The start of the new year is a chance for a clean slate and a reboot. Dr. Andrew Brandeis spotlights the 1 fundamental thing you can do to kick-start your health for the year to come.
This is not a post about new year resolutions — 80% of which are broken by mid February. I assume if you’re reading this you are mindful of your health, you know how to make the right resolutions, and you are already familiar with some of the key best practices for making and keeping resolutions:
- Dream big
- Break your big dream into small steps
- Define why you are making a change
- Hold yourself accountable
- Reward yourself along the way
- Be thankful for what you do & don’t judge yourself
I’d like to jump in and focus on a resolution that should, I believe, top every health-conscious person’s list: achieving optimal health.
If the idea of optimal health is new to you then, briefly, optimal health is “living in balance”. It’s recognizing that your overall health is influenced by all aspects of your life; whether your aim to treat a specific illness or health concern or if your focus is on improving the general quality of life, the most effective course will be the one that looks at allcontributing factors, from lifestyle, habits, daily stressors, to more clinical determinants like underlining health issues, family medical history (heredity), diet, mental health, and exercise. (It should also be noted that as we age our priorities will, inevitably, change: one's optimal health at 65 looks very different than it did at 25.)
It may be trite to say, but health is personal. Everyone is entitled to define for themselves what constitutes their optimal health. For me, it’s about being as healthy as I can be right now and setting myself up for long-term health. That’s the beauty of it, optimal health not only impacts your day to day but it will ripple out for all your days to come. Here are some recommendations I’ve made to my patients over the years:
...if you are at risk of developing a chronic illness. Of the five most prevalent of types chronic illnesses — cardiovascular disease, heart disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes — studies show that in 80% of cases you reduce the likelihood of developing illnesses by adopting and committing to a wellness regimen that controls for the healthiest behaviors that are right for you. That may include not just a healthy diet and exercise but also reducing stress, having purpose, and maintaining positive and robust engagement with family and friends.
...if you currently have some bad habits you’d like to rehabilitate. Your habits have a cumulative effect. Someone who leans more into a sedentary lifestyle — hours at desk then after work, vegging on the couch, for example — may feel generally okay week to week, but year after year of this will catch up and then, seemingly, ‘out of nowhere’, you develop a serious, chronic disease or illness.
...if you're already someone who takes their health seriously but wants to raise their wellness baseline. Optimal health is open ended; that is to say, it's not a regimen or routine Rather it's whatever it means to you. Once you determine what your optimal health looks like you can begin controlling for that. Say for example you are super active. You love working out, you have a weekly pick-up game, you push yourself. It's likely you'd target things like speed, strength, endurance, and flexibility. Another example would be foodie — you love great food, cooking is a passion, you love spending sunny Sundays browsing your local farmer market — you're optimal health would necessarily be food based. You would do thing like experiment with different vegetables, you'd get out of your culinary comfort zone, try different recipes, etc. There is no right way, no program, and, I would argue, that's its strength.
Finally, as a doctor concentrating on effective nutraceutical therapies that support long-term health, I will note that any course you set towards your optimal health will be strengthened by the addition of the right, high-quality supplement program. The past few years has seen a growing body of scientific research showing the effectiveness of proper nutraceutical use. Additionally, with the advent of personalized supplements (i.e., using testing methodologies like blood, saliva, and genetic markers, to determine the most effective supplement program), you can now target specific health needs or goals. To illustrate what an effective supplement regimen that supports optimal health might look like, below is what I take every day:
- Probiotic to help support and promote a healthy digestive system
- Vitamin D for immune system support
- A B-Complex (w/Folate) for cardiovascular, nervous system and metabolism support
- Coenzyme Q10 for heart health and health cell maintenance
- Omega-3 for cardiovascular and heart health
- Resveratrol for blood-pressure management
Obviously, I am an evangelist for optimal health. As such, I advocate for its effectiveness and the sound reasoning behind adolescent it. But, more, I feel passionately that by defining what optimal health means to you and then committing to achieve it has the potential to be transformative. Simply put optimal health is life changing.
Dr, Andrew Brandeis