With the term “modern medicine” coined around the late 19th century it’s high time we re-framed health. This article looks toward health optimisation and future proofing ourselves with evidence-based knowledge to ensure we position ourselves on the path to success.
The “Optimal Self”
A commitment to wellbeing starts with an inward look at innate behaviours, learned habits and our personal goals… Enter lifestyle medicine and precision health!
While health may be something we only reflect on when we no longer have it, achieving a state of wellbeing may look different for each of us depending on our daily habits, mindsets and expectations of ourselves.
It is more than just the absence of illness which we strive for, the “optimal self” encompasses physical, emotional, and mental health which can only come from maintaining positive choices and lifestyle changes to achieve whatever we are working towards.
How do we start?
Here is a brief introduction into how small, sustainable changes to everyday practices can optimise your performance:
A healthy diet is integral to a healthy lifestyle. It is important to focus on eating a whole food anti-inflammatory diet avoiding processed foods including refined sugars. Ensuring a varied diet with great amounts of fibre, lean protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats give you the ability to sustain your energy levels for longer including concentration and focus throughout your work day.
A balanced diet avoiding blood sugar crashes and spikes will aid workflow, promote a healthy gut microbiome and improve concentration.
What is the gut microbiome?
While this is an extensive topic and ongoing area of research, the gut is home to trillions of microorganisms collectively known as the gut microbiome and has an important role in regulating the gut brain axis by producing neurotransmitters and other signalling molecules that can affect brain function.
In turn, this has been implicated in a wide range of physiological and pathological conditions to include obesity, diabetes, depression and anxiety as well as other neurological disorders.
Changes in the gut microbiome can influence brain function and behaviour and modulating it through dietary interventions (as well as other pillars of lifestyle medicine) may produce therapeutic potential in treating certain health conditions, improving focus and feelings of wellbeing, making it well worth swapping your beige sandwich for a buddha bowl in my opinion!
2. Physical activity
Regular exercise is so important for reducing the risk of chronic disease, improving overall wellbeing, reducing the risk of illness and massively improving insulin resistance which is essential to reduce cardiometabolic risk factors and encourage longevity.
How can we incorporate physical activity into our busy day?
You’re up against it, you have a deadline and feel “time poor”. Exercise snacking involves breaking up exercise into short intense bursts of physical activity throughout the day. The idea is to perform multiple brief bouts of exercise lasting a few minutes in order to achieve some physical activity.
We know that even two minutes of high intensity workouts will improve your blood sugar control and metabolic function These even include yoga poses or stretching exercises, resistance bands at the desk and many more.
3. Stress management
Chronic stress has negative effects on physical and mental health and techniques such as meditation and yoga can help to engage the parasympathetic nervous system and improve our overall response in an acutely stressful environment.
Discovering techniques to optimize your performance, reduce your cortisol levels prior to and improve your confidence.
Breathwork is a technique that involves controlling breathing to improve concentration, reduce stress and anxiety and enhance stress responses.
There are many forms of breathing which can be implemented depending on your needs. These could include diaphragmatic breathing, nostril breathing and box breathing, among others.
4. Sleep Hygiene
When you need to bring your “A” game in order to perform particularly well, always remember your tomorrow starts with your night before.
Quality sleep is essential for cognitive excellence. It can improve memory and task execution. ‘Sleep hygiene’ refers to the habits and practices that are conducive to getting a good night’s sleep. Quality sleep is essential for cognitive excellence. It can improve memory and task execution.
Practices that can help to optimise sleep include committing to a regular sleep schedule, creating a sleep environment e.g. allowing core body temperature to reduce at night by avoiding overheating, promoting silence, and avoiding blue lights stimulation before bedtime.
The next steps
While lifestyle changes are the first steps to change, there is a world of botanicals to include herbs and adaptogens that may benefit us each differently to optimise our wellbeing.
There is no ‘one size fits all approach’ when it comes to health, and this includes supplement support and personalized goals and where precision medicine takes its place. Having the ability to tailor medical treatment or patient care to an individual’s genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors, has the potential to revolutionize healthcare and improve patient outcomes.
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