“We can’t live forever, but while we are alive we can live well.” – Kip Andersen, What The Health Documentary
Often in conversations surrounding lifestyle changes, you may hear ‘why bother, I’m going to die anyways, so might as well enjoy life now.’ In my line of work, I hear that statement a lot. While that statement may hold some truth, it is said from a place of ignorance. These individuals say this from a place of sound mind, and a body that is relatively cooperative. Speak to anyone who has endured chronic illness, endless medical appointments, the inability to work, difficulties completing basic daily activities of life, and you may hear a different take. Most of those individuals wished they would have taken the time to invest in their health, un-busy themselves, take time to be more present with family and friends, etc.
The World Health Organization stats show that 80% of all heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes can be prevented; over 40% of cancer cases are preventable. That may be sobering news for some, but it is encouraging. Why? Because we have greater control over our health than we have been led to believe. Most chronic diseases are not random, genetic, or rare, and the field of epigenetics puts to rest the notion that we are doomed based on faulty or bad genes. Epigenetics, as a simplified definition, is the study of biological mechanisms that will switch genes on and off (gene regulation). It is different from genetics, which focuses on the study of heredity, or how the characteristics of living things are transmitted from one generation to the next (gene function). At the end of the day, our genes may be permanent, but we can control how they impact our day- to day life.
The question then becomes ‘how do we live well?’ What we bring into our homes largely determine our health status. It is also the area we have the most control in terms of making lifestyle changes. While we can’t control what goes on with our air, water and soil, we can control what we bring into our homes. Carrying out the task of lifestyle changes can seem daunting and overwhelming at times, but it is important to take steps, small ones, daily. It took years, perhaps decades to accumulate the ‘stuff’- not only physical things but habits, emotions, coping strategies- in our homes. Therefore, when changes need to be made, it only makes sense that it will take time to get your home where it needs to be. Make a list and prioritize based on ease of implementation, finances, and family dynamics (cooperation among family members). You will be surprised how seemingly small changes can have profound impacts on health. Cutting wheat out of my diet for example, has spared me a lifetime of debilitating arthritis, symptoms which surfaced in my early teens. My paternal grandmother suffered from the disease, and my thought was that if the symptoms were showing up so early in my life, I was doomed to suffer the same pain she did. Epigenetics proved otherwise, and my quality of life is all the better because of it.
Don’t settle with pain, headaches, fatigue, as the inevitable signs of getting older. These symptoms are our body’s way of getting our attention, letting us know that something is off balance and needs to be addressed. Get to the root cause, and if you are having difficulty, enlist the help of a trusted health professional. You deserve to live life well AND to the fullest.