“The mind and body are not separate, what affects one, affects the other.” Anonymous
“The first wealth is health.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” Buddha
“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.” Mahatma Gandhi
“It is exercise alone that supports the spirits, and keeps the mind in vigor.” Marcus Tullius Cicero
To get to live life fully and experience all its wonders we need to strive to stay in a healthy and optimal state. We are driven by thoughts, our prevailing moods and have to make decisions all day. These decisions are both important and non trivial. We need healthy bodies and minds to aid the cognitive process.
Our decision making and thinking can be impaired by a sick body. Nurture your body with care and it will repay that care with a more enriched and fulfilling life. If you really want to function optimally and aid your cognitive process both in the short and long term then your health choices matter.
Real personal change comes about when trauma or real pain hits us. Unfortunately this comes too late at the end of the day. I have personally witnessed my own father battle with the devastating effects of diabetes and my late brother battle obesity and suffer two pulmonary thrombosis scares.
Watching our loved ones and formerly vibrant individuals reduced to struggling daily is a painful wakeup call. We do not need to undergo the same trauma . The adage prevention is always better than the cure will always be true.
When it comes to health the choices are stark and clear. We either follow the straight and narrow path or we will face the hammer down the road. It’s a battle you and I will face each and every day but with the necessary commitment and drive can overcome this battle.
Modern Day Health Dilemmas
Unfortunately in this global world of convenience we have messed the body’s natural choice of foods and expected levels of exercise. Added to this the frenetic pace of global business and modern day expectations have built up stress levels to a level that the human body is poorly handling.
To adapt to this changing world we need to readjust our coping mechanism by also elevating our health choices to our daily conscious and active decision making processes. We will only maintain optimal cognitive and physical health by making the right choices continually.
Human beings have evolved over the millennia and have transitioned from active hunter and gatherer lifestyles to more sedentary lifestyles which involve buying pre-packaged and processed food from supermarkets.
Most societies have evolved from agrarian societies to industrialized and service economies. The vast majority of population migration settings have shifted from rural settings to modern urban settings that have heavy population densities. This phenomenon began in the Western industrialized world and has now spread to other regions of the world.
In turn most diets have changed from organic diets to industrial processed food and inorganic food alternatives to meet the demands of the masses. This has had a major impact on our health. Modern diseases are ravaging most populations.
My neighbor Kenya has recently had a national outcry over a cancer epidemic in the country Modern diseases have become prevalent all over the globe. Chronic diseases in the form of diabetes, hypertension, cancer, dental problems, depression, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s ,dementia have taken root in all corners of the globe.
These diseases above are all hallmarks of diets gone bad and sedentary lifestyles that are the current norm of the day. There are seven major health battles been fought in modern day societies which are listed respectively below:-
Inflammation– This is where our immune systems are activated all the time due to poor diets and over eating. This is the primary cause of diabetes, insulin resistance, weight gain and DNA damage. Carbohydrate overload in the form of an overload of Omega 6 acids to the Omega 3 acids ratio is the key culprit here.
Chronic stress – Society’s expectations have increased and many people are been forced to multitask and take on ever increasing workloads. These expectations have also spread to the young who are forced to take on increasing workloads in school and college.
Obesity caused by overfeeding – Human beings after the industrial age produce food in surplus unlike ancient times that witnessed scarcity. This has influenced the tendency to overfeed which is now prevalent all over the world
Nutrient deficiencies – Modern Food processing and manufacture has resulted in the loss of vital nutrients in our food chain. Farm practices have resulted in inorganic and genetically modified food that lacks key essential nutrients
Toxic agent exposure in our environment– The use of pesticides and herbicides is prevalent in modern agriculture, industrial pollution of our soil and water bodies is common place. The air is heavily polluted by exhaust fumes from cars and industries. These toxic agents have harmful effects on our health.
Sedentary lifestyles with physical inactivity- With the advent of motor vehicles, modern communication and the modern workplace/home it has brought convenience to our door steps which has resulted in the loss of essential motion
Sleep loss- With ever increasing commute times and increasing workloads sleep has been sacrificed at a huge cost to our overall health.
Modern day media and culture has not helped. The juggernaut of television programming, movies, and advertisements have helped spread the western diet and lifestyle very effectively to all reaches of the globe.
Multinational conglomerates have not helped the matter. Giants like Coca-cola, McDonalds, Dominos, KFC and fast food establishments have sprouted in all corners of the globe. My home country Uganda has not been spared this invasion. The fastest growing food outlets are fast food outlets.
The good news is that a counter revolution is growing steadily in the form of the internet. It is a phenomenon that is changing how the everyday citizen and the common man is informing themselves and influencing the choices they are making.
The shift to more healthy diets and lifestyles has taken root in western society and this is now also seeping back to other regions in the world as well.
Concentration and Focus
We cannot achieve our goals and targets without focus, concentration and general optimal health. Good health truly is the essence of life. Goals can only be achieved when we direct our energy and focus on the matter at hand. If we are distracted by low energy levels or ill health we will find it hard to achieve any worthwhile endeavour.
