By Dr. Mercola
You've heard of mind hacks for being more efficient in the office and tech hacks for keeping your computer humming.
So if you've been wondering if somebody will ever come up with some tricks for living a longer, happier, healthier life, there's good news: Best Health Degrees.com has a colorful way of telling it like it is, beginning with chronic inflammationi.
Chronic inflammation is the source of many diseases, including cancer, obesity, and heart disease, which essentially makes it the leading cause of death in the U.S. To address that issue, Best Health offers a range of strategies that will help you live a longer, healthier life. To see the graphic, please refer to the source below. Here, I will expound on some of the key points.
The Importance of Combating Chronic Inflammation
Inflammation is a normal and beneficial process that occurs when your body's white blood cells and chemicals protect you from foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses.
You actually need some level of inflammation in your body to stay healthy, however it's also possible, and increasingly common, for the inflammatory response to get out of hand. If your immune system mistakenly triggers an inflammatory response when no threat is present, it can lead to excess inflammation in your body, a condition linked to asthma, allergies, autoimmune disease, heart disease, cancer and other diseases, depending on which organs the inflammation is impacting.
Unfortunately, chronic inflammation typically will not produce symptoms until actual loss of function occurs somewhere. This is because chronic inflammation is low-grade and systemic, often silently damaging your tissues over an extended period of time. This process can go on for years without you noticing, until a disease suddenly sets in.
Diet accounts for about 80 percent of the health benefits you reap from a healthful lifestyle, and keeping inflammation in check is a major part of these benefits. It's important to realize that dietary components can either trigger or prevent inflammation from taking root in your body. For example, whereas trans fats and sugar, particularly fructose, will increase inflammation, eating healthy fats such as animal-based omega-3 fats found in krill oil, or the essential fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA) will help to reduce them.
If you have not already addressed your diet, this would be the best place to start, regardless of whether you're experiencing symptoms of chronic inflammation or not. To help you get started, I suggest following my free Optimized Nutrition Plan, which starts at the beginner phase and systematically guides you step-by-step to the advanced level.
But diet is not the only component that will have a profound impact on your health and longevity. It's really about addressing your total lifestyle. Below, I will discuss a few of the components I believe have the greatest impact. All of these components affect chronic inflammation, but they also have other health ramifications.
Optimizing Your Insulin Levels is Paramount for a Long, Healthy Life
Having high insulin levels is a surefire way to speed up your aging process. According to Dr. Ron Rosedale, if there's a single marker for lifespan, it would be insulin, specifically insulin sensitivity. Insulin resistance is the basis of virtually ALL of chronic diseases of aging, and one of the primary reasons for this is because it promotes chronic inflammation throughout your body.
Unfortunately, many health care practitioners are still ignorant of the profound influence that insulin has on health. Please understand that a firm appreciation of insulin's role is one of the most important things you can do to optimize your health and outlive the naysayers. The two most important elements for normalizing your insulin levels and avoiding insulin resistance are:
- Avoiding sugar/fructose and grains (remember that beverages play a paramount role here, as high fructose corn syrup from soda is one of the primary sources of calories in the US)
- Regular exercise
For an excellent, in-depth review of just how damaging sugar (especially fructose) is to your health, please watch this lecture by Dr. Lustig if you haven't done so already. It's a shocking eye-opener that explains the many intricacies of how sugar affects your body.
Using Grounding to Address Inflammation
Another simple lifestyle strategy that can help prevent chronic inflammation is grounding or earthing. Stated in the simplest terms possible, earthing is simply walking barefoot; grounding your body to the Earth. Your skin in general is a very good conductor, so you can connect any part of your skin to the Earth, but if you compare various parts there is one that is especially potent, and that's right in the middle of the ball of your foot; a point known to acupuncturists as Kidney 1 (K1). It's a well-known point that conductively connects to all of the acupuncture meridians and essentially connects to every nook and cranny of your body. By looking at what happens during grounding, the answer to why chronic inflammation is so prevalent, and what is needed to prevent it, is becoming better understood.
When you're grounded there's a transfer of free electrons from the Earth into your body. And these free electrons are probably the most potent antioxidants known to man. These antioxidants are responsible for the clinical observations from grounding experiments, such as beneficial changes in heart rate, decreased skin resistance, and decreased levels of inflammation.
