Importance of Good Health in Current Times
- May 18, 2020
- by Dr. Geni Abraham
We live in unprecedented times. We have all been living busy, fast-paced lives and this crisis brought all of us to a standstill. During this time of introspection, it is good to redefine what good health means and the role of our healthcare system.
The number one thing we learned during this crisis is that protecting our healthcare system is the collective responsibility of all Americans. We also learned that it is possible to reduce the demand on the healthcare system because we did it during this crisis. It is time to consider that If we reduce the demand on the healthcare system, then it will be robust and available to meet our needs. What is our individual role in maintaining our own good health and the viability of the health care system?
It also became apparent that the most vulnerable population had one thing in common. The vulnerability came from a combination of age and underlying chronic diseases. The chronic diseases which are attributed to Lifestyle include Obesity, Diabetes, Hypertension, Heart disease and COPD to name a few. 70% of our population fall into this vulnerable category. This vulnerability is a major source of demand for care in our healthcare system. How we live our life contributes to these diseases which in turn makes us more vulnerable. Going forward it is imperative that we focus on prevention and encouraging good healthy habits to help to reduce the demand on our system. This is a good time to reframe the question from “How do we pay for health care?” to “How do we promote good health for all Americans?” We must have a goal of providing opportunities for good health. Good health would reduce our vulnerability.
So, what can a single individual do to promote their own good health? Many things! It requires a reprioritization of what is important. Nutrition, exercise, stress management, sleep hygiene, and avoiding toxic substances need to be a priority in our lives. It is something we should make a point to teach our children. The reality is that in our fast-paced society where convenience and speed is promoted, there has been some unintended consequences. The evolution of our jobs to more sedentary ones contribute. Our need to be more productive has increased the stress we endure. Lack of community and fellowship has also been problematic. Now that we all have come to a standstill it is a good opportunity to reassess what our priorities are and what we can do to promote our own well-being
Nutrition is a cornerstone of good health. Eating a whole-foods plant-based diet is the gold standard. The variety of fruits, vegetables and nuts offer many micronutrients that are beneficial for optimum function as well as for protection against illnesses. Chemicals like curcumin from turmeric, Quercetin from apples and green leafy vegetables, EGCG from green tea and resveratrol behave as immunomodulators. Micronutrients like Vitamin D, A, C, minerals like zinc and selenium with thiamine all play a role as well. Eating a variety of colors in our foods gives us these micronutrients that are so powerful for daily good health. Of course, it is just as important to eat a balance of complex carbohydrates, protein and good fats which are known as macronutrients. Perhaps it is time to change our ways and take the time to make good food at home, maybe even grow some of our food and eat with one another and take time with one another which is great for our mental wellbeing. It is time to demand access to such foods from our agricultural companies. We need to change from demanding convenience foods to demanding quality healing foods. We need to shift our thinking from desserts equal reward, to good food equals reward. We must teach our children that good food is fun, interesting and a reward.
Exercise is another powerful tool that must be a priority. It maintains our agility, strength, and flexibility to meet the challenges we face head on. Exercise also improves our mental well-being and maintains our cognitive abilities. Exercising outdoors has many great benefits for our mental and physical health. It is important to do aerobic, strength and flexibility exercises. With the current down time, we can create our routines into our lives. Exercise at least 150-minutes a week for health maintenance and more if you want to get stronger, more fit and lose weight.
Getting adequate sleep is just as important. Don’t waste time sitting in front of the TV or the computer doing mindless things that do not serve you well. Make the effort to go to bed on time. That is the first step. Having a bedtime routine is important. If your intent is to wake up at a certain time, that intention starts with an appropriate bedtime. Inadequate sleep interferes with the efficacy of our immune system. Lack of sleep interferes with your memory and the ability to think clearly. It is imperative that sleep is given a high priority. If we don’t sleep well, life can get overwhelming because it compromises our coping skills.
Managing our stress is very important. It is not the load you have to carry but how you carry it that determines your wellbeing. Our response to situations matter. Giving ourselves enough time, grace and forgiveness is important. Doing things like meditating on scripture, prayer, mindfulness, developing an attitude of gratitude, and listening to music all can help us to carry the loads we are called to. If you are in a toxic environment at work or at home, think how one can change that. Perhaps you need counseling from a health coach or a counselor to see what solutions there may be. Chronic stress is a big driver of disease. It causes elevated blood pressure, insulin resistance leading to diabetes, bad habits that are toxic to ourselves like smoking and excessive drinking, and weakens our immune system. Having a community and fellowship is so important. Make the effort to spend time with your community. Don’t be with people and look on your phones. Spending time on the phone when you are with others signals that what you must read on the phone is far more important than the individual sitting in front of you. Is it really? Make efforts to care for the needs of others so we are not so focused on ourselves.
Taking steps to keep ourselves and our communities safe is important as well. Our government has given us guidelines regarding self-distancing, hand washing, covering up when you cough and sneeze that will always apply and should be our new normal. I would add we should stop going to work or school when we are sick and spread our germs. Americans have a great work ethic and will continue to work regardless of how we feel. I have been guilty of that as well and will have to rethink how I do things. In addition, flu vaccine and when available corona virus vaccine may be part of your overall strategy as well. Certainly, our lifestyle is the cornerstone of good health and should be considered an integral part of good healthcare policy
I am not saying anything that we don’t know already. But we have a failure of execution because we don’t prioritize it. Many patients tell me “I know I should…”. Change the I should do to I want to make a change. All actions start with an intention. I am calling us all to action. Act to better our health and the health of our communities. Let us all work together, help one another so we can all be healthy together and reduce the burdens on our health care system. Let us flatten the curve so there are enough doctors and nurses and other healthcare providers out there that can take care of us.