Our nation’s healthcare system is in crisis because it costs an exorbitant amount to keep a person with a chronic disease alive and healthy. The number of people with chronic diseases has increased because our lifestyle choices can push our bodies out of balance. So it comes down to this: How might we choose to live healthier lives?
The flipside of this question is: Are we prepared to have poor health as we age?
Consider this. At age 45 our overall chance of having cardiovascular disease, including congestive heart failure, heart attack, or stroke, at some point during our lifetime is 60.5 percent for men and 55.6 percent for women. If you have one treated or uncontrolled risk factor (high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol) your risk to age 95 would be 50 percent. If you were perfectly healthy at age 45, your lifetime risk for cardiovascular disease is 40 percent for men and 30 percent for women. Here’s the advantage – If you are risk factor-free, you are likely to live more healthily, and you are likely to live for 14 more years than an individual with one or more risk factors for cardiovascular disease. If those 14 extra years are important to you, then now is the time to seize the moment and begin your personal shift toward healthier behavior.
Your first choice is to decide which behavior goals you’d like to pursue: exercising, stopping smoking, achieving an ideal weight, controlling cholesterol, decreasing salt intake, controlling blood pressure, or others.
Your second choice is to identify the behaviors that require changing (for example if you choose to increase your exercise): exercising upon waking, walking more, reducing television watching, using your pedometer to achieve 10,000 steps a day, beginning a yoga practice, strength training, improving muscle health, improving energy, improving balance, optimizing your hormones, or others.
Your third step is to implement the plan. First begin with small steps. Have the small steps associated with a time frame and with measurement schemes that can help you gauge your progress. Have rewards planned at certain key stages of success. Work with a partner or a team. Have the whole family involved to support, encourage, and ensure your success.
And here is where the challenges can occur. For individuals who know where they want to go, who know what they need to improve, but who find it difficult to implement their plans, think mild mood disturbances or brain biochemistry imbalance – a type of melancholic low mood or slight anxiety or reduced ability to concentrate. It is at this stage that a person may need help. Here are a few options that may help support individuals toward success:
- Investigate genetic inefficiencies that contribute to mood imbalance.
- Support nutrients where there are deficiencies.
- Enhance gut health to reduce inflammation and support absorption.
- Improve hormone balance to maximize metabolism and mood.
- Enhance stress resilience through breathing exercises, imagery, energy therapies, yoga, and stress management techniques.
- Understand reframing challenges and work to reprogram thoughts and behaviors using biofeedback, acupuncture, and hypnotherapy.
- Return previous awareness, connection, resiliency, and reserve using Native American shamanic approaches.
- Support the process with nutrition, supplements, botanicals and medication as necessary.
- Support and track changes using laboratory and functional benchmarking.
- Transition to a long term, sustainable way of life.
Behavior change is not necessarily easy, but it is always rewarding. If you can do it alone, by all means, please begin the process and follow it through to completion. If you need help, take advantage of the unique set of skills available to you through Greenwich Integrative Medicine.