***UPDATED on 8/21/2016***
Because of my diabetes diagnose last summer, and my related eye problems, the importance of good health has become very real to me. Yes, most people are concerned with good health. But considering the epidemic proportions of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, type II diabetes, and other chromic illnesses that are largely preventable, I wonder how real that concern actually is. I realize now that my own concern was mostly "in theory" only. Being concerned about our health is useless unless that concern motivates us to take action to develop good health. I hope my recent experiences will spur others to take action in their lives. Here are some steps to good health you can take:
1) Don't use tobacco in any form - I know smokers get tired of hearing this, but smoking is very damaging to your health. Multiple medical studies have proved that smoking and other uses of tobacco are directly responsible for about 22% of all cancer cases (not just lung cancer). Smoking and tobacco use are also directly responsible for, or contribute to, a wide-range of other health problems. For help quitting, see the American Cancer Association's online Guide to Quitting Smoking.
2) Don't abuse drugs or alcohol - An occasional alcoholic drink probably won't cause health problems for most people, and in fact a daily glass of red wine may have health benefits. However, heavy alcohol consumption - certainly to the point of getting drunk - can cause serious problems, including liver disease and even several forms of cancer.
Marijuana currently enjoys a favorable status in modern society, and legalization is happening everywhere. Both sides of the marijuana debate are guilty of exaggeration in promoting their viewpoint. It is neither as dangerous as its opponents claim, nor as safe and beneficial as its supporters claim. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Occasionally smoking a single joint of marijuana is unlikely to cause health problems and may be of some benefit with certain medical conditions, but prolonged and consistent marijuana use can damage your health, including causing various types of lung problems and even the loss of IQ points.
For help with substance abuse, see the website's for Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
3) Maintain a healthy weight - Being overweight, even if you are just a little "fluffy," is bad for your health, especially over the long-term. The National Institutes of Health has this to say on the importance of maintaining a healthy weight: "Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is important for overall health and can help you prevent and control many diseases and conditions. If you are overweight or obese, you are at higher risk of developing serious health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, gallstones, breathing problems, and certain cancers. That is why maintaining a healthy weight is so important: It helps you lower your risk for developing these problems, helps you feel good about yourself, and gives you more energy to enjoy life."
Personal Note: Prior to my diabetes diagnose, I was not obese, but did carry a few extra pounds, especially around the mid-section (the so-called "spare tire"). I do believe that carrying around even that bit of extra weight for a number of years was a contributing factor to my diabetes.
4) Eat healthy - An obvious step, but one that is difficult because so many people have radically different ideas of what constitutes healthy foods. Worse, many of those varying ideas are based not on fact, but on ideology and/or self-interest (think $). Michael Pollan has an excellent book & documentary entitled In Defense of Food which explains what happened to the American diet over the last 100 years or so, which he argues has lead to a dramatic rise in obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses. You may be able to catch the documentary on PBS, so check your local listings. You can also find both the documentary and the book on Amazon.
Over the last 6+ months, I have been highly motivated to deeply research this subject, including carefully monitoring my own health, especially the impact of individual foods on my blood sugar. For me, potatoes (in any form) and grains (even rice, corn, and whole grains) are absolutely devastating my health, so I have eliminated them entirely from my diet. My new diet is 50% proteins and fats (especially eggs, fish, poultry, olive oil, nuts) and 50% carbohydrates (non-starchy vegetables and fruits, so I avoid potatoes and grains entirely, as well as added sugar, and I eat beans only in moderation). This diet means I eat mostly whole foods (foods that look like food as it appears in nature), and not much at all in the way of highly processed industrial foods.
Here is a list of what I consider to be excellent sources of information on eating healthy:
* Mediterranean Diet: A Heart-Healthy Eating Plan (on the Mayo Clinic website)
* Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Pyramid (on Dr. Andrew Weil's website)
* Traditional Asian Diet (on the Jackson Siegelbaum Gastroenterology website)
* The Paleo Manifesto (fascinating book by John Durant)
* 60 Ways to Lower Your Blood Sugar (by Dennis Pollock) - the BEST book I've found so far for diabetics, pre-diabetics, and others concerned with blood sugar levels.
