If he or she is contentedly munching on a McDonald’s hamburger during your initial medical consult, it may be time to reconsider who is rendering your medical advice. I like to think that I practice, and represent, the style of living that I promote to my patients. At 54 years old, I am still wearing the same size clothes that I wore as an all-state lacrosse player in high school. I am using no chronic medications (full disclaimer later, as I am not fully un-medicated). I feel that I am currently technical rock climbing at or above that same grade as when I was in my mid-twenties. If there ever was an equalizer for a state of physical fitness, it is rock climbing. When you are strong, light and relaxed you can get up things. At other times, or in the wrong state of mind, it will always be a “high gravity” day. For the time being, my ongoing chronological aging is just a state of mind.
For starters, the greatest intervention that I put into my health is my diet.
As the primary cook for the family, I realize that it takes a lot of work to keep fresh foods and produce in the house, and to take the time to prepare the food at night and in the morning. The truth is that it is relatively easy. It is simply a question of making it a priority.
For many reading these words, creative cooking can be a challenge. I post all the meals that we eat on my business Instagram page; these photos might offer some considerations, inspirations or possibilities. Follow us on Instagram for ideas by clicking on the following link;
Health Intervention #1:
Spend time preparing healthy, wholesome food. It may sound corny, but allow food to be your medicine. It works.
Too many of us are inured into spending our time staring into the television. We are mesmerized by the latest singing craze, engineered foodstuff, or new car, all packaged to stimulate our dopamine, our jealousies or our appetite. I prefer to spend my free time with calming music, or just the sound of the afternoon breeze coming through the kitchen window as I prepare our meals. Life’s too short to continually veg out on the television. We age better when our minds are active. Now, I understand that for many the passive act of settling down to relax in front of a show may be a part of the family evening dynamic. Change this. I recommend some relaxing (or rocking, if you prefer) music, candles with dinner, cloth napkins, and family time. It is amazing how much your teen-age daughter will open up to you, and tell you about her day, over a home-cooked meal.
If on occasion you do get take-out food, take the time to eat off ceramic plates, and recycle the plastics and papers. I think that a family TV night on occasion has value as well. I just don’t think that it is the best for our bodies and our minds if we spend hours doing this every night.
Health Intervention #2:
Turn off the television. Think. Interact. Listen to the sound of the snow on the windowpanes, or the calls of the birds in summer. Plug into the world and people around you. Take a walk. Look at the stars.
I do utilize a small selection of supplements, by definition supplementary to my diet. I try to take only the things that my genetics and biology mandate with the majority of my nutrients coming from foods. In earlier posts I have referred to a collection of supplements that I call my “big four”. This includes vitamin D, fiber, Magnesium, and omega three fats (fish oils). I use three of the four, choosing to obtain by omega three fats through fish consumption.
Follow this link to revisit the blog on the “Big Four”;
I have used about two tablespoons of psyllium husk with a touch of juice in the morning for about the last ten years. For the last year or so I have been adding a scoop of an amino acid powder with the psyllium. This is delicious, healthful and a great way to start the day, and the health benefits are too numerous to catalogue here. Most of all, I appreciate the bowel regularity that I have when taking the fiber consistently.
For genetic reasons, namely the presence of a MTHFR trait, I was born with deficiencies in my abilities to modify and activate my folic acid, vitamin B9. I need to supplement with a high-dose B vitamin supplement to keep down my homocysteine. This amino acid derivative is associated with cardiovascular disease and dementia. I take my B complex regularly (B6, B9, B12 and Trimethylglycine), and have lowered my homocysteine to ideal values. It is easy; I just have to keep up with it.
Health Intervention #3:
Take only the needed vitamins and supplements, and only utilize good, quality manufacturers and labs.
I take the following:
The other important focus of my health, of equal importance to food, is my sleep. When I sleep well, I think well, repair my tissues well after a workout, feel good during the day, and maintain my testosterone levels. When I hit a period of poor sleep, everything hits the fan. I need to then focus to return myself to a state of wellness and sleep, where supplanting all other possible distractions takes priority. In time of stress, or when I allow my mind to run wild late at night, I don’t sleep well. So the first thing that I need to do is to recognize this. Frequently the only thing that I need to do to fall asleep is to tell myself to stop thinking. But as many of us know, it is not always that easy.
My sleep health begins with a recognition of the need to enter “shut down” mode. I actively speak less, speak more softly, and move more slowly as the night wears on. I have to have the computer, flux and all, turned off by 10 as much as I would like to stay up until midnight writing. I also need to curb my alcohol intake. I have never been much of a drinker, but I find when in an insomnia cycle, even a glass of wine at night can worsen things for me. Often I am better off drinking a non-caffeinated herbal tea at night.
I also use a variety of supplements that I think help me to calm my brain. Typically this is a combination of Relora, 5-hydroxytryptophan, and GABA taken about 1-2 hours before bedtime. These supplements may serve to offset my excitatory neurotransmitters and decrease potential cortisol spikes that I have allowed to develop. It is almost as if I can feel the “awake” button being readied; I actively choose not to push it. This is a good example of the power of developing some insight into one’s health. By being aware of the importance of sleep, and the factors that influence it, I can choose to make an intervention (behavioral or supplemental) before I get “sick.”
Here’s the disclaimer I alluded to earlier. I maintain a small stash of Ambien, a prescription sleeping medicine, which I nibble off occasionally when I just know that I have not attended to my sleep hygiene. I don’t use it regularly at all, and a month’s prescription usually lasts me around twelve. Recall that I am not a drug nihilist; I think that modern medicines all have a time and a place. Pharmaceutical use is a personal decision that we each need to make. For me, if I haven’t slept well for a night or two, I sometimes use a small dose of the medication to reset the cycling. I like to think that at some point in my life I will be able to manage it all organically, supplementing only with my B vitamins and psyllium.
But I am the first to admit that I am not there yet.
Health Intervention #4:
Learn sleep hygiene. Practice sleep hygiene. Sleep.
These are four of the most important steps that I take to maintain my health. The process is really pretty simple. I focus on food and good nutrition, and on spending quality time with my family. I try to maintain a balance between an active mind, fostering creative and productive processing, and the time required to be in silence to allow it to rest. I consciously make time for my body to sleep and heal. Finally, I do use some supplements, but in a directed and limited fashion.
Assuredly my self-care is far from perfect, but as with so many things in life, it is a process. I just so my best, and try to have compassion for all people around me, including myself.
Dr. Scott Resnick
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