Taking responsibility for our health is crucial to living our best life.
From our lifestyle choices to daily environment and culture, how much do our health, energy levels and rate of ageing depend on the choices we make daily? Through making distinct lifestyle choices, it's reassuring to know that we can improve what may seem to be ‘an inevitable path'. Our habits of body and mind, how often we move and what form of movement, exposure of environmental toxins, nutrition, and how we manage or mismanage our hormones all lead to quality of life.
Research is mounting about how important it is to take responsibility for our health or genetic destiny. You might be forgiven for blaming genetics for factors such as premature aging or disease, but this is now being proven otherwise with 90% of the signs of aging and disease being caused by lifestyle choices, not your genes. That means 90% of your risk is from the environment (the way you eat, move, think, and supplement, among other factors), with only 10%of your risk being genetic. (Dr. Sara Gottfried calls this the 90/10 rule.)
How awesome is that?
With this information we can in fact, change the direction of our current health style to one we may have never envisaged. By turning on and off genes through lifestyle prompts it's entirely possible...
So where do we start with lifestyle factors and what ones am I actually talking about? This is a massive topic and one that I dive into in detail in my 7-week healthy habit e-course, but for a taster – Here are some you can begin with straight away.
6 Things You Need To Be Doing Now To Feel Younger... Longer
1. Track your steps
I'm not too fussed for gadgets but one that tracks my daily steps is pretty darn handy. Having the goal of 10,000 steps (about 8km) in mind is a good motivational tool that can help focus your efforts in staying active throughout the day. You may be surprised at how much or little you already do. It won't help tackle any issues around healthy eating nor behavioural weight gain so don't become too fixated on the numbers. It's more a tool to understand your physical activity patterns and where changes can be made.
Why at least 10,000 steps? The recommendation of 10,000 steps a day originally came from Japanese researchers in the 1960s. Dr Hatano's calculations estimated that 10,000 steps could burn around 20% of an individual's caloric intake and improve health and fitness. Both ways 10,000 is a great base line and anything over that is going to be a bonus.
2. Go to Sleep Earlier
If you are fitting in 10,000 steps a day you may find yourself wanting to nod off a little earlier. This is a good thing! Our deepest sleep occurs before midnight so aim to hit the sack as earlier as you can.
I find parents today are so used to functioning on ‘tired mode' that it's taken as the norm. No binge worthy show is more important than good quality sleep. Other benefits include increased energy, hormone balancing, appetite reduction (we look for sugar to stay awake), lower stress and a sharper mind. Experts are also finding links between mood disorders (anxiety, depression) with poor sleep and chronic sleeping issues actually triggering mental health issues.
Avoid stimulants before bed – chocolate, caffeine (yes that means green tea), alcohol and smoking (seriously who still does that?) and have a wind down routine such as reading a book (not from a device) in low light.
3. Learn to Read Food Labels
Forget what it says on the front of a packet and what claims the product has. We're more interested in what it DOESN'T say.
Marketing gurus aren't going to tell us something is high in sugar or toxic to our system, so be your own detective and one that is one step ahead. Ingredient lists give an even better indication. The higher up on the list an ingredient is the more there is, but be careful not to fall into the trap of not recognising ingredients such as sugar under other names (corn syrup, malt, evaporated cane juice etc.).
4. Reduce Your Toxic Load
Make easy swaps from your household cleaning products to organic, non-toxic versions. Use glass, ceramic or stainless steel for storing or preparing foods. Toss the Teflon pans. When choosing makeup, find a clean lipstick to reduce exposure to lead, select a low-toxicity nail polish and don't use perfumes and choose aluminium free deodorants.
Dr. Sara Gottfried puts it bluntly. “All these environmental toxins put serious strain on your liver, which works similarly to a chemical treatment facility. When barraged with chemicals from the skin, airways, blood, and the gastrointestinal tract, your body, which is designed to flush out these toxins, works overtime and creates a backup of unprocessed toxins. Too much exposure, too large a backup, and you start to feel more symptoms, and are hit with accelerated aging and illness.”
5. Increase your detoxifying foods
Imagine foods such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and bok choy as being internal brooms to your liver. Cruciferous vegetables help flush out old recirculating estrogens and acts as a natural detoxification. This is especially good news for those who suffer from menstrual symptoms, low energy, acne, or weight gain (which is due to hormone imbalances).
6. Cut out processed foods
If we don't eat enough nutrient dense food, this can lead to insufficiencies in nutrients, antioxidants and fibre. This has a detrimental impact on our immune system, gut microbiota and physical and mental health.
Eating processed food removes the opportunity to eat nutritiously with each opportunity and this applies to any food that has been altered from its natural state in some way. I know it's tempting to make do with what's on offer at the supermarket, but making your own meals from scratch is the simple answer. Convenience can bring about large amounts of hidden salt, fats and sugar so choose wisely!
I could go on with a list of but these are a great start. Everyone deserves to feel their best, and we should never accept that age is something that affects how we feel.