Luck Of The Draw? Finding Gold With Lifestyle Medicine

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Today, donned in shamrock-inspired, green-colored paraphernalia, we commemorate St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland. Although known as a cultural and religious feast day, the global embrace of St. Patrick’s Day has opened up space for commercialization and diverse interpretations of how this holiday is celebrated. From notorious parades in Dublin, Ireland, Montreal, Canada, New York City, New York, and Boston, Massachusetts to festivