Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My Body Is My Temple

When you are young you take your body for granted, as if it was a piece of machinery that can't be broken, or that could be easily repaired/replaced.

As you get older you slowly start to realize that your body can't be replaced, or easily repaired. You come to a realization that you're not as much in charge of it as you thought you were. And if you're smart, you realize that the better you treat your body now, the better it will serve you in future.

So what does it mean to "be good to your body"?

At the very minimum it means:

(1) Not smoking.

(2) Being physically active. Even as little as one hour of physical activity a week will do.

(3) Eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

(4) Drinking between 1 to 14 units of alcohol per week. (A pint of 3 to 4% beer equals 2 units. A glass, 125 ml, of wine equals 1.5 units.)

If you follow all four recommendations, you will live, on average, 14 years longer than people who adopt none of these behaviors.

Isn't it amazing how easy it is? I'm sure that most of the readers of this blog follow all of these recommendations anyway. But if you don't, please start! (Here is a link to the article that describes those findings in detail: link. I critically examined this paper and trust its findings and conclusions.)

If you want to do more, consider the six other recommendations, also based on the study mentioned above:

(5) Learn how to cope with stress. One good method of doing this is through meditation. Even as little as 20 minutes of meditation a day can have a drastic positive impact on our health (link).

(6) Maintain healthy body weight. Keep your BMI between 19 to 25, or 30 even. Interestingly, people with BMI between 25 to 30 (classified as "overweight") live the longest (Portland/Canadian study; Japanese study).

(7) Eat a hearty breakfast. Consuming a higher proportion (20 to 50%) of total daily calories at breakfast is associated with relatively lower weight gain in middle age.

(8) Limit the amount of sodium you consume. Decreasing sodium intake below 1.5 grams a day will keep your blood pressure in check, and decrease your chance of stroke and heart attack. Along the same line of reasoning, eating food rich in potassium is good for you. It means you should cook your own food; processed and restaurant foods will put you way over the recommended salt intake limit.

(9) Eat fiber. Dietary fiber protects against bowel cancer, even in red-meat eaters.

(10) Do sports! Various health experts recommend different amounts and kinds of sports, but I'd still stick with the old rule: at least 3 times a week 30 minutes of whichever intense cardio activity you enjoy. Not only it will help you keep your heart healthy, but also it may help you preserve bone density and reduce the risk of fracture.

These recommendations are discussed in more detail on this webpage. The site also provides links to some relevant papers that I read and trust.

In the next few posts I'll talk about organic food and ways of limiting your sodium intake.