It can feel as though we’re a health obsessed nation. We make the time to show up to the gym for gruelling PT sessions. We count our calories with laser focused precision, we use apps like MyFitnessPal to keep a close eye on our nutrients and macros…
But rarely is this ever in the name of health so much as the improvement of our appearance. The sad fact is that we’re often far less concerned about being healthy as looking healthy. Often we mistake concern for our health for a confused combination of vanity and self-loathing perpetuated by a society that espouses beauty as the only virtue worth pursuing.
While a slim and toned body, clear skin and glossy hair are all natural consequences of good personal health, there are other unseen factors that determine how healthy we are that we don’t necessarily wear on our sleeves… Or around our waists. Thus, it’s perfectly healthy for someone to be slim and toned yet be in extremely poor health.
We all know someone who smokes like a chimney and seems to eat McDonald’s every day and yet remains rail-thin by some quirk of genetics, but it’s extremely unlikely that this person is healthy on the inside. Likewise we all know people who seem to live healthily 24/7 and that inner health glows on the outside, too.
Thus, if you want to ensure that you’re healthy on the inside as well as just the outside, here are some essential areas you’ll need to cover to ensure that you don’t just look great, you feel great…
Do you ever have one of those days where getting out of bed feels like an insurmountable chore? Or where concentration through a fog of forgetfulness and a miasma or fatigue seems virtually impossible? Do you frequently forget your car keys or make seemingly rookie mistakes at work? We all have days like these but rarely does this happen at random. These are all indicators of poor brain health. Just as we can’t be expected to perform at our best in the gym when we aren’t warmed up and well nourished, neither can our brains function at peak efficiency if we do not ensure that they are properly nourished.
At best poor brain health can lead to silly mistakes and “brain farts”, but at worst it can increase our risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. It’s even possible that our brain health is linked to psychological conditions like depression. Here are some ways in which we can all improve our brain health;
- Drink more water – Good hydration is essential in the delivery of nutrients to the brain, flushing out toxins and facilitating healthy cognitive function.
- Challenge your brain- Forget brain training exercises and games, learning new skills and removing your brain from its comfort zone through new experiences are the best way to pump some neurons!
- Get plenty of sleep- It’s easy for us to overlook the importance of sleep in these increasingly hectic times, but getting at least 7 hours sleep a night is absolutely essential to overall health.
- Stay social– Social interaction (with actual people, not an app) is proven to facilitate good brain health.
- Eat lots of brain food- It’s widely believed that fish is good brain food but you don’t have to be pescatarian to load up on brain boosting nutrients. Healthy fats like avocados and olive oil as well as vitamin rich veggies nuts and seeds as well as berries and even dark chocolate are all great brain boosting foods.
Like your brain, your heart is an extremely big deal. Fail to look after it and it could result in a heart attack, stroke or angina. The heart pumps blood which carries oxygen and nutrients throughout your body. The less capable it becomes, the more your body suffers. Thus, taking care of your heart should be one of your highest priorities. The good news is that if you’re regularly engaging in cardiovascular activity to keep body fat at bay, you’re already giving the most important muscle in your body a regular workout.
But as they say, you can’t out-exercise an unhealthy diet. The trouble is that many people turn to high fat, high protein diets for quick weight loss like the Atkins diet, Dukan diet and keto diet which can be harmful to the heart. In fact, recent studies have directly linked the Atkins diet to heart failure, increasing risk of heart disease by as much as 33%.
To maintain a healthy heart make sure that your diet is loaded with heart healthy foods like green veggies, walnuts, berries, avocados, beans, whole grains and tomatoes. If you’re already vegetarian or vegan, there’s good news. Plant based diets have been proven to reduce your risk of death by heart disease by as much as 40%.
Liver and kidney health
They are among the hardest working organs in your body and essential to your overall health, yet so many of us take them for granted. They are great multitaskers, working hard all day every day to rid our bodies of toxins (which is why detoxes are uniformly a con!). These organs are vital in not just keeping us healthy but keeping us alive and they ask so little of us in return.
A healthy diet and responsible alcohol consumption is all that our liver asks of us. While all it takes is an active lifestyle, abstaining from tobacco, and a healthy diet incorporating a few special supplements like dandelion leaf for healthy kidneys. They work so hard for you, the least you can do is look after them.
Finally, let’s not overlook an aspect of health that’s finally starting to get the attention it deserves. Typically, physical and mental health tend to go hand in hand. Look after your body with good nutrition and regular exercise and it will keep releasing mood boosting chemicals like dopamine and endorphins to facilitate good mental health.
However, even the healthiest of us can sometimes fall prey to mental illness. While it may come and go, the worst thing you can do is suffer in silence. Contact someone for a counselling or talk therapy or try employing some CBT strategies to catch and defuse unhelpful thoughts before they can damage your self-worth.
Stay happy, stay healthy, and stay awesome folks!