Furthermore, researchers have also discovered that grounding thins your blood, making it less viscous. This discovery can have a profound impact on cardiovascular disease, which is now the number one killer in the world. Virtually every aspect of cardiovascular disease has been correlated with elevated blood viscosity. It turns out that when you ground to the earth, your zeta potential quickly rises, which means your red blood cells have more charge on their surface, which forces them apart from each other.
This action causes your blood to thin and flow easier. It also causes your blood pressure to drop. By repelling each other, your red blood cells are also less inclined to stick together and form a clot. Additionally, if your zeta potential is high, which grounding can facilitate, you not only decrease your heart disease risk but also your risk of multi-infarct dementias, where you start losing brain tissue due to micro-clotting in your brain.
To learn more, please see my interview with Dr. Oschman, who is widely recognized as an authority in the biophysics of energy medicine.
Chronic Stress and Lack of Relaxation Takes a Heavy Toll on Your Health
The classic definition of stress is "any real or imagined threat, and your body's response to it." Celebrations and tragedies alike can cause a stress response in your body. Some stress is unavoidable. Some mild forms of stress can even be helpful in some situations. But a stressor becomes a problem when:
- Your response to it is negative.
- Your feelings and emotions are inappropriate for the circumstances.
- Your response lasts an excessively long time.
- You're feeling continuously overwhelmed, overpowered or overworked.
It's important to realize that all your feelings create physiological changes. Your skin, heart rate, digestion and assimilation of food, joints, muscle energy levels, the hair on your head, and countless cells and systems you don't even know about change with every emotion. For example, feeling chronically stressed:
Dramatically decreases blood flow to your digestive system Decreases your metabolism Decreases enzymatic output in your gut by as much as 20,000-fold Causes excretion of nutrients, such as water-soluble vitamins, calcium, micro- and macrominerals Raises triglycerides Raises cholesterol Decreases beneficial gut flora populations, which can weaken your immune function Raises cortisol levels Raises insulin levels
While you cannot eliminate stress entirely, you can work to provide your body with tools to compensate for the bioelectrical short-circuiting caused by it. I prefer The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), but there are many other energy psychology tools out there to choose from. Other helpful strategies that can help you deal with stress and unwind each day, include:
- Exercise. Studies have shown that during exercise, tranquilizing chemicals (endorphins) are released in your brain. Exercise is a natural way to bring your body pleasurable relaxation and rejuvenation.
- Proper sleep
- Meditation (with or without the additional aid of brain wave synchronization technology)
A Healthy Lifestyle Includes Getting Proper Sleep
Good sleep is one of the cornerstones of health that should not be overlooked. Sleep deprivation prematurely ages you by interfering with your growth hormone production, normally released by your pituitary gland during deep sleep (and during certain types of exercise, such as Peak Fitness Technique). Growth hormone helps you look and feel younger. But that's not all. Interrupted or impaired sleep can also:
- Dramatically weaken your immune system
- Accelerate tumor growth—tumors grow two to three times faster in laboratory animals with severe sleep dysfunctions
- Cause a pre-diabetic state, making you feel hungry even if you've already eaten, which can wreak havoc on your weight
- Seriously impair your memory; even a single night of poor sleep—meaning sleeping only 4 to 6 hours—can impact your ability to think clearly the next day and impair your performance on physical or mental tasks
One study has even shown that people with chronic insomnia have a three times greater risk of dying from any cause. The good news is, there are many natural techniques that can help you restore sound sleeping habits. Below I'll list just a few of the ones I think can have the greatest impact. For more, please see my 33 Guidelines to a Good Night's Sleep.
- Sleep in complete darkness, or as close to it as possible as even the tiniest bit of light in the room can disrupt your internal clock and your pineal gland's production of melatonin. Make sure to cover your windows—I recommend using blackout shades or drapes.
- Keep the temperature in your bedroom no higher than 70 degrees F. Studies show that the optimal room temperature for sleep is quite cool, between 60 to 68 degrees. Keeping your room cooler or hotter can lead to restless sleep.
