Most of you want to dance your way past retirement — literally. In fact, one Cleveland Clinic survey found that 60% of folks say they are now doing activities they hope will help them live healthier and longer. But at the same time, many of you report being discouraged by your attempts to clean up your act. So we have three important concepts for you to embrace — today.
1. It’s never too late.
2. You have a lot of control over your health and happiness.
3. It’s fun to feel good.
The time is now: We know that if you achieve five basic healthy living goals between the age of 40 and 50, you can reduce your risk of developing a chronic disease such as cardiovascular problems, Type 2 diabetes and osteoarthritis by an astounding 90%. (Think of what you could do if you started at a younger age.)
Your goals: Achieve what we call the life-changing Six Normals:
n Blood pressure at or below 120/75.
n Lousy LDL cholesterol below 100 (below 70 if you have diabetes).
n Fasting blood glucose of less than 100 mg/dL or A1C below 5.7.
n BMI below 30 (you’re best off if it is between 21 and 25).
n No measurable blood levels of cotinine, a tobacco byproduct from inhaling first- and secondhand smoke.
n Effective management of your stress response.
The emotional, physical and financial rewards of achieving those goals are enormous. At Dr. Mike’s Cleveland Clinic, where they started a program to give employees financial incentives (major rebates on the cost of health insurance) to achieve those goals, an astounding 69% of folks have signed up, and 43% have achieved the Six Normals. They’ve saved lives and millions of dollars. If that were replicated through Medicare across the U.S., it could save the government $300 billion to $400 billion annually.
But how do you get there? These lifestyle choices work together to help you:
Upgrade your nutrition: As Dr. Mike says, “Remember, food is one of your primary relationships — you want to love food that loves you back.”
Your first step? Don’t stereotype food. Change when you eat; 10 a.m. eat dinner for breakfast. Dr. Mike loves a salmon burger, sweet potato and broccoli. (You can cook it the night before.) At 1 p.m. have a moderate meal; make 6 p.m. the lightest meal of the day (salad and a touch of lean protein, or just eat breakfast for dinner). You’ll consume your food when your metabolism is most revved up and you’re the least insulin resistant. That lowers inflammation and insulin resistance, both triggers of chronic diseases.
Step two is to change what you eat. Ditch red/processed meats, fast fried foods, ultraprocessed foods and sugary beverages.
Embrace physical activity: Move, and move often. Dr. Mike has a treadmill desk; he writes on the computer while going 1.7 miles per hour; does conference calls at 3.3 miles per hour and logs 10,000 steps a day. Plus, aim to get 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise a week and at least two 30-minute strength-building sessions weekly.
Manage your stress and sleep: Stress boosts inflammation, taxes the heart and brain, and disrupts sleep. Only around 60% of you get the recommended seven to eight hours of shut-eye nightly, further upping your risk for heart diseases, stroke and dementia. The solution: Physical activity, meditation and staying in contact with friends and family. Dr. Mike says six minutes of breathing meditation morning and night helps him stay calmer. You’ll rest easier at night, and feel relaxed during the day.
Eliminate exposure to first- and secondhand smoke: Join a quit-smoking program if you smoke, and banish secondhand smoke from your home. Since 1964, at least 2.5 million Americans have died from exposure to secondhand smoke. Today around 1,300 people die every day directly from smoking.
You’ll feel physically and emotionally stronger when you achieve these upgrades to your health. And having confidence in your health transforms your quality of life for years and years to come.
The You Docs’ column runs in Wednesday’s Extra.