* Paleo Comfort Foods - Great cookbook of healthy recipes, recommended to me by my doctor, who follows a "mostly paleo" diet.
* Life Without Bread - Also recommended to me by my doctor.
* The Maker's Diet and The Maker's Diet Meals - Healthy living, and eating, from a Biblical perspective.
5) Greatly reduce your sugar intake - Desperately needing to reduce my blood sugar levels, I have been shocked and frustrated by how much added sugar is in most foods today. Even foods you think wouldn't have added sugar, such as a simple can of green beans, may actually have lots of added sugar (depends on the brand - you have to read labels carefully). I've also found that many foods marketed as "healthy" are anything but healthy, and often are loaded with added sugar. Seriously, health claims on food have no real meaning; it is only marketing, not science.
Grains & potatoes, which make up a large percentage of modern diets, are quickly and easily converted into sugar by our bodies. This fact, combined with all the added sugar in our modern foods, means that we typically consume enormous amounts of sugar, waaaaay more than our bodies are designed to handle. Most everyone, not just diabetics and pre-diabetics, need to greatly reduce the sugar in our diets.
6) Be physically active - Many experts recommend at least one hour of moderate exercise a day, at least five days a week. What is moderate exercise? It should be vigorous enough to cause you to break out in a slight sweat. Walking, hiking, swimming and bike riding are excellent, low impact, ways to exercise. Gardening, yardwork, chopping wood, and mowing your lawn with a push-mower are also good workouts. Use common sense - if you are elderly, badly out-of-shape, or suffer from serious health conditions, please get your doctor's advise before starting an exercise program.
7) Regular visits to a doctor, dentist, and eye-doctor - Find a doctor you like and are comfortable with, hopefully one who takes a holistic approach to your health care and believes as strongly in preventing disease as he does in curing disease. What constitutes "regular check-ups" depends on your age & health conditions and should be mutually decided on by you and your doctor.
Don't skip going to the dentist or eye-doctor in order to save money. It could cost you dearly in the long-run, both in terms of your finances and your health. Believe me, as I am speaking from personal experience here. If I had been getting regular eye-exams, by diabetes & its related eye problems would have been caught much earlier, preventing the damage to my eyes, and saving me the expense of a series of six monthly injections in my eyes.
8) Get adequate sleep on a regular basis - I know plenty of people who claim to get by on six hours of sleep a night or less. You might "get by" with less, but the research is overwhelming - adequate sleep on a consistent basis is very important to good health. Lack of adequate sleep not only makes you tired, but also impairs your concentration, memory, fine motor skills, and negatively impacts your mood. Not only that, but a long-term lack of adequate sleep compromises your immune system and plays a role in developing high blood pressure, heart disease, type II diabetes, and even several forms of cancer. Getting enough sleep on a consistent basis really is a must for your health.
Personal Note: I have noticed a trend in my morning (fasting) blood sugar levels. If I do not get a good nights sleep, my morning levels are consistently higher than when I do get a solid 8 hours.
Special Note to Preppers: All the skills, guns, and stockpiled supplies in the world won't help you if die of a heart attack from all the extra activity you will likely be doing in a SHTF situation. Many others have noted the shockingly high percentage of so-called "preppers" who still smoke or who are seriously overweight. If you are not prioritizing your health, you are NOT a prepper. In fact, you are actually choosing to endanger your family in a SHTF situation by forcing them to deal with the consequences of your bad health. You need to do what you can to improve your health now, even if that means some sacrifice and hard work. Quit making excuses. Yes, it is hard, and you may have limitations, but you can do it.
I am sorry to be blunt, but this is a serious situation - literally a life-and-death situation - for you and your family. So, put on your big-boy pants and deal with your health issues now, before its too late.
(On a lighter note, you can actually make developing good health fun by turning it into a family project. The shared experience will be both easier and have the added benefit of bringing your family closer together.)
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