- Check your bedroom for electro-magnetic fields (EMFs). These can disrupt the pineal gland and the production of melatonin and serotonin, and may have other negative effects as well. (To do this, you need a gauss meter.) Some experts even recommend pulling your circuit breaker before bed to kill all power in your house.
- Avoid using loud alarm clocks. It is very stressful on your body to be suddenly jolted awake. If you are regularly getting enough sleep, an alarm may even be unnecessary. I gave up my alarm clock years ago and now use a sun alarm clock. The Sun Alarm™ SA-2002 provides an ideal way to wake up each morning if you can't wake up with the REAL sun.
- Avoid watching TV or using your computer or other light-emitting electronic gadgets at least two hours before going to bed, as the light will hamper melatonin production.
If You Want to Live Longer—Get Moving!
High-intensity interval-type training—which is an integral part of my Peak Fitness program—also boosts human growth hormone (HGH) production, which is also essential for optimal health, strength and vigor. I've discussed the importance of HGH for your health on numerous occasions, so for more information please review this previous article.
Normalize Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is such a common health problem that one out of three of you reading this has it, and uncontrolled hypertension is a serious health concern that can cause heart disease and increase your risk of having a stroke. It's especially dangerous because it often has no warning signs or symptoms. The good news is that over 85 percent of those with hypertension can normalize their blood pressure through simple lifestyle modifications.
It's important to realize that drugs that treat hypertension will not change, modify, or in any way address the underlying cause of your high blood pressure. Additionally, statistics show that over half of people taking multiple medications for high blood pressure are still not able to manage their condition, so for many these drugs simply don't work as promised.
For the most part, high blood pressure is related to your body producing too much insulin. As your insulin levels rise, it causes your blood pressure to increase. This crucial connection between insulin resistance and hypertension is yet another example of how wide-ranging the debilitating effects of high insulin, leptin and blood glucose levels can have on your body. Hence the remedy is the same as that for normalizing your insulin levels: avoiding sugars and grains, and getting regular exercise. However, two additional factors can have a significant impact include:
- Normalizing your vitamin D levels – It has recently become clear that normalizing your vitamin D levels can have a powerful effect on normalizing your blood pressure. Lower vitamin D levels is also unquestionably associated with an increased risk for heart disease.
- Balancing your omega-6 to omega-3 fat ratio – Most Americans eating a standard American diet have a ratio of 25:1, which is highly unbalanced. The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats is 1:1. Therefore, you'll want to lower the amount of vegetable oils in your diet, and make sure you have a high quality, animal-based source of omega-3s, such as krill oil.
I recommend you get a fasting insulin level test done by your doctor. The level you want to strive for is about 2 or 3. If it's 5, or over 10, you have a problem and you definitely need to lower your insulin levels to lower your risk of high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems.
Do You Need Three Square Meals a Day to Stay Healthy?
As the featured source states, the idea that you need three square meals a day for optimal health has been tossed out the window. Mounting research suggests this may actually not be in your best interest at all.
If you're already off to a good start on a healthy fitness plan, and you're looking for ways to take it to the next level, you may want to consider a form of fasting called Scheduled Eating, or intermittent fasting. One simple way to do this is to simply skip breakfast, unless you're really hungry. Fasting is historically common-place as it has been a part of spiritual practice for millennia. But modern science has confirmed there are many good reasons to fast intermittently, including:
- Normalizing your insulin sensitivity, which is key for optimal health as insulin resistance (which is what you get when your insulin sensitivity plummets) is a primary contributing factor to nearly all chronic disease, from diabetes to heart disease and even cancer
- Normalizing ghrelin levels, also known as "the hunger hormone"
- Promoting human growth hormone (HGH) production, which plays an important part in health, fitness and slowing the aging process
- Lowering triglyceride levels
- Reducing inflammation and lessening free radical damage
There's also plenty of research showing that fasting has a beneficial impact on longevity in animals. There are a number of mechanisms contributing to this effect. Normalizing insulin sensitivity is a major one, but fasting also inhibits the mTOR pathway, which plays an important part in driving the aging process. The fact that it improves a number of potent disease markers also contributes to fasting's overall beneficial effects on general health.
Exercising while in a fasted state has also been shown to produce many beneficial changes. To learn more about this strategy, please see this previous article by fitness expert Ori Hofmekler.