So You Love Your Life?
After recently surviving a near fatal car accident I can't help but realize how every step we take brings us closer to our last. I am not trying to be morbid; it is simply our reality. One moment we are alive, and the next we could be gone. At 27 years old I have lost many young friends and with experiencing a close call myself, I now more than ever feel the preciousness of each moment.
We could die tomorrow or we could live until we are 100. Although accidents do happen, the probability of death from a major disease is much more likely. The purpose of this article is to firstly provide data to prove that lifestyle has a direct correlation to disease, and secondly to share dietary changes that could extend your life. The data part is thick but extremely interesting and empowering so stick with it!
Do you love your life? If the answer is no, I urge you to do something about it. Please talk to someone, change your career, end your relationship, DO SOMETHING! If your answer is yes, then this is for you.
So you love your life?
I hope that most people feel this way! But if so, why are the majority of us going to die from something that could have been prevented? For example, you love your life but you smoke cigarettes? Smoking is the third leading cause of death and is responsible for around 500,000 deaths per year in the US. On average, smokers die 10 years earlier than nonsmokers and potentially exchange quality life years with years of sickness.
Heart disease and cancer precede smoking as the top two causes of death. However, a study by McGinnis and Foege published in The Journal of the American Medical Association claimed that the diseases are not causes, rather they are effects. So what is causing these diseases?
The study revealed ten behaviors which each of us controls in our daily life. Out of the ten, the first three behaviors overwhelmingly dominated the rest by 80%. Can you guess the three main lifestyle factors that have a direct correlation to the presence of preventable disease?
Tobacco use, diet, and physical activity.
Therefore, these three factors are the leading causes of premature death in our society.
Over the years smoking cessation has directly correlated to a decrease in smoking related cancers and heart disease, which is great. However while strides against tobacco are taking place, the standard diet has deteriorated alongside a decline in physical activity levels, resulting in epidemic obesity and diabetes.
Another fascinating study was done more recently in 2009 validating these findings. The Centers for Disease Control took a population of 23,000 adults in Germany and asked them four questions : Do you smoke, do you eat well (habitual intake of fruits, vegetables and grains), are you active, do you control your weight. They compared "I don't smoke, I eat well, I am active and my weight is controlled" to "I smoke, eat badly, am inactive and my weight is out of control." The results were astounding. They found that the first folks were 80% LESS LIKELY to develop a major chronic disease, and if you switch any of these bad behaviors to good, you reduce your risk by 50% with each change! Just a short list of factors overwhelmingly determine our medical fate.
These results were further validated by additional studies in the UK and in the US in the past decade.
This topic was inspired by a lecture I watched led by Dr. David Katz, MD, the founding director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center. He claims,
"Imagine there's a new drug, free of side affects, relatively inexpensive, accessible to all and will reduce your risk of ever getting any major chronic disease by 80%. What would you do first? Rush out to get a prescription? Buy stock in the company selling it? There is no such drug. There will never will be any such drug. Food is that medicine. Lifestyle is that medicine."
Nurture > Nature
Another study was conducted in 2010 by Dean Ornish in which he monitored the genes of 30 men in the early stages of prostate cancer. The men enrolled into an intensive lifestyle program centered around a plant-based diet. The effects of dietary changes on the gene expression were then analyzed and the results are mind-blowing.
"Five hundred cancer promoter genes were dramatically down-regulated by the lifestyle intervention, and fifty cancer suppressor genes were dramatically up-regulated. The power of food and lifestyle as medicine is so powerful that we can in fact nurture even nature." - David Katz
Although we may be pre-dispositioned to carry a disease, our lifestyle is the ultimate factor of our wellbeing. I am bursting with knowledge to share in hopes that it may help extend lives. After years of eating animals and processed foods, my intuition has guided me towards a plant-based lifestyle. I understand that not everyone has the knowledge, resources, or desire to do the same, but I also know that many people are interested and just don't know how to do it.
So you love your life, but you go days if not weeks without eating a WHOLE food, such as a vegetable or grain? Below I have created a chart defending the most common deterrent of plant based living:
But where do you get your protein?
*These numbers are accurate estimates which may vary according to serving size and preparation .
The bottom line is nature provides an abundance of protein, so as long as you are eating a plethora of natural foods there is no need to stress! What you may want to think about however are the other nutrients you may not be getting from an animal-based, highly processed diet.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, US Department of Ag, Web MD, and many other reliable sources, most Americans are DEFICIENT in Calcium, Potassium, Fiber, Magnesium, and Vitamins A, C, D and E. These nutrients are just as if not more important than protein in supporting bone density, energy levels, immune support, digestive function and so on.
So you love your life? Start eating WHOLE FOODS!!
So your mind is blown right? By deciding to incorporate whole foods and exercise into your life, you are already extending your years and preventing heart disease, cancer, and smoking related illness, yahoo!
(Physical activity is another topic that I am itching to talk about but for the sake of this lengthy article I'm going to save that for another day.)
To wrap up, I want to touch lightly on the next killer, accidents.
"The National Safety Council estimates 38,300 people were killed and 4.4 million injured on U.S. roads in 2015, which saw the largest one-year percentage increase in half a century." - REUTERS
This hits close to home because I am one of those 4.4 million. I was badly injured when the car I was in swerved off the road and spun into a utility pole. The seatbelt that saved my life also crushed my pelvis and spine. So although some accidents cannot be prevented, wearing a seatbelt can be the best decision you've ever made.
Ever since my car accident I've noticed how reckless people drive! I have had to tell friends to please put down their phones when driving 60 MPH on a highway! I urge you to take caution when driving a vehicle. Driving in a car is one of the most dangerous things we can do. So please please please be safe on the roads and make sure you have motorists insurance (even if you don't own a vehicle yourself!! More on this topic to come).
I know this isn't exactly the most uplifting topic to discuss but if one person makes a lifestyle change that extends their life then I have succeeded.
So you love your life? Me too. That's why I don't smoke, eat plant-based whole foods, exercise regularly and always wear my seatbelt!!