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The 4 Pillars of Optimal Health

The 4 Pillars of Optimal Health

Here I will outline what I believe are the four pillars of optimal health — in other words, the four lifestyle factors you can manage to improve your health. These are all based on sound science, to the best of my knowledge.

The four pillars are: nutrition, physical fitness, sleep and stress control. I will cover these four pillars here without going into too much detail. It goes without saying that if you smoke, drink excessively, or do drugs, then diet or exercise are the least of your worries.

1. Nutrition

Optimal nutrition is all about eating real food, not processed crap. The problem is that most people have been misinformed about nutrition their entire lives, so they really have no idea what food is actually healthy.

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Disease-promoting foods that should be avoided include:

  • Added sugar in all its forms, including High Fructose Corn Syrup.
  • Refined wheat. This is just as bad as sugar.
  • Trans fats should be avoided at all costs.
  • Seed and vegetable oils should also be avoided.
  • Most highly processed foods: “If it looks like it was made in a factory, don’t eat it.”

Healthy foods that should be eaten:

  • Meat, fish and eggs. Grass fed/wild caught is better.
  • Vegetables should be eaten every day.
  • Tubers like potatoes and sweet potatoes are fine for healthy people.
  • Fruits, in moderation.
  • Some grains like oats and white rice may be okay for healthy people.
  • Nuts can be eaten, in moderation. Unroasted nuts are preferred.
  • High-fat dairy like cheese and cream. Grass-fed/pastured is best.
  • Fats and oils such as butter, coconut oil and olive oil.
  • All sorts of spices, salt is fine in moderation.

People with diabetes should not eat any grains, starches, sugar or fruit (except perhaps berries). Overweight people should eat no more than 100–150 grams of carbs per day, possibly even less if weight loss stalls. A large part of calories should come from saturated and monounsaturated fats. Excess Omega-6 fats should be avoided, and Omega-3 consumption is encouraged.

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Healthy animals should be the primary source of protein. Sedentary people need little while active individuals or athletes need a lot.

2. Physical Fitness

When it comes to physical fitness, there are sports and activities that are more efficient than others, but in my opinion just doing something is critical. If you like walking, walk. If you like swimming, swim. If you like lifting weights, well — you get the idea.

Personally, I think the calories burned during exercise are useless if you are not on a calorie restricted diet and therefore I don’t recommend you think about calories when exercising, try to focus on improving your physical fitness instead. Optimal exercise would involve a combination of strength training, low and high intensity cardio, and stretching, but the key focus should really be on doing something that you enjoy. If you enjoy doing something, it is much more likely that you will stick to it.

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3. Sleep

Sleep is critical for both physical and mental health, and often ignored. It is very important to rule out a sleeping disorder such as sleep apnea. See a doctor as soon as possible if you think you might have one.

I have compiled a few tips to improve sleep:

  • Go to sleep and wake up at a similar time each day.
  • Don’t eat or drink in the last 3 hours before bed.
  • Sleep in a room that is completely dark.
  • Reserve your bedroom for sleeping.
  • Dampen your lights about 1–2 hours before bed.
  • Have bright lights in the morning, from the sun if possible.
  • Don’t ingest any caffeine after 2 p.m.
  • Take a Magnesium supplement.
  • Exercise regularly.

4. Stress Control

Stress control is also important for physical and mental health, and it is often overlooked. When it comes to stress, avoiding unnecessary obligations is important. In other words, simplifying your life as much as possible can work wonders.

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If you feel obligated to do certain things, ask yourself if they are something you really need to be doing, or if you can delegate to someone else. Also, writing down a schedule to organize your day can be great. Certain supplements like Magnesium and Omega-3 may help, as well as eating a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, and exercising. Meditation is very effective too.

Featured photo credit: treehugger via media.treehugger.com

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Jae Berman

Health Writer

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Last Updated on November 11, 2019

How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower

How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower

Have you ever noticed that some people are able to effortlessly remember even the most mundane details and quickly comprehend new things? Well, you can too!

To unlock the full potential of your brain, you need to keep it active and acute. Wasting time on your couch watching mindless television shows or scrolling through facebook is not going to help.

Besides getting out flashcards, what can you do to help remember things better and learn new things more quickly? Check out these 10 effective ways on how to improve memory:

1. Exercise and Get Your Body Moving

Exercising doesn’t just exercise the body, it also helps to exercise your brain. Obesity and the myriad of diseases that eventually set in as a result of being overweight can cause serious harm to the brain.

Furthermore, without regular exercise, plaque starts to build up in your arteries, and your blood vessels begin to lose the ability to effectively pump blood. Plaque buildup leads to heart attacks and it also reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients that your blood carries to your brain. When the nutrients don’t make it there, the brain’s ability to function is compromised.

