If a healthy lifestyle is our goal, and we are what we eat, we are just as much the result of what we do.
Consider personality type. Are you a type A that stresses out over everything or do you chill and takes things in stride? A healthy lifestyle depends on the latter.
Do you stay up and watch the late night comedians then rise at 5:00 am to grab a quick shower and dash off to work, maybe getting 5 hours of sleep?
Does your exercise consist of walking from the couch to the fridge and clicking the remote in between? A higher quality of life requires a few demands on those muscles of ours.
How about merriment? Is there laughter in your life or does eight hours of network news, local news and other doses of gloom and doom stifle your joy of living? We can laugh our way to a longer, happier life.
We build muscles by exercising them. Same with the brain; no strain on the brain leads to reduced mental faculties. Memory, decision making, reasoning, problem solving all depend on mental fitness; a major factor in aging well. It's nice to have a little brain power to go with the strong body we are working toward.
Do the pressures of life cause you to unwind with a smoke and toddy or maybe a pill to calm the jittery nerves and are you finding yourself turning to "substances" more and more often for relaxation? The healthy lifestyle doesn't need to "get high with a little help from our friends"
We can sum all of these up as stress, sleep, exercise, joy, mental stimulation and destructive habits. Choices we make in each area are vital to either life extension or shortening of our lives and we will examine how it works in the coming paragraphs.
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Stress has been described as the confusion created when one's mind overrides the body's basic desire to strangle some jerk who desperately deserves it.
On a more serious note, Dr. Hans Selve, a Canadian endocrinologist and a pioneer in stress research, postulated that “Every stress leaves an indelible scar, and the organism pays for its survival after a stressful situation by becoming a little older.” So here we have a linkage between stress and aging from an expert in the field.
Stress is so much more than a state of mind; stress can kill us. There are well researched cause and effect relationships between chronic, prolonged stress and the release of certain chemicals in the body that damage the cardiovascular system with dire results.
On the positive side, techniques in stress management combined
with smart choices in nutrition and supplementation can prolong our life and contribute to a healthy lifestyle.
Artist Edvard Munch captured stress perfectly
in his painting "The Scream" in 1893.
Benjamin Franklin linked health, wealth and wisdom together when he wrote, "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." Well, maybe. Over the years, sleep has gotten a lot of attention from writers, scholars and entertainers.
Ernest Hemingway said of sleep, "I love sleep. My life has a tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?"
Most of us would like to die peacefully in our sleep. Will Shriner, an American comedian, said, "I want to die in my sleep like my grandfather...not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car."
Hundreds of books have been written about sleep, delving into why we sleep, why we dream, what is the physiology of sleep on the body, why are there stages of sleep, what are the effects of sleep deprivation, what causes sleep disorders and what can we do about them.
Since our focus is on quality-of-life and life extension through the healthy lifestyle choices we make, the emphasis will be on those things that are in our control. What can we do and what should we avoid to insure good quality, health bestowing sleep.
"I believe that the Good Lord gave us a finite number of heartbeats and I'm damned if I'm going to use up mine running up and down a street," from astronaut Neil Armstrong on jogging."
<Mark Twain thought that "pushing sixty was enough exercise" for him;
and Robert Hutchins, an American educator and philosopher said, "whenever I feel like exercise, I lie down till the feeling passes."
These quotes were all said tongue-in-cheek but they do reflect an aversion to exercise by far too many people.
The epidemic of obesity and excess weight throughout our country is good prima facie evidence for the lack of exercise in all age groups. Granted there are other factors contributing to the weight problem but exercise does burn calories.
The linkage between exercise and a healthy lifestyle has been proven beyond any shadow of doubt and we will look at just how exercise extends life.
We will also examine the effects of a sedentary lifestyle on health and longevity. It's very simple, without exercise, there is no such thing as a healthy lifestyle.
What do Sudoku, Crosswords, Cryptograms and Word Jumbles all have in common? Well, they all appear in my daily hometown newspaper and they are all good brain stimulants to start the day...kind of like 20 minutes on the treadmill, only for the brain instead of the legs and cardio.
Brain fitness and brain plasticity are only two of the many concepts we will look at in our discussion of life extension and a healthy lifestyle through brain health.
As we will see, the brain will go to extraordinary lengths to protect and nourish itself, often by sacrificing other organs in a last ditch effort to survive.
Let's start out with three good quotes on laughter and the healthy lifestyle.
"A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book." ~Irish Proverb
From Henry Ward Beecher, "Mirth is God's medicine. Everybody ought to bathe in it."
And from Amercian humorist, Jack Handey, "Dad always thought laughter was the best medicine, which I guess is why several of us died of tuberculosis."
Laughter does have therapeutic effects and the physiology of how it helps us lead a healthy lifestyle and live longer is well researched.
Happy people who laugh live longer than grumpy sourpuss's. It's healthier to hang out with the former and avoid the latter; both merriment and despair are highly contagious.
I never cease to be amazed, and saddened, by people who work so hard at destroying their lungs, livers, brains, kidneys, families and finances through substance abuse.
Man, I'm so cool; just out having a little fun; not hurting anyone; I'm just killing myself. Oh well, whatever it takes to be part of the crowd.
In the quotes that follow, we again encounter that famous writer, author unknown, and two other famous people sharing their thoughts on alcohol, tobacco and drugs.
If drinking is interfering with your work, you’re probably a heavy drinker. If work is interfering with your drinking, you’re probably an alcoholic. -Author Unknown
According to Brooke Shields, American actress, "Smoking kills. If you're killed, you've lost a very important part of your life.”
From P. J. O'Rourke, "Drugs have taught an entire generation of American kids the metric system."
The focus of this section on substance abuse is all about bad choices concerning substances that kill, shorten life, rob us of a healthy lifestyle.
We also take a look at what this activity does to the body and ways to recover from the effects of such abuse.
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Proceed to Lifestyle Choices for Healthy Sleep
Proceed to Physical Fitness: Exercising for Health
Navigate to the Health Benefits of Laughter
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