Posts Tagged ‘personal health’

Lifestyle Is the Best Medicine—A Call to Action

Women at the farmer's marketKnowing your numbers—blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure and weight—is important. These risk factors and markers, however, only partially tell your story. They measure your risk of disease rather than indicate your well-being.

Well-being is more than the absence of disease. It is living life with joy, energy, fulfillment and health. Sadly, we are living at a time when there is a health care paradox: while medical costs continue to rise, our health and well-being are declining. Currently, seven out of 10 deaths in America each year are due to chronic diseases that are mostly preventable, such as heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. We are dying prematurely, and these diseases are compromising the quality of our years. Our children are projected to fare worse—for the first time in two centuries, they may backslide on the steady rise in life expectancy.

The reason that unsustainable spending on treatments and exponential increases in technology aren’t improving our collective health is that we aren’t treating the underlying cause of disease. Through our lifestyle—eating healthily, exercising, maintaining our weight, and avoiding tobacco—we can prevent up to 80 percent of chronic diseases.

Yes – the biggest killers in this country can be nearly eradicated. But it has to begin with you and with all of us making a different kind of investment in our health. We need to invest in our well-being before the onset of the disease. And it seems we have a long way to go. Less than 3 percent of Americans engage in the healthy behaviors that can prevent diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. It’s time to change that.

By using lifestyle as medicine—through a whole food, plant-based diet, exercise, and emotional well-being—we can awaken our innate power to heal. We won’t only prevent disease, but experience a new level of physical, emotional and spiritual health.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” To change the course of your health, you have to be intentional about your daily habits and behaviors. An abundance of research studies indicates more of your health is in your control than you might think. With the right support and guidance, you can feel more energy, creativity and happiness. Here are some steps you can take:

Learn Self Care

It’s been said that knowledge is power. Despite seeming confusion and controversy, there is a convergence of expert opinion and scientific evidence demonstrating what our bodies need for health. Epidemiologic, ecologic, and interventional studies support that a diet of minimally processed food, mostly plants, routine movement, strong social support, and a sense of purpose are among the traits that add healthy years to life. It’s simple yet at the same time powerful. Your lifestyle alters inflammation, oxidative damage, your gut bacteria, and how your genes are expressed. These, in turn, are at the root of preventing and treating common diseases and improving your well-being.

In addition to knowledge, you need skills—such as culinary skills, skills to build emotional resilience, and skills to create and sustain good habits. These capabilities are accessible to all of us. We can each become more engaged, active participants in our own care.

Set Personal Health Goals

Putting what you know into daily practice can be challenging. Our modern world conspires against us—tilting us toward high-fat, sugary processed food, a sedentary lifestyle, stress, and inadequate sleep.

By setting personal goals, you can stay focused on long-term benefits rather than short-term rewards. The first step you should take is to examine your health behaviors and become mindful of what makes you get off track. As a primary care physician, I know first-hand how hard that can be. I have also seen countless success stories. I know it can be done. Trust that it can be life-changing.

Invest in Your Emotional Health

A healthy lifestyle is often equated to following a healthful diet and exercising. Whole health, however, involves nurturing emotional as well as physical health. Getting good at managing stress, investing in strong social relationships, and living with purpose can have a more significant benefit on your health than controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol. There is an inescapable connection between our mind and our body. And you need to nourish both to feel your best.

Emory Lifestyle Medicine & Wellness: Join a Community

As the poet John Donne famously penned, “No man is an island.” We thrive when we work collaboratively to tackle and overcome our greatest obstacles. We recently launched Emory Lifestyle Medicine and Wellness to build an interactive community focused on whole-person, self-care solutions. We combine science and well-proven strategies with immersive learning to get to the root cause of disease. We want to spread knowledge about the fundamentals of health—to fulfill our vision of people living happier, healthier lives. We invite you to learn more.

About Sharon H. Bergquist, MD

Sharon Bergquist, MD, received her degree from Harvard Medical School in 1997, and completed her residency in internal medicine at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in 2000. Dr. Bergquist strongly believes in comprehensive health management, and incorporates prevention and wellness strategies into her practice along with managing chronic disease. Her expertise includes heart disease prevention and management, women’s health, diabetes, nutrition and obesity counseling, and the treatment of mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression.