We all have something I’d like to refer to as our Health Bank. This is our body’s system of processing everything we expose ourselves to. It can be good or bad, positive or negative – but either way, our body is going to process it. This is why it’s so important for us to be pro-active in putting ourselves on the path to good health. No one else is going to do this for us.
As with a savings account at the bank, our Health Bank stores everything we put into it. If we eat well, stay hydrated, exercise and reduce stress – our Health Bank should be full and able to take care of us through thick and thin. But, if we ignore it by eating poorly, letting ourselves become dehydrated, not exercising; and allowing stress and electronics to rule our lives – our Health Bank will be pretty much empty and unable to take care of us at the slightest bump in the road health-wise.
Today we’ll explore a four point overview of ways to improve what we’re all putting into our Health Banks.
What we eat – This is a huge topic. With so much conflicting information out there, it’s sometimes tough for the average person to know how to make good food choices. I’ll start with the basics. Everyday each person should eat fruit and vegetables, carbohydrates and protein. My strategy is balance, not fad type diets.
In a nutshell, (no pun intended) we should look to eat as naturally as possible. I am not “for nor against” vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians, the Paleo Diet, the Keto Diet, or any other specialized menu system. Rather, I’m in favor of eating clean. This means to reduce or cut out preservatives, artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners; avoid fried foods and processed meats. Actually, some processed plant-based protein sources are not the best either.
As Americans, we like convenience – but it comes at a very high cost to our Health Bank. There is no chemical preservative, artificial color, flavor, nor sweetener that is ever any good for us, period. Through the years, there have been numerous studies linking cancer and even Alzheimer’s Disease to these ingredients. Personally, I compare eating anything with chemicals in it to spraying toilet cleaner into my mouth. If you keep that mental picture in your mind, it will be much easier to move away from eating foods with anything artificial added.
Fried foods are bad for us in a number of ways. First is all that extra fat that will be consumed. There’s no way around it. Patting the food item on a paper towel is not going to get rid of all the burned oil that food has absorbed. Additionally, restaurants are in business to make a profit. They will use the same oil many times, before changing to new oil. This re-used frying oil is highly carcinogenic – meaning cancerous. It can also cause Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease, heart disease, plus move the body to becoming acidic rather than alkaline. The reason this happens is because over-use of the same stagnant oil develops disease causing free-radicals, which can damage cells and lead to disease.
- The take-away on this one is to eat foods as close to their natural state as you can, staying away from added chemicals, processed foods, and anything that has been fried.
What we drink – Each person should be drinking one-half of their body weight in ounces of water, each day. This means someone who weights 150 lbs. should be drinking 75 oz. of water daily. 75 oz. of water – no other beverages count toward that amount. Water hydrates, nourishes and cleanses our cells and organs in a way that nothing else can. If you think about it, would you wash you face with coffee, tea, wine, soda, fruit juice, or anything else that’s not water? Probably not. We need even more care on the inside, than we give ourselves on the outside.
So many people are dehydrated these days, but may not even realize it. Quite often when someone thinks they’re hungry, it’s really more water they need at that time. Now, I’m not saying every time you’re hungry it’s time for water only; but especially if your lips feel parched and dry, it’s absolutely time to increase your daily intake of water. Dry skin can be another indicator of dehydration.
Here are more serious negative results from not drinking enough water: It impairs your body’s ability to perspire and remove harmful toxins, it dries the skin out as the body pulls water from the skin to hydrate our blood and internal organs, we can get dry mouth and bad breath; even low level dehydration can put us in a bad mood, affect our energy levels and impair our ability to think clearly – as our brains become dehydrated and oxygen deprived from lack of water; recent research indicates that dehydration can even be responsible for shrinkage of brain tissue; a study from Loma Linda University tells us that keeping ourselves very well hydrated can decrease our risk for a heart attack or stroke by over 40% by maintaining the proper blood hydration level, thereby helping to prevent blood clots in the arteries.
