Live a healthy life by choice, not chance
In contemplating this month's column near the March 17 celebration date, we thought of the word 'luck,' and that getting and staying healthy is anything but luck.
Being optimally healthy is a result of tens of thousands of deliberate and intentional decisions made throughout a lifetime. While genes also play a significant role, it is lifestyle and attitude that determine our level of health more than our genes. All of us have some 'bad' genes that puts at risk for certain diseases.
We don't know what genes the fitness guru, 95-years-young Jack LaLanne has, but according to his own story, as a youngster he was addicted to sugar and was headed for disaster. He said:
'When I was young, I had blinding headaches and an uncontrollable temper. I had a mastoid [a bony structure behind the ear] so painful that I tried to kill my brother. I tried to burn down the house. I felt I was psycho when I was a kid, but then I started exercising and eating right, and it saved my life. So now I want to save everyone's life.'
A healthy lifestyle and attitude can trump 'bad' genes. Like a light switch, by choosing healthy lifestyle choices, we can turn 'off' these poor genetic tendencies and steer ourselves away from disease.
The most effective and least expensive solution to life's challenges, including poor health, is to adjust our attitudes. Life is filled with things we can't control, like our past mistakes, but everybody has 100 percent control of their attitude. Emotions such as bitterness, vindictiveness, resentment, anger, regret, jealousy and dozens of others are choices, can be toxic, and do lead to just about any medical condition.
Dr. Viktor Frankl - losing his entire family to the Nazis, constantly being under the threat of execution and starvation for three years of terror in a concentration camp, and even having the manuscript of his life's work destroyed - did not despair. He even chose not to become bitter, or to hate his enemy. If he could choose such an attitude in such horrible conditions, we certainly can do the same.
Frankl said, 'Everything can be taken from a person but ... the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.'
'Superman' actor Christopher Reeve, who went from physical vitality to barely breathing could have chosen bitterness, but instead said, 'I am a lucky man!'
Exercise is not a luxury. It is absolutely essential for optimal health. The American Amish, who walk an average 16,000 steps in their daily lives (compared to the average American's 2,000 steps), are rarely diabetic or overweight. Since most of us don't have physically demanding jobs, it is critical to schedule exercise time and make it a priority. If it is not scheduled, it will usually not happen.
Although we often speed through life without consciously realizing the decisions that affect our health, let us remember that our health is in our hands, not in our 'luck.'
Dr. Dennis Godby, Doctor of Naturopathy, Sutter Medical Foundation.
He may be reached online or at his Sacramento Office (916) 446-2591.
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