Six keys to wellness

Claves para el bienestar

Our health is our most precious asset. However, our complicated lives prevent us from having good health, even though resources are at our fingertips.

The fight against chronic diseases is becoming increasingly common in our society. The most common chronic killer diseases in the developed world are cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes), cancer and diabetes. Chronic diseases cause about 70% of deaths in the developed world, and about half are preventable.

Incorporating the six keys to wellness into our lives could greatly increase the likelihood of aging successfully and disease-free and thus living without medication or chronic pain.

The six ingredients necessary to obtain balance and well-being in our lives are the following:

1. Emotional Health

There is a deep connection between the mind and the body. Mental and emotional stress play an important role in the deterioration of our physical condition. On the emotional level, worry, stress, depression and anger have been shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke by up to 50%. This illustrates the importance of controlling thoughts and emotions.

2. Optimizing the nervous system through spinal alignment.

Mechanically, small displacements of the vertebrae can occur as a direct result of poor posture, trauma or repetitive motion of the affected joint, or indirectly, due to emotional or chemical/toxicological causes. When one or more of the 24 vertebrae of the spine become displaced, several processes occur. First, the space between the vertebrae that allows the spinal nerve to pass through is reduced and can lead to irritation of the spinal nerve and thus to malfunctioning of the part of the body it reaches. This creates an inflammatory process that further impairs the functioning of the affected nerve.

A displaced vertebra also loses its normal mobility and, if left untreated, can lead to the process known as osteoarthrosis. This process begins with a gradual degeneration of the intervertebral disc material and over time can lead to bony growth formations called osteophytes. In severe cases and over periods of at least 30 years, a complete disintegration of the intervertebral disc can occur, causing the fusion of one vertebra with another. This is a very serious problem, since it not only jeopardizes the mobility of the affected area, but also results in a significant alteration of the functioning of the associated spinal nerves.

Nervous system impulses are transmitted in the body to and from the brain via the spinal cord and spinal nerves. Spinal nerves are extensions of the spinal cord that run between each of the vertebrae of the spine. Each spinal nerve is responsible for reaching a specific part of the body. The location and level of irritation of a spinal nerve will determine which organs or tissues will be adversely affected. Irritation of spinal nerves does not always cause pain, but it does limit the functions of the tissues and organs involved.

Irritation of the spinal nerves may not only lead to physical symptoms such as pain, tingling sensations, loss of sensory perception and muscle atrophy; other symptoms may also be experienced, such as digestive, respiratory or cardiovascular conditions, not to mention a general decrease in energy and vitality.

3. Sleep

Scientists have gone to great lengths to search for the benefits of sleep. In human and animal studies, they have found that sleep plays a critical role in the immune system, metabolism, memory, learning, cellular and nervous system regeneration, as well as other vital functions. Although the amount of sleep needed varies from person to person, the most widespread idea is that it is important to get at least seven hours of sleep every night.

Lack of sleep impairs cognitive processes and memory, decreases performance and alertness, weakens the immune system and ultimately alters all physiological functions of the body.

Chronic sleep disorders can result in endocrine dysfunction, which we know is linked to our emotional state, causing anxiety and depression. These processes force the sympathetic nervous system to remain active, suppressing the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for absorbing nutrients and maintaining a healthy immune system.

4. Staying hydrated

Water makes up two-thirds of the body's mass. After air, it is the most necessary element for our survival. We need water for the elimination of toxins and waste through the digestive system, lymphatic system, liver, kidneys and sweat glands. Water is also vital to activate metabolism and to provide oxygen to the cells of the body.

A shortage of water in the body can cause poor muscle tone, digestive problems, muscle aches and fluid retention.

The amount of water eliminated by the body daily is between one and three liters, that is, four to twelve glasses of water.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that women drink eleven glasses of water per day and men sixteen glasses of water per day. Part of the daily water intake can also come from foods and juices. For example, a serving of broccoli or spinach, a cup of rice and an apple or a pear provide the body with approximately 300 ml of water.

Thirst is a good indicator of the early stages of dehydration and, therefore, you should drink when you are thirsty.

Two indicators of advanced dehydration are headaches and dark-colored urine.

In the selection of the liquid source, filtered water (or bottled water, preferably in a glass bottle, with low mineral content) is the best choice, since it does not contain chlorine or fluoride.

5. Exercise, stretching and breathing

Another requirement to ensure optimal health is to get enough exercise. This includes cardiovascular training, muscle strengthening exercises, stretching and good breathing.

Cardiovascular exercise is known to be necessary for good heart and circulatory health, preventing hypertension and other circulatory diseases.

Muscle strengthening exercises increase muscle and bone mass, improving strength and balance and preventing osteoporosis. Weight training should be done starting with light weights and gradually increasing them under the supervision of a personal trainer or health professional. Pilates is also a good muscle strengthening exercise, particularly for the abdominal area. It is advisable to allow a rest day between sessions to allow the muscles to recover properly.

Stretching, as with yoga, is important for circulation and balance. It keeps joints flexible, improves circulation and decreases stress.

Deep, slow breathing is also a great stress reducer and improves circulation.

6. Nutrition

We have all heard the expression "you are what you eat". There is a lot of truth in this phrase. Not only does our diet greatly influence how we feel, but countless scientific studies have shown the relationship between the foods we eat or don't eat and some health problems, such as stroke, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, etc.

What foods should we eat to obtain maximum health benefits? The generally accepted view is that a well-balanced Mediterranean diet is a good choice, since it is rich in fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates (such as whole grain rice) and relatively low in meat proteins and saturated fats.

To better understand how nutrition can play a key role in our health, it is necessary to examine some of the important components of certain foods that have been clinically proven to have healing properties.

Antioxidants, for example, which we find in fruits and vegetables, help our body protect itself from free radicals. (A free radical is an unstable molecule that is created during normal cellular metabolism. Free radicals can accumulate in cells and cause damage to other molecules such as DNA, lipids and proteins, which could increase the risk of cancer and other diseases).

The balance of essential minerals, electrolytes, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids facilitates the proper ratio of hormones that regulate the inflammatory response. Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids are flax seed oil, cold water fish and walnuts. Foods rich in omega-6 fatty acids are grains, most oils from plants and green leafy vegetables.

Another important component found in some foods such as bran, beans, berries, whole grains, green leafy vegetables and nuts is fiber. Fiber, the most important cleansing agent other than water, helps the body process nutrients, absorb antioxidants and is one of the most important factors for colon health.

In short, each individual chooses how to live his or her life. Good health requires attention to each of the six keys to wellness mentioned above. Missing just one of them would mean the difference between simply existing or living life with full energy and vitality. On the other hand, one can live like most people in the developed world and greatly increase the chances of joining the chronic disease mortality statistics. Don't we owe it to ourselves to try to be the best we can be?