It is officially summer! Time for swimming holes, getting out on a boat, and (if you can) getting out of Texas!
It’s also a perfect time to take a health inventory. Are you able to be as active as you want to be? Are you taking the steps to make sure you can continue to be this active for years to come?
The reality is scary for most Americans: 60% of Americans have at least 1 chronic disease, 40% have multiple chronic diseases and a recent Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) report on the health of millenials found that all major measures of health fall precipitously starting at age 27!
Being preventative with your health is far more enjoyable, less time consuming and less expensive than being reactive, so what can and should you be doing this summer to set yourself up for long term health?
Here’s my top 5 that I will be focusing on this summer, and that I will be counseling my patients on too:
1. Hydration – It’s Texas, it’s summer and it’s hot so this should be a no-brainer, and yet I’ve seen proper hydration be part of the strategy for successfully treating several conditions. Dehydration can contribute to muscle tightness or cramps, headaches, migraines, fatigue, poor memory & concentration, and decreased kidney function to name a few.
So how much should you drink? The rule of thumb is about half of your body weight in ounces (e.g. if you weigh 150 lbs, you should drink about 75 oz/day). If you are sweating a lot, you could probably stand to drink more than that, and should consider supplementing with electrolytes to replace what you lose in sweat. I recommend Nuun tablets as a good way to get your electrolytes with less sugar than a lot of the other options.
2. Diet – Did you know that your diet is most often the primary way you are contributing inflammation to your body? And now that inflammation is implicated as a major cause of most chronic diseases, it would serve your current and future self well to get your inflammation under control sooner rather than later.
So what are the most inflammatory foods you might ask? Sugar, alcohol, hydrogenated oils and processed foods are going to be your biggest culprits. For many people, gluten & dairy are also highly inflammatory, but not for everyone.
The best way to find out which foods you are sensitive to and cause inflammation would be to eliminate a food type (e.g. gluten) for 6 weeks. This means absolutely NONE for 6 weeks (no cheats). Add it back into your diet after 6 full weeks and pay attention to your symptoms: digestion, mental clarity, energy, and any pain are all signs that that food is adding to your inflammation.
3. Exercise – exercise does not have to be intense to be beneficial. But it must happen if you want to live a long life.
The most important thing is to choose exercise that makes you happy so you continue to do it and it does not feel like a chore. If you hate running, don’t run! What kind of exercise and movement brings you joy? Do you need to be outside? In nature?
So pick your exercise of choice – whatever you do will help.
4. Meditation – For those that have been with my practice for a while or follow my newsletters, this may start to sound like a broken record, but the research on the effectiveness of meditation for a variety of health conditions is not going away – in fact it is getting stronger!
Meditation is clinically effective for the treatment of stress, anxiety, insomnia, and cardiovascular disease and can be very useful in boosting mood and immune system function.
All of that, and it comes with a proven track record of zero negative side effects after being in practice in some form for thousands of years. You literally have nothing to lose and so much to gain by implementing a meditation practice in your daily schedule.
5. Acupuncture / Yoga / Bodywork -Our last tip here may seem like a lot, but I don’t think you need to do all of these. Explore acupuncture, yoga and bodywork (e.g. massage) to get a sense of what your nervous system responds well too.
All 3 of these practices have enormous benefits for nervous system health and in our world of constant nervous system stimulation, having something that you can reliably go to to help your nervous system calm down is incredibly important. Acupuncture is proven to effectively reduce “fight or flight” activation and I am of the belief that future research will show yoga and bodywork may have similar functions.
There are your 5 tips for a refocus on your health this summer. I am a big proponent of personalized healthcare, so although these steps are important for the majority of people, I would be happy to explore what your needs are with you. Schedule a summer checkup here!