Six Ways to Take Charge of Your Health

Author: Dr. Jeda Boughton, B.A., R.Ac., Dr. TCM, FABORM – Boda Health

At BodaHealth, our health practitioners have decades of experience in treating patients with a wide variety of symptoms, conditions and illnesses. We’d like to share some insights that we’ve come to understand through our work with patients just like you.

Our first insight is that your body is programmed to heal itself; it wants to heal. And in most cases, if something is amiss with your health, your body will let you know. At first it may be in the form of subtle messages and small signs that something’s not quite right. Maybe your sleep is a little off, your energy a little sluggish or you have a small nagging pain. However, if you ignore those early signs, they get louder and more pronounced—morphing into symptoms or illness—until you do something about it.

The second thing that we know is that it’s much easier to prevent ill-health than it is to reverse it. That’s right! There’s so much that you can do for yourself to make a difference in your health, and it’s pretty easy to do. Here’s our short list of six things that can help you take charge of your health and prevent those annoying little messages from your body:

1) Eat a mostly plant-based diet. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to go full-on vegan or vegetarian, but eating a diet that’s mostly plants has numerous health benefits including lowering your blood pressure, improved heart and brain health, prevention of Type 2 diabetes, weight control, decreased risk of certain cancers and stroke, and increased longevity. If reducing the amount of animal foods in your diet feels like a stretch, start small. You can begin by incorporating a couple of meat-free meals each week, adapting some of your favorite recipes to make them meatless or dairy-free, exploring different cuisines and buying a vegetarian cookbook or two. Finally, don’t think about how to remove meat from your diet, instead think about how to add more vegetables (especially green ones) and fruits into it.

2) Make time to care for your mental health. Even if you have only ten minutes, it’s enough time to do a meditation, visualization or practice mindfulness. With half an hour, you can write a journal entry, play some music, read a chapter or two of your favorite book, go for a walk or sit with a cup of tea. If you think you’re too busy to make time to unwind, remember that unrelenting stress impacts your physical health in dozens of ways, and none of them are good. Some of the most common side-effects of stress include fatigue, sleep issues, digestive problems, suppressed immunity, chest pain, palpitations and aches and pains.

3) Make getting enough sleep a priority. It’s easy to let sleep slide when your life is full of long days and many commitments, but your body recovers from the stressors of the day and rejuvenates itself while you sleep. The benefits of regularly getting a full night’s sleep (7-9 hours for adults) include being better able to handle stress, decreased risk of heart disease and diabetes, better weight control, stronger immune function and improved mental clarity.

4) Take good care of your teeth and gums. Bet you didn’t see this one coming, right? When I was growing up, my dentist used to say, “You don’t have to floss all of your teeth … Just the ones you want to keep” J It’s clear that brushing and flossing your teeth daily helps to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. However, many people don’t know that poor oral health is linked to several systemic illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. Brushing and flossing daily is a simple habit that has a big preventative payoff.

5) Move your body. The benefits of physical activity are well-known—including better cardiovascular health, improved sleep, mental health benefits, weight control, improved physical function and preventing mental decline as you age. However, it can be hard to know where to start or to find ways to keep exercise fresh and fun. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to kill the world—you just have to move a little each day. The good news is that Vancouver offers up tons of opportunities to move outdoors, including hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, biking, kayaking and simply exploring the city and surrounding neighborhoods on foot. If you don’t want to go outdoors, a yoga class or at home exercise video are also good options. Need some encouragement or accountability? Find an exercise partner who will meet you to walk, bike or workout and will encourage you to stay with it. Your body will thank you!

6) Having problems with your health? Get help! If your body is sending out warning messages or you’re having full-on symptoms or chronic health problems, don’t ignore it. Put it on your calendar to get regular health screenings, such as mammograms or thermograms, screenings for cervical cancer and bowel screenings as recommended.

The bottom line is that taking good care of yourself translates into better health.

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