A recent study published in the Journal Circulation found that adopting the following six healthy lifestyle habits can extend lifespan by about 13 years and quality of life, on average:
1) Not smoking
2) Getting adequate, restful sleep (7 – 8 hours)
3) Maintaining a healthy BMI
4) Not drinking excessively
5) Doing at least 30 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity
6) Eating a healthy diet (loosely defined – assumed as a minimally processed diet consisting of both plant and animal foods)
(the dose makes the poison in terms of alcohol, smoking and drugs….higher the dose and longer period of time, the more your disease risk increases)
That’s no small effect! 13 years is a long time. Nothing fancy here and no magic bullet sold by a superficial instagram model. Doing healthy habits consistently is what increases longevity and health.
I would even add to this list and put in:
– stress management techniques
– having meaningful social connections with family and friends
– having fun and spending time in the sun and nature
(people vary in degrees of how ‘out of whack’ one or more of these factors are OR how much lack of consistency they have around these habits….some people smoke more, drink more, eat bad food consistently….degree of how bad differs, exersize varying degrees/sedentary behavior…work and at home, sleep varying amounts and stress varying amounts).
(These are the main factors that drive inflammation in the body today – therefore tightly associated with disease and most chronic health issues. Always a good starting place with clients are to address the above. Can’t be healthy without these. Mostly likely, one or more of these will be out of whack or lack consistency on a daily basis with someone who has health issues and they become worse as the health issue throws these habits out even more. If you don’t know what to do, start with these, it can’t hurt).
Despite this information, very few Australians are engaging in this list of the top six health behaviours. We know this because when these behaviours are not followed, chronic disease ensues and chronic disease is our major health concern at the moment.
Chronic diseases like dementia, heart disease, cancer and lung diseases caused by smoking are the main causes of death in the developed world. Not shark attacks, not car crashes and not pianos falling on people’s heads. The main thing that is killing us prematurely are chronic diseases that are largely in our control to prevent. They can be significantly reduced and also TREATED by doing healthy diet and lifestyle habits consistently. And while it is true that despite the chronic disease rates, the average lifespan has increased due to medical advancements that keep us alive, however our quality of life into our old age is reduced by fragile bodies and minds.
But why do people struggle to follow these simple habits?
Most people KNOW they should be engaging in these behaviours. It has been repeated to us over and over again through various sources.
I can guarantee you that anyone who smokes these days know that it increases their risk of disease and death significantly. They just need to look at the packaging.
So why is it so uncommon that these behaviours are followed?
The problem is not the INFORMATION, it’s BEHAVIOUR. And the mistake we’ve made—and continue to make—is assuming that just providing more information is enough to change people’s behavior. However, that is not it, we need health practitioners and health programs (in schools and workplaces) that are willing to engage with people in treatment plans that help the CHANGE their behaviours, which are hard to do, despite people knowing the information. The choices we make around our health are not always logically driven, which is why people engage in unhealthy behaviours. Therefore, providing “logical” information is not the answer, we need to help people change their behaviour cycles.
People make decisions around their health for all sorts of reasons like peer pressure, stress/emotion (smoking, alcohol, drugs, food etc..). People do these behaviors knowing full well their impact on health. We spend so much time trying to deliver the information in all these cool ways like adverts etc…but what we really must focus on is training health practitioners to help with behavior change, as increases in information have not translated to decreased behaviors. People don’t know how to change their behaviors in a step by step, non-overwhelming manner.
The current medical model treats symptoms of chronic disease with drugs/surgery (carries bug risk side effect risk of other issues), without addressing the underlying causes of poor diet and lifestyle habits (sx are manifestation of deeper cause). The current medical model is not preventative in nature and we only “treat” chronic disease once it occurs, rather than finding ways to prevent it. It is a fix it rather then preventative approach.
The level of evidence they require to change policy has to be big, long RCT….where as Naturopaths treat on smaller amounts of evidence that works and not as harmful! It is like they have to wait for enough people to get sick, to see a connection, then do RCT then change policy or change their understanding of a disease state. Take IBS and SIBO as an example…..enough evidence for naturopaths to treat for it and our treatments work! Gastro don’t trust us. They will change understanding if there is a drug to cure it!
Doctors prescribe medications, therefore they approach treatment and health from this perspective, which is why they don’t address and always recognize diet and lifestyle factors that are contributing to a person’s condition. It is not their realm. They are trained to diagnose and prescribe. Not to give diet and lifestyle advice or understand the complexity of the connections between diet/lifestyle and disease states. Some may give diet and lifestyle advice as they have seen research on it, however it is usually in passing and they won’t tell the person how to change their habits.
Also, some drugs and screening diagnostic tools are said to be preventatives because they may be used to decrease the risk of complications of a disease or for early detection of a disease,. However, these treatments and diagnostic tools are often administered without comprehensive diet and lifestyle coaching, which we know drives disease
Some drugs (e.g. statins) and screening diagnostic tools (e.g. colonscopy) are said to be used as a “preventatives,” but until disease actually occurs and shows up, nothing else will be done (e.g. colonoscopy is used as screening but the patient isn’t given info on diet and lifestyle to prevent disease, especially if they have family history of bowel cancer. Same with statins. High cholesterol, give drugs, but not diet and lifestyle advice as well. If they do, they don’t help the behavior change and give outdated info…90% CVD is diet and lifestyle, which is why statins alone won’t decrease risk of disease….as with most drugs).
The medical model helps people live with (medication and surgery) and manage chronic disease once it occurs. It helps keep them alive (not thriving) despite shit diet and lifestyle habits (e.g. drugs and surgery that keep things like blood glucose and inflammation under control). We need to prevent disease and treat the underlying drivers.
Simply telling people in a consult room (pressured for time) that their behaviours are unhealthy and they need to change them is not going to elicit the desired result. It is not like they haven’t heard it before.
giving thme arbitray adive too…eat more veg
What people really need is to be coached on HOW to change their behaviours. This is the future of medicine. No magic pills and no shmick products sold by profit driven companies
This also takes time, more than a quick 15 minute consult, which most doctors have for consults. So even if they wanted to help people change behaviors, they are pressured for time, especially in bulk billing services where they must hit a certain number of patients per day for government funding.
Changing your diet and lifestyle ain’t fancy and it can’t be “sold” as a product, but it will work. Better yet, it will save lives, increase longevity and health into our old age. The combination of modern medicine with healthy diet and lifestyle behaviours is a recipe for a long life! cosnsitency and time
I often wonder what is the point of life…I will never know the answer, however one thing is for sure, seeking out the things that make me happy sure does feel good and I would love to live as long as possible to enjoy all the goodness with an abled body and mind. Because really, at the end of the day, through all the materialism and crap of our modern world, if you don’t have your health, what do you have? Without your health, you can’t live your best life, even if you had all the money in the world. This is why I love helping people change their behaviours to increase their lifespan and quality of life into their older age.
It is not too late to change these behaviours, extended your lifespan and decrease the risk of disease. Start now by finding someone who can help you change your habits.
Changing these tenants make your body robust to deal with stressors of life. It gives your body the nutrients it needs to function optimally and increase immune/detox/anti-oxidant systems, protecting us from disease. It also decreases oxidative stress from not sleeping enough, smoking too much, drinking too much, stressing too much and being sedentary.
As people change healthy behaviors, they feel better, have more energy and feel good about themselves, therefore increasing motivation and start to automatically make other healthy choices. They also then have more energy and feel better to approach the rest of their life pursuits with vigor.
Poor diet and lifestyle habits will exacerbate/cause any symptoms of chronic health issues because they ultimately increase inflammation and health issues are driven by inflammation.