- The bottom line here is to drink, drink, and drink some more – water that is. With such a variety of bottled waters to choose from these days, this should be an easy task to accomplish!
How much we exercise – Exercise is something that’s so important to keep in our Health Bank, but for some it is hard to do. The problem with exercise for many people is what they are expecting from it. We can get somewhat over-influenced by television commercials and billboard ads – thinking we are falling short, if we don’t look like the amazing models they use.
Well folks, exercise on the personal level should be for good health and not just for appearance. If you happen to look better as a result of exercising – and you will if you stick with it – that is just a residual benefit. Potential health benefits of regular exercise include keeping our weight under control, strengthening the cardio vascular system, boosting HDL (good) cholesterol, managing high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, arthritis and falls. On the emotional side of things, physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that promote feeling happier, more relaxed and less anxious. Feeling better about ourselves can also improve self-esteem and confidence, and who doesn’t want that?
As for what exercises to do, outside of the typical walking, jogging, running, cycling, or weight lifting – many people like to take Yoga classes for relaxation, while also receiving the benefits of stretching. Playing sports is another fun way to work out. Check out what’s happening at your local park. They may have volleyball, softball, basketball, or soccer teams that need more players. Take a look at Meet-ups in your area. Many have groups that get together for hiking, or other sporting activities. If you prefer to stay indoors, or live in an area that is not always “outdoor friendly”, there are plenty of free exercise programs on some of the Public Television stations. Set your DVR in the morning and a workout could be waiting for you, by the time you get home. If you happen to be a personality who just can’t get past the whole ‘exercise thing’, that’s OK too, there’s still hope for you! Take up dancing, aerobics, karate, boxing, or even horseback riding. Enjoy yourself and make new friends! Even if you have some physical limitations, up to and including being wheelchair bound, take a look online and you should find plenty of free exercise videos to match what you are able to do.
- Always keep in mind – exercise doesn’t have to be a chore. Find an activity you like and make it your game! Some people even put it into their calendars like an appointment; because after all, it is a health and mood improvement session.
How much stress we endure – With so many health problems related to stress, in my humble opinion it should be called “the second silent killer”. To reduce stress in our lives, we must disengage ourselves from electronics and everyday pressures to spend quality time relaxing. That’s right folks! We need to give ourselves quality time. This can include activities such as: meditation, prayer, listening to music, doing art projects, or even something as silly as getting on the floor to roll around and play with your dog or cat. If you have horses, go out and give them a hug, then saddle up and go for a ride. Get together with friends or family (with everyone promising to keep their electronic devices turned off!).
As a society, we seem to have evolved into this misguided notion that we must be instantly available at all times. Nothing could be further from the truth! The human race survived for centuries without cell phones, and you can too! Be diligent in setting aside time for relaxation. This whole idea may sound trivial to some people, but let me tell you friends, it is as serious as a heart attack – literally.
There are many reasons relaxation needs to be regular component of our Health Bank. The most critical effects of stress include links to cancer, lung disease, fatal accidents, suicide, liver disorders, damage to the heart muscle and blood vessels leading to inadequate blood supply to the heart, high blood pressure, heart attack or stroke, and a weakened immune system, making it easier to get sick. Lesser side effects of perpetual stress can be difficulty controlling our emotions such as irritability or anger, sadness or depression, feeling overwhelmed, lack of motivation; headaches, anxiety, over-eating or under-eating, muscle tension or pain, fatigue, upset stomach and sleep problems.
Once again, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for us to take time for ourselves and break that grip of the stress cycle in our lives.
- If you noticed, our first two points have eating and drinking in common; while the second two have movement, activity and stress reduction in common. By putting all of these things together in your Health Bank, you have made a solid investment into your personal health and future wellness. Let’s make a promise to ourselves to make regular positive deposits into our Health Bank, enabling us to enjoy a full and happy life.
Blessings and wellness!