even board games! In fact, quoting Grandmaster Anatoly Karpov – “Chess is everything: art, science, and sport.” Play it and stay sharp!
- Meditate – Even 10 to 15 minutes of meditation to slow down cognitive decline and boost brain function.
- Add Curcumin to diet – Curcumin is derived from turmeric and is one of the best dietary supplements in the fight against Alzhemiers. It’s a potent herb that offers many health benefits, including its ability to improve Lysosome function and break down cellular waste. Hence, it is no surprise that regions of the world that use turmeric in their cuisines, report much lower incidence of Alzhemeirs.
- Fasting – This is your best weapon again! Newer research is challenging the old approach of trying to treat amyloid plaque for curing Neurodegenrative disease and suggesting that, there is a strong correlation between Hyperinsulinemia and the development of Alzheimer’s. Like many other chronic condition, it’s coming down to cell function and a faulty auto-cleansing mechanism in overburdened cells. Fasting helps by inducing autophogy to clean debris from the cells, and therefore is a powerful way to prevent Alzheimer’s and other Neurological conditions.
Cancers – Cancers are complicated and have kept scientists working for centuries now. Five decades after President Nixon declared war against cancer, the battle still continues. Newer approaches to look at this deadly disease have evolved. Through the years, we are learning that it’s more about prevention and management, rather than being at war. Over the coming decades we will see many cancer survivors living well into their 70’s and 80’s, just like any other chronic disease. That is a good thing because it means that the treatments are working, but it’s going to be at a huge cost on the health care system, society in general and the patients quality of life. Statistics show that cancer risk increases with age. It was known to be an old timers disease, but not anymore. Cancer rates are rising in the younger population, and projections for the next decade are deeply saddening. But there is hope! We can work on risk reduction strategies to keep ourselves safe and disease free. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Again the same foundational stuff comes to rescue here. Here, I’ll share a few tips and describe why they work in prevention. The key theme is to strengthen and sharpen the immune system, which means – make it strong enough to fight and ward off infection and intelligent enough to hunt for abnormalities in the body and clean that up for you!
- Attack obesity – Obesity increases the risk for cancer. In an obese environment the immune system doesn’t function optimally and thats the ideal abode for many cancers to develop and thrive.
- Sharpen immune function – By getting enough sunlight, eating loads of vegetables, especially greens, prioritizing sleep over late nights(😀), and last, but not the least, exercise at least 4-5 hours a week (that’s very doable!).
- Fasting – Again, there can be no better tool in your arsenal! Fasting is the best way to promote autophagy, and autophagy is the best way to improve immune function. Its your immune system, that’s going to clean up garbage in your body to get rid of any abnormally mutating cells, that can eventually become cancerous, leading to tumors. We know form several studies that cell mutations happen through the life span of a human, and risk increases with age as mutations accumulate. Our best strategy available for prevention is to proactively run garbage collection through fasting and eliminate the accumulation of abnormal cells.
- Try your best to avoid toxic chemicals – This is a hard one, and therefore takes a lot of hard work. But there is really no other way around it. Unbeknownst to us, we have hazardous chemicals in our houses, food, clothing, and air. We can mitigate this risk to a large extent, by making conscious decisions wherever we have the power to. Some ways are – buying organic food when possible, ventilating our houses as much as possible, checking the label on cosmetics, consciously investing in organic fabrics like cotton and silk, and best of all, spending time in nature to avoid it all.
As you can see, it’s not that hard to incorporate these small and simple changes into our lives. By doing so, we will cruise through life happily, burden this planet less, and perhaps live up to becoming strong Centenarians!
2 thoughts on “Think big, start small & act fast to score a strong century!”
Amazing ! Very well written . Simple yet effective explainations and doable , practical tips to prevent major diseases and inspiration to lead a happy & healthy long life .
Keep writing Vamsee !
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A good read. Practicable.
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