The 8 pillars for taking charge of your health, Dr Joe Kosterich
Most of us drive cars. We know there are many different things needed to keep the car running smoothly. This includes putting the right petrol in the tank, having correct air in the tyres and the correct engine oil. Periodically we need to have the car serviced by a mechanic. We also know that regular maintenance tends to be much less expensive than repairs if the car breaks down.
What makes the biggest difference is how we look after the car on a daily basis. We can source information and advice on which fuel to use and what pressure to maintain the tyres, but we must apply it. The same principles apply to health. There is a view that the health of the individual is a function solely of the health system and that the individual is powerless to do anything to influence their own health.
Nothing could be further from the truth. We need a good practitioner who can both guide us with how to look after our health and help when we need a “tune up” or when things don’t work as planned. Having a health practitioner who we trust and who understands our health goals is vital. Sometimes they will need to tell us what we don’t want to hear.
But in much the same way that you don’t get your mechanic to fill up your petrol tank, it is not the role of the practitioner to fill your grocery trolley.
Let’s look at what we can do on a daily basis to be in the best shape we can be. Whilst there are never any guarantees in life, how we look after our health does make a difference. For example, a US study has shown that people in their 50’s and beyond can maintain healthy arteries like people in their 20’s. Those who did this ate healthy food, were not significantly overweight, minimized inflammation in their bodies and of course did not smoke.
Being healthy is about maintaining good health for as long as we are here. Why? So, we can enjoy life and be as unencumbered with illness as possible.
There is no single magic bullet. In fact, I contend there are eight pillars of health all of equal importance.
- The first is getting some fresh air and sunshine (not enough to burn but enough to get vitamin D). In addition to this is doing some deep breathing every day.
- The body is 70% water. Thus, maintaining hydration, pillar two, is vital. The body needs water. It does not need soft drinks or sugary fruit juices.
- If you wouldn’t put diesel in a Ferrari, why put the wrong fuels, pillar three, into your body. It is no harder to buy vegetables at the supermarket than biscuits. Eat mainly foods which do not have labels or ingredients. Eat food that, to quote Jamie Oliver, “is ingredients”. Put simply, foods which till recently were growing somewhere or moving around and if not eaten (or frozen) would go off by next week. It may come as a surprise to learn that this is not expensive. However, life gets busy so many of us may also need supplements as a support to (not replacement for) a good diet.
- The body is designed to move and till recently this was not optional. Getting around required physical activity as did much work. Today ‘s sedentary lives don’t mean our bodies don’t need activity. Regular exercise is pillar four. Walking is free and effective.
- Sleep, pillar five, is the body’s repair time. A century ago we slept on average nine hours. Today it is under eight. We have a 24/7 society. Our bodies still need adequate (for most people 8 hours) sleep. An hour less per night equals one night’s sleep lost each week. Lack of sleep is associated with diseases like heart disease and depression. Some do struggle, so getting a good routine is important and some herbal supplements can help.
- In addition to sleep we need relaxation time, pillar six, especially with stress levels high in many of us. Walk in the park, listen to music or play with your children or pets. There are many free options.
- Maintaining good relationships with friends, and family is pillar seven. Toxic relationships are often cited by people as a contributor to illness. We also need good relationships with our finances, environment and communities.
- Lastly, much like a well-maintained car is designed to be driven, maintaining our health enables us to do what we enjoy in life. The eighth pillar is fun and purpose. Psychologist Martin Seligman defined authentic happiness as fun, challenge and purpose. We want to enjoy what we do and feel we achieve something. It can be for a greater good or simply helping another or feeding a child.
Ultimately seeing your practitioner periodically, getting good advice from them and applying what works for your body is your simple effective plan for being in charge of your health.
References available on request
Dr Joe Kosterich
Dr Joe is an author, keynote speaker, general practitioner and health industry consultant. Previously holding senior positions in the Australian Medical Association and sitting on numerous industry and government boards as well as extensive corporate experience in the setting up and management of medical centres. His passion is empowering people to take charge their health through easy to understand steps helping them them to live better for longer.