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An Optimal Lifestyle

by Michael Cheikin, MD

Years ago, the dietician at our hospital explained why mac and cheese was always on the lunch cart but so little green veggies and salad. At the end of the day, the greens would be thrown out and the mac and cheese would be sold out. This demonstrates, in part, why we are having our health issues--we go for the comfort foods, what feels good in the moment, and not for what will help us in the long-term.

There is conclusive evidence that prevention is better and cheaper than correction. However, the down side of prevention is that when it's working, we don't see it. Our bodies are so magnificent, so resilient, that we can fall, eat, drink, and deprive ourselves for decades before problems start to arise. However, our increasing rates of autism, diabetes, heart disease, cancers, depression and anxiety, starting earlier in life tell us that change is needed.

Life expectancy is now decreasing for the first time in our modern civilization, and the cost and politics of our Health System continues to be a national problem. The USA comprises 20% of the planet's population, but consumes 80% of its pharmaceuticals and more than its share of the planet's resources.

What is an Optimal Lifestyle? 
The components of an optimal lifestyle are described below.  For most of us, there are some components that are close to optimal, but others that need a major revision.

Optimal Lifestyle Components*
Psycho-Spiritual Work: Mental and Spiritual processes and rituals that connect us to ourselves, our community, and our planet.  These activities enhance the feelings of love, peace, purpose, community and justice.   

Nutrition: Food and Supplements, and means to prepare such foods to support digestion, absorption, growth, repair, elimination and detoxification; and to reduce naturally harmful components of such foods.   

Sleep: The ability to fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake refreshed after 7.7-8.5 hours. Physical and mental energy should be reliable during the following day.   

Water: Water that is free of pollutants, that has a balance of minerals, and is of proper ph. The "structure" of the water (i.e. whether it's been stagnant or moving) is also relevant.   

Air: Air that is free of pollutants (including electromagnetic fields), that has plenty of oxygen, proper moisture, temperature, and other components (such as the air at the ocean).
Light: Light that is balanced in wavelengths and is free of toxic and unnatural wavelengths. Correct dosage of light is important. Blackness during the night is equally important.   

Hygiene and Re-creation: processes that cleanse, detoxify, and stimulate repair of the mind, body and spirit. Some are daily, others weekly (Sabbath), seasonally, and annually.   

Exercise: activities that gently stress systems such as muscle (strengthening), heart and lungs (aerobics), soft tissues and organs (stretching and yoga), and nervous system (yoga, tai chi) to maintain and improve function.

Stress Management: while some stress is necessary (see exercise), methods to recognize and protect against excessive external and internal stressors. Art, laughter, meditation, service to others, simplification, vacations.
Assessment, Education, Intervention, Progression
Processes that measure, interpret, predict, and integrate information and guidance to adjust course for continuous improvement. This often requires external sources of assessment (tests), and interventions (remedies, therapies).  

Most scientists agree that up to 80% of modern diseases can be modified, if not outright caused by lifestyle factors. While genetics play a role, our genes watch our lifestyle, and in response turn on and off specific processes that bring us toward or away from optimal health.

Change: Knowledge, Motivation, Implementation, Sustainability
Most of us know what to do, but encounter obstacles that prevent us from starting, or get us off track after we have begun.

So why is lifestyle change so hard? Not only don't we see any immediate results, it means letting go of some comfortable things. It means putting significant time, money, energy and thought into things that initially are very uncomfortable. For most of us, we are willing to do that for our planet and kids, but not for ourselves.

For many people, fear mobilizes. A diagnosis of heart disease, cancer, dementia or macular degeneration can provide enough mojo to make necessary changes to slow down, stop or even reverse progression of disease.

For some, fear causes paralysis or falling back to old habits and comforts. This is especially true when there is insufficient information or even worse, misinformation or unfounded beliefs that have been absorbed from family and other authorities, commercials and the internet.

Motivation based on fear is limited, since if there is some improvement, then fear and motivation decrease. Also, for some, a lack of immediate improvement can cause the abandonment of a plan. 

Knowledge, support and inspiration, when sufficient allow a sustainable approach. Lifestyle changes work slow and deep. They have no side effects other than their inconvenience. But in reality it's just a trade-off of one inconvenience (not feeling well and taking medications for life) for another.

Health and wealth are similar in that the earlier we begin to invest, and the more consistently we do so, the easier will be our later years. We have been gifted beautiful lives; lifestyle allows us to feel and do our best.
1. This educational material may not be used to influence medical care without supervision by a licensed practitioner.
2. These contents are ©2017 by Michael Cheikin MD and may not be reproduced in any form without express written permission.
3. Dr. Cheikin's website has related articles such as "An Inconvenient Life", "What We Really Need" and others.

Michael Cheikin MD is a holistic physician, Board Certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation ("Physiatry"), Pain Management, Spinal Cord Medicine and Electrodiagnostic Medicine and licensed in Medical Acupuncture. Dr. Cheikin has extensively studied yoga, diet and metabolism, Ayurvedic, Chinese and energy medicine and other alternative modalities for over 30 years. He specializes in obscure, chronic and severe problems that have not responded satisfactorily to other methods of healing.  www.cheikin.com    

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