In life what matters is to always stack the odds in your favour. One great way of stacking the odds in your favour is to always maintain optimum mental health, focus and concentration.
In turn it is worthless achieving a major milestone if we are not in a position to enjoy it due to poor ill health. It is thus paramount to ensure we focus as a minimum on maintaining great health to sustain and enjoy the wins in our lives.
Major Disasters Caused by Lack of Concentration and Focus
The majority of every day physical accidents can be attributed to human error caused by lapses in focus and concentration. Here are three major incidents that can be attributed to this negative phenomenon
- The Challenger Explosion
This accident took place in January 1986 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Challenger space shuttle exploded right after take off. The key cause was attributed to fatigued supervisors who had been awake since 1.00 am in the launch day and failed to detect problems in the immediate pre-launch period.
- Exxon Valdez Spill
This was an accident involving an oil spill off the coast of Alaska in the USA. The captain of an oil tanker ship had drunk the previous night and left his second in command to steer the ship. Unfortunately the second in command officer had not had enough sleep and had already been awake for the last 18 hours. The ship struck a reef and spilled out approximately 10.8 million gallons of fuel onto the ocean.
- The Great Heck Rail Crash
This involved an accident in Britain in 2001 when a passenger train collided with a car that had got stuck across the rail lines after the car driver fell asleep and veered off the road onto the rail track. 10 people died due to this unfortunate incident.
All our major woes and trouble in life can always be traced back to a lack of concentration and focus
- Most accidents occur when we are distracted, we do not notice the warning sign and veer of a corner
- We drive when extremely tired or under the influence of alcohol and fall asleep at the wheel
- We miss the signs our kids behaviour is changing and fail to rectify this behaviour early
- We sign contracts that are detrimental to our well being and have important clauses missing
- Our favourite football team loses due to lack of focus and concentration
- We send the wrong document to the wrong party and damage a relationship
- We fail to send that birthday message at the right time causing a relationship to slacken
- We fail to give the right energy and focus as we strive to attain short term goals and long term goals
What drives Optimal Concentration?
There are three pillars that drive optimal health. You need to eat right, sleep right and exercise right to ensure your mind and other bodily organs functions optimally. I will repeat the manta below again:
- Get enough rest
- Get enough exercise
- Eat the right food in the right quantity
The body needs continual maintenance like any other machine. We cannot cheat our bodies we have to ensure we are doing all three aspects above daily.
If we lack balance in any of these areas above we will pay the price sooner or later. To achieve your goals you need energy. You need to fuel this energy in the right manner. Careful attention to each of these pillars above is paramount.
They need to be baked in as part of your overall routine. Get to have a consistent sleep cycle, ensure you have done the right exercise for all your muscle groups and ensure you have ingested all the right vitamins, carbohydrates, proteins and you are well hydrated..
Once you achieve the right daily regimen you are well on the way to achieving your other goals. This builds the stamina and body immunity that are needed to propel us forward towards our other objectives.
There are many studies that have been carried out on all these aspects above.
I recommend visiting a doctor, certified nutritionist and certified gym instructor before you embark on any diet or exercise program. I have curated what is working for the majority currently
The Key Pillars of Health
- The Food we eat
We are what we eat. The quality and the quantity of food we eat determines how we will function mentally and physically. Food can either nurture us or poison us. In one study that followed more than 1,600 adults for an entire decade, those who ate the most fiber were 80 percent more likely to be free of hypertension, diabetes, dementia, depression, and disability than low-fiber consumers.
Our current lifestyle and majority of present day jobs and activities do not lend to an optimal food intake for the majority of people. Unfortunately the cheapest food in most societies is also the unhealthiest food.
The key curse in the modern age is SUGAR. Processed sugar, preservatives and refined carbohydrates are wreaking untold havoc in most societies. Other poor major modern food choices are hydrogenated polyunsaturated oils. These include canola oil, safflower oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, rapeseed oil, vegetable oil, grape seed oil, peanut oil, rice bran oil , factory-farmed meats, and refined carbohydrates .
Refined sugar is present in the most common snacks and food available. Biscuits, cookies, bread, cakes, processed juice, crisps and many other common snacks are been consumed in vast amounts of quantities. These snacks all have one thing in common they have large amounts of refined sugar.
Excess sugar and excess carbohydrates lead to inflammation and influence hormonal imbalance the most serious of them being insulin resistance. A serious recommendation is to eliminate wheat and processed foods from your diet completely.
Diabetes and cancer are the leading killer diseases in many societies. These diseases are affecting all age groups, income groups and have penetrated all strata in society. Arthritis, asthma and many other allergies are on the rise. Obesity and it’s resultant consequences are a major problem everywhere.
The only remedy is society getting back to the basics of eating more organic vegetables and fruits and avoiding refined sugar, processed food and all it’s derivatives where possible. Our protein sources also have to be steered back to organic sources of protein. Grass fed animals, legumes and wild fish in all forms.