To prevent this from happening, make sure you get moving every day. Even if it’s just a brisk walk, it’ll help you maintain and increase your mental acuity. Brisk walking, swimming and dancing are all excellent activities. Take a look at these 5 Ways to Find Time for Exercise.

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2. Eliminate Stressors and Seek Help If You’re Depressed

Anything that causes you major stress, like anger or anxiety, will in time begin to eat away the parts of your brain that are responsible for memory. Amongst the most brain-damaging stressors is depression, which is actually often misdiagnosed a a memory problem since one of its primary symptoms is the inability to concentrate.

If you can’t concentrate, then you might feel like you are constantly forgetting things. Depression increases the levels of cortisol in your bloodstream which elevates the cortisol levels in the brain. Doctors have found that increased cortisol diminishes certain areas of the brain, especially the hippocampus which is where short-term memories are stored.

Prolonged depression can thus destroy your brain’s ability to remember anything new. Seek professional help to combat your depression – your brain will thank you.

3. Get a Good Night’s Sleep and Take Naps

Getting a consistent 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night will increase your memory. During sleep, the brain firms up memories of recently acquired information.

Getting enough sleep will help you get through the full spectrum of nocturnal cycles that are essential to optimal brain and body functioning during the waking hours. Taking a nap throughout the day, especially after learning something new, can also help you to retain those memories as well as recharge your brain and keep it sharper longer.

4. Feed Your Brain

Fifty to sixty percent of the brain’s overall weight is pure fat, which is used to insulate its billions of nerve cells. The better insulated a cell is, the faster it can send messages and the quicker you will be thinking.

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This is precisely why parents are advised to feed their young children whole milk and to restrict dieting – their brains’ need fat to grow and work properly. Skimping on fats can be devastating even to the adult brain.

Thus, eating foods that contain a healthy mix of fats is vital for long-term memory. Some excellent food choices include fish (especially anchovies, mackerel and wild salmon) and dark leafy green vegetables. Here’re more brain food choices: 12 Foods that Can Improve Your Brain Power

Deep-fried foods obviously contain fat but their lack of nutritional value is not going to help your brain or your body, so think healthy foods and fats.

5. Eat Breakfast and Make Sure It Includes an Egg

According to Larry McCleary, M.D., author of  The Brain Trust Program, an egg is the ideal breakfast. Eggs contain B vitamins which help nerve cells to burn glucose, antioxidants that protect neurons against damage; and omega-3 fatty acids that keep nerve cells firing at optimal speed.

Other foods to add to your breakfast include fruits, veggies and lean proteins. Avoid trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. Trans fats diminish the brain cells’ ability to communicate with each other and HFCS can actually shrink the brain by damaging cells.

Having a healthy breakfast in the morning has been shown to improve performance throughout the day. If you’re too busy to have a healthy breakfast, this maybe just right for you: 33 Quick And Healthy Breakfasts For Busy Mornings

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6. Write it Down

If there’s something you want to remember, writing it down can help.

It may sound like a no-brainer, but do you really know why? Writing it down creates oxygenated blood flow to areas of your brain that a responsible for your memories and literally exercises those parts of it. Here’s How Writing Things Down Can Change Your Life.

You can start a journal, write yourself emails or even start keeping a blog – all of these activities will help to improve your capacity to remember and memorize information.

7. Listen to Music

Research shows that certain types of music are very helpful in recalling memories. Information that is learned while listening to a particular song or collection can often be recalled by thinking of the song or “playing” it mentally. Songs and music can serve as cues for pulling up particular memories.

8. Visual Concepts

In order to remember things, many people need to visualize the information they are studying.

Pay attention to photographers, charts and other graphics that might appear in your textbook; or if you’re not studying a book, try to pull up a mental image of what it is you are trying to remember. It might also help to draw your own charts or figures, or utilize colors and highlighters to group related ideas in your notes.

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Here, you can learn How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results.

9. Teach Someone Else

Reading material out loud has been shown to significantly improve memory of the material. Expanding further upon this idea is the fact that psychologists and educators have found that by having students teach new concepts to others, it helps to enhance understanding and recall.

Teach new concepts and information to a friend or study partner, and you’ll find you remember the information a lot better.

10. Do Crossword Puzzles, Read or Play Cards

Studies have shown that doing crossword puzzles, read or play cards on a daily basis not only keep your brain active but also help to delay memory loss, especially in those who develop dementia.

So pick up the daily newspaper and work on that crossword puzzle, read a book or enjoy a game of solitaire.

Pick one to two of these tips first and start applying them to your everyday life. Very soon you’ll find yourself having better memories and a clearer head!

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Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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