Many of us are looking for the next magic supplement or “superfood” to unlock optimal health and to prevent the chronic diseases that are becoming so prevalent in our society. Diseases such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease are all largely preventable.
A diet free from processed food is a foundation for good health, but there are other important components of prevention that may have slipped under your radar. There are relatively simple things you can do to modify your lifestyle that will have a much more powerful impact on preventing chronic disease than the latest supplement or exotic plant extract.
1. Prioritize your gut health.
New research is showing that maintaining the health of your gut bacteria has a profound influence on your health.
Eat fermented foods such as kimchee, sauerkraut, or kefir two to three times per week.
Fermented foods provide natural sources of probiotics and prebiotics and keep gut bacteria populations in proper balance.
Avoid frequent antibiotic use.
Antibiotics can be lifesaving in certain situations, but frequent unnecessary use (such as for minor respiratory infections) can kill off large amounts of health-promoting gut bacteria.
2. Master your circadian rhythm; restore your sleep and increase your productivity.
Getting adequate restorative sleep is a crucial component for good health. Give your brain the right environmental signals to ensure you’re getting enough sleep at night which will in turn enhance alertness during the day.
Avoid broad-spectrum artificial light two or three hours before bedtime.
You can still use light at night, but switch over to a source that mimics firelight, such as the yellow bulbs sold as “bug lights.” This method allows the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin to be produced naturally, signaling your internal body clock that it is time for sleep.
Get bright light exposure first thing in the morning.
Bright light (preferably outdoors) resets your circadian rhythm, preparing the body and the brain for daytime activity. Thirty minutes of bright light exposure in the morning is just as effective as coffee (without the energy crash hours later) in increasing alertness and productivity.
3. Tame your stress response.
Stress from multiple sources is rampant in modern life and truly is a silent killer. Left unchecked, stress can physically change your brain, wreak havoc on your body, and accelerate chronic disease and the aging process. You can rebuild a stressed-out brain and reclaim your health through mindfulness practice.
Aim for 30 minutes of mindfulness meditation practice daily.
Regular mindfulness practice can rejuvenate a stressed brain. This has huge carry-over to preventing chronic disease, as brain health and body health are inseparable.
Throughout the day, try to be present in the moment for whatever you are doing.
Avoid frequent rumination about the past and worrying about the future. Living mindfully truly will have a beneficial impact on your health.
4. Engage in high-intensity exercise.
All forms of exercise are beneficial to some degree, but all are not created equal when it comes to preventing (and treating) chronic disease. High-intensity resistance and cardiovascular training is timesaving and more effective than traditional lower intensity training.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is incredibly effective for fat loss and controlling blood sugar in diabetes. You can use elliptical machines, treadmills, or stationary bikes for this protocol.
- Warm up for two to three minutes
- Exercise as hard as possible for 20 seconds (like a bear is chasing you).
- Rest for 10 seconds.
- Repeat the cycle of 20 seconds of exercise and 10 seconds of rest at least 10 times (note that this is only five minutes of exercise!).
Make sure you're cleared by your doctor before starting this type of program, and find an experienced trainer to help you with technique if you need instruction.
These four interventions are incredibly powerful additions to any prevention program. Coupled with a solid nutrition plan, they will help bulletproof you against chronic disease.
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