Key compounds our minds and bodies need- (I will only list them do your research to get to know more about them)
Omega 3 (Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)) and Omega 6 acids Oleocanthal
Brainderived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)
Furan fatty acid (F Acid)
Alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA- Plant Omega 3 Acid
Monosaturated Fat (fats facilitate the absorption of critical fat-soluble nutrients like vitamins A, E, D, and K, as well as important carotenoids like beta-carotene
Carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin, astaxanthin)
Vitamin B, D and K2
Collagen and glycine
Key Hormones and Enzymes
Adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK
Here is a list of mandatory recommended foods in no particular order
Berries- Blueberries, rasp berries, strawberries, gooseberries, blackberries, bilberries,
Flaxseeds, Chia seeds, and walnuts
Avocados, avocado oil,
Carrots, sweet potatoes, rhubarb
Rommaine Lettuce, Cabbage
Brocolli sprouts, radishes, bok choy
Beet greens, Beetroot, Swiss chard, mustard greens
Pasture raised eggs (yolks especially)
Pasture raised meat, beef, chicken
Dark Chocolate (more than 85% cacao content)
Green and white tea
Fermented foods raw probiotic-containing foods (Kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha, yoghurt)
Raw unsalted nuts or roasted in dry heat– cashew nuts, ground nuts, macadamia nuts, pistachio nuts
Recommended oils for cooking (Monostaurated oils)
Recommended Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Ghee
Grass fed butter
It’s always advisable to contact a doctor or certified nutritionist who can help you carry out blood tests and gut content tests before you embark on any diet. All individuals are unique and one man’s meat is literally another man’s poison
Ketogenic Diet – A diet low in carbohydrates and higher in vegetables and proteins. This is enhanced by intermittent and regular fasting sessions.
Paleo diet – A diet that is based on what early humans ate. Mayoclinic describes it as ‘returning to the way of eating that’s more like what early humans ate. The diet’s reasoning is that the human body is genetically mismatched to the modern diet that emerged with modern farming practices. Another great resource on the Paleo diet can be viewed at the Paleophysicality Site.
Recommended Paleo Diet
What to Eat
Nuts and seeds
Lean meats, especially grass-fed animals or wild game
Fish, especially those rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, mackerel and albacore tuna
Oils from fruits and nuts, such as olive oil or walnut oil
What to avoid
Grains, such as wheat, oats and barley
Legumes, such as beans, lentils, peanuts and peas
Highly processed foods in general
Exercise is the other pillar in keeping our minds and bodies in peak condition. We evolved over thousands of years with our primary tasks revolving around hunting and gathering. Our bodies were designed for mobility and only recently did we incorporate sitting down for long stretches as modern day demands have created.
Exercise is the perfect antidote to this sedentary lifestyle. Exercise comes in two forms that should be alternated throughout the week aerobic and anaerobic exercise. It is good stress buster and is the best antidote to chronic stress.
This is where you have a long, light but not strenuous exercise. It is the best booster for brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). It usually comes in the forms below:
Short and long walks
Easy Bike rides
This is short but very strenuous activity. It is one of the best methods of reversing insulin resistance. It is based on the principle that momentarily overloading your body provides a powerful stimulus for your cells to adapt, grow stronger, and become more efficient. Examples are listed below
Climbing a hill
Strength exercises- Lifting weights
Vigorous biking, rowing
Adequate sleep is the third pillar on which optimal health is built. At least 7 hours of sleep is recommended for every adult. Sleep deprivation is a very serious problem and is the leading cause of accidents worldwide.
Most day to day problems can be traced to poor sleeping habits and patterns. We need to watch our sleep carefully. Sleep is the natural cleanser of our brain and controls vital hormones that influence our moods.
One key factor is that you age faster when you are sleep derived.
Other important pillars that are essential for health
Meditation and Spirituality
I cannot stress the importance of meditation to calm our minds and protect us from undue stress. Study Stoic philosophy to get a more realistic and pragmatic approach and hold to life.
The other side to the coin is also having a strong spiritual foundation. You will find the strong religious and spiritual adherents have better mental and physical health than their non religious counterparts.
We need to engage in intermittent fasts to boost our health. Fasting promotes ketogenesis where our bodies start burning up fat to produce ketone bodies to fuel our energy needs. Our ancestors were used to food scarcity and thus had extended and forced periods of fast.
This had the side effect of helping to cleanse and burn excess fat. The process induced the liver to start a process called autophagy where the body picks dysfunctional cells and uses them for energy. It’s a clean up process in the body and reduces the free radicals in our bodies.
Building a strong social network
Those with strong social networks are better placed to deal with adversity more easily and cope with life’s ever present modern day stress. Build strong relationships that can stand the test of time is a vital.
A good and strong social network engages our thought process and releases dopamine. It’s the best way to alleviate stress.
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