A new study from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms what many people have believed for years: you are likely to have fewer chronic health problems and live longer if you eat healthily, exercise regularly, go easy on the alcohol and don't smoke. According to the study, not following these four healthy behaviors is responsible for much of the illness and death linked to chronic diseases.
A report on the study is published in the August 18, 2011 issue of the American Journal of Public Health. Findings indicate that even practicing one of these health behaviors can make a difference to length of life, although not smoking has the biggest impact.
The statistics of participants who followed all four of the guidelines compared with participants who did not (i.e., people who smoked, did not exercise enough, did not follow a healthy diet and drank more than a moderate amount of alcohol), were very impressive. Specifically, those who practiced all four healthy behaviors were:
- 66% less likely to die early from cancer,
- 65% less likely to die early from a major cardiovascular disease
- 57% less likely to die early from other causes.
To me this research confirms what I have thought for years: the body is an integral system - all parts are designed to work together perfectly. If you feed it properly; move it the way that it was designed to be moved and don’t abuse it (cigarettes and too much alcohol), then chances are it will work relatively well.
A couple of research findings out of Columbia University confirm for me the integral body theory. Both research findings relate to the function of the skeleton. It is generally accepted that the skeleton structurally supports the body, contributes to blood cell development, and stores calcium and phosphate. Several years ago, researchers at Columbia University discovered that the skeleton helps to regulate blood sugar, metabolism and weight. According to the research, the skeleton functions as an endocrine organ and therefore is a major determinant of the development of type 2 diabetes.
In addition, the research team at Columbia recently has discovered that the skeleton plays a role in male fertility. Researchers found that the protein osteocalcin (produced by bone-forming cells called osteoblasts) is instrumental in the production of testosterone. In the study, male mice that were unable to make osteocalcin produced less testosterone and were less fertile. When they mated, they had fewer and smaller offspring – in other words, less healthy males have reduced reproduction capability. Nature is working to promote the health of the species - males who are well nourished and who can (and do) move, can have more and larger offspring.
The integral body theory is at work structurally in the body as well. I have mentioned in my blog before about my knee problem. In my twenties I noticed that on all of my shoes, the left shoe was much more worn than the right shoe. It shouldn’t have been any surprise that it was my left knee that was diagnosed years later with arthritis. Although I knew there was a problem that caused my shoes to wear unevenly, I didn’t know what the problem was or what I could do about it. The doctors that I went to didn't seem interested in my unevenly worn shoes. It wasn’t until I read "The Egoscue Method of Health Through Motion: Revolutionary Program That Lets You Rediscover the Body's Power to Rejuvenate It", a few weeks ago that I realized that my left knee was a symptom of my body’s structural dysfunction. As I assessed my body’s alignment, I discovered my right shoulder and hip is lower than my left shoulder and hip. The solution is to get the body back into alignment – not focus on some kind of a “cure” of the symptom such as a knee replacement.
It seems that a back to the basics approach – exercise, eat right, don’t smoke and drink moderately, if at all – can work well if we can just follow the relatively simple guidelines. A study released online this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that incorporating several cholesterol-lowering foods — such as soy protein and nuts — into a diet can reduce bad cholesterol far more effectively than a diet low in saturated fat. This is great news given the side-effects of cholesterol lowering drugs.
The study found plant sterols -- which occur in small amounts in many grains, nuts, vegetables, legumes and fruits -- have potent cholesterol lowering properties. Plant sterols work by mimicking LDL cholesterol particles in the intestine and prevent the absorption of those particles. The cholesterol particles pass through the body and are eliminated. Studies have also shown resistance exercise to have cholesterol lowering properties. These are examples of how nutrition and exercise can working together to lower cholesterol; just as nutrition and exercise can work together to create healthy bones that support healthy weight and fertility.
I think that good health can be simple – just follow the four basic rules of exercise, eat right, don’t smoke and drink moderately. Dr. Grandma thinks that good health can be yummy too. In following the rule of eating right, you don’t have to compromise taste. Dr. Grandma has many tasty recipes for adding in other plant sterols -- nuts, vegetables, legumes and fruits. Good health doesn’t have to be complicated and Dr. Grandma can help.
Below are pictures of some of the wonderful produce from Dr. Grandma's garden.