It is hard for most people to imagine developing a chronic health condition. As we go through our daily lives, we do so with a presumption of perfect health. And what is interesting is that that we assume our good health is given right, not a combination of healthy habits and good luck. Unfortunately, the concern for preservation of health and wellness does not usually strike until middle age, or until an individual develops a significant health concern.
Whether it is the onset of high blood pressure or high cholesterol, the development of diabetes or other long term chronic disease, the average human being will not consider preventative health measures. Recuperative changes to lifestyle, eating habits and fitness are frequent after diagnosis, but for most diagnosed chronic diseases, by the time they have developed it might already be too late to turn back the clock on personal wellness.
What lifestyle habits are standing between you and better health? We will take a look at the impact of food, fitness, stress and other factors that compromise wellness, and provide tips to help you cultivate a new health strategy that will reduce your risk of chronic disease.
Stand Up for Better Health: Its NEAT
Have you ever counted how many hours of the day you are seated? Prolonged sedentary positioning has reached pandemic proportions as more individuals find themselves in office related or desk jobs. In fact, the number of sedentary jobs has increased by 83% since 1950, while sedentary lifestyle is a key precipitating factor in 4 of the top 7 critical health conditions.
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the amount of energy it takes to conduct our activities of daily life. The reason why health wearable technologies like Fitbit are so popular is that it makes us individually aware and accountable for our NEAT data, and the term was first introduced by Dr. James Levine from the Mayo Clinic in 2011, when he was interviewed by The New York Times.
Everything from buying groceries and walking around the store, to cutting the lawn, gardening and chores are added to our NEAT score. Scientists also use this score to determine your risk for life threatening chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, heart attack and stroke.
In October of 2015, The White House budgeted $700,000 for ergonomic ‘standing desks for senior staff and officials. Be aware of your work environment and your daily NEAT score, and look for ways to improve your movement to sedentary ratio every day to reduce your risk of chronic disease.
The Link between Sleep and Immunity
Do you think taking a nap is something only children should do? No matter how old you are, there is a benefit to taking the occasional nap when your body indicates it is over tired. In fact, the desire to rest is deliberate biological programming; your body is sending a message it hopes you will take laying down (and without your tablet or cell phone).
Clinical surveys have shown a correlation between the diagnosis of serious health concerns and insomnia, in up to 90% of respondents in some studies. People who experience disordered sleep show a higher prevalence of health conditions including heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke according to WebMD.
Some adults claim that four to six hours per night of sleep is sufficient. Culture and demands on our personal schedules have created a habit of sleep deprivation. Time that was allocated before (closer to the physician recommended seven to nine hours per night) is no longer wasted on sleep. We sleep on mattresses packed with chemicals instead of choosing healthy, natural mattresses, and bring our tablets and cell phones into our bedrooms, which some studies blame for reducing our ability to achieve REM sleep.
Human beings experience sleep in three distinct stages that are marked by the presence of REM (rapid eye movement) or Non-REM sleep. The rapid eye movements are involuntary, automatic and only occur when an individual is gaining the quality of sleep that is deep enough to be beneficial to mental and physical health.
* Stage I provides a very light rest, where the individual can be easily woken. This stage offers a very low value to health.
* Stage II allows the individual to experience a deeper level of sleep that provides health and wellness benefit.
* Stage III is the deepest sleep where brain waves slow, allowing the body to rest fully and rejuvenate. It takes a number of hours for an adult to reach Stage III sleep, and not everyone remains in
that restorative level of rest for the entire evening. Stress, illness, dehydration and other symptoms can disrupt Stage III sleep, impacting the immune system by depriving the body of the recuperative downtime it needs.
Chronic sleep deprivation has a many other measurable impacts on mood and performance according to a number of studies. The myth that some people function better with less sleep isnt true; the ability to perform cognitive and physical tasks is optimized in people with healthy sleep habits.
How Poor Nutrition Impacts Health
Do you love fast food? It is hard to resist your favorite hamburger and French fry combination when the drive-thru choices are so tempting, affordable land easy to acquire. With our hectic lifestyles, the tradition of the family meal has been replaced by processed foods, fast food and takeout options that are not nearly as healthy as wholesome meals cooked at home.
Cooking healthy however takes an investment of time, which is something the average person is a little short on. Between working longer hours in the office (the average American worker is employed for 34.4 hours per week and 1.8 to 7.8 hours longer than all other industrial nations), family commitments and social engagements, there isnt a lot of time to plan meals, let alone cook them.
The problem with processed foods or fast food is that, while tasty and affordable, it is usually laden with excessive sodium, carbohydrates and saturated fats. The sodium in a popular fast food franchise burger is 1,007 mg where the American Heart Association recommends no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. In addition to contributing to hypertension, excess sodium intake can also lead to chronic dehydration, which places additional burden on major organs and the immune system.
By investing real time and effort into making better choices about movement and fitness, stress reduction and healthy eating, we can minimize our risk for chronic disease. A healthy habit starts with one positive change, sustained over time to improve wellness and longevity.