If we are in the normal range of a population of people who are sedentary, stressed, overweight and have unhealthy diets then we are not close to the optimal health that we can attain as individuals. In our society we often confuse normal health and the lack of symptoms with being in fine shape. If we feel OK and we are not more out of shape than our friends and family we think that is a sign of health and fitness. If health were rated on a scale of 1 to 10 and normal health was a 6 then many of us consider that ideal with the higher end of the scale being reserved for fitness nuts and extreme athletes.
Our health care system is designed to react to changes below the norm and to restore people to that norm at great cost and effort once disease has manifested. If we prevent things from happening that cause a decline below the mean or we are able to treat peoples conditions back to the place where they can live independently, get around, and go out to a restaurant then it is considered a success. This is true for both physical health and mental health. Our society and our health care system generally think that if we are not suffering greatly and our physical and mental health are at the norms then we believe we are at a good place.
There is a totally different way to look at things. Diabetes is a great example. We say that you are not diabetic unless your fasting blood sugar is over 126 and that an ideal fasting sugar is below 100. Part of this is the state of understanding and part of it may be politics. In a population of people that is becoming increasingly sedentary and increasingly heavier blood sugars and the rate of diabetes are rising exponentially. There is over 700% more diabetes now than there was in 1960 even by these criteria.
The truth is that a person may have 20-30 years of time where there blood sugar is elevated and causing damage to their heart and blood vessels, their brain, their kidneys and their nerves before they are even diagnosed with diabetes. The risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, heart attack and stroke are elevated during the whole time blood sugar is above optimal levels not just after the disease of diabetes is diagnosed. If we would focus on identifying and treating elevation of blood sugar before it is diagnosed as diabetes we could prevent much of this disease from occurring in subsequent years.
A combination of weight loss, healthy activity, supplements and a low glycemic diet that all promote lower blood sugars can keep many of these diseases from occurring in the first place. It is naive and incorrect to think that our ancestors or even our grandparents lived dramatically healthier and happier lives. Across time and throughout the world they struggled on many levels. Infectious disease was rampant and shortened many lives. Adequate protein and even adequate calories were difficult to obtain through much of the year. Access to the knowledge of what vitamins and minerals were beneficial much less how to find and add these to their diets was lacking. They did however, often live in closer knit communities, spend more of their time moving their bodies and ate more whole foods. They may not have exercised per se but they worked, commuted and pursued activities that involved using their bodies as part of their daily routine on a sustained basis. They were not sitting in front of a screen watching the world passively; they were out in it living in three dimensions.
By combining new understandings of genetics and nutrition with the knowledge of how people used to live in healthier ways we can offset much of the increased risk we have today in our society of overabundance. Food grown and manufactured to minimize cost and optimize profit turns out to have a downstream cost to our health. Driving everywhere and sitting most of the day are unnatural and leads to a host of problems unknown to prior generations. When we combine the knowledge of leading edge nutrition with a new understanding of the need for balance, motion, and meaningful activity we can design lives that achieve optimal levels of health that were previously unattainable.
Optimal health is within our reach now more than ever before. It will take investment, commitment, and determination to achieve it as individuals and as a population. But we now have the tools that can foster this transformation. At VitalyzeInc. we have built this knowledge into our sophisticated risk assessment engine. We help you understand your risk and even more importantly we help you find a path to improving your health and fitness to optimal levels in a way that is truly personalized and fits with your philosophy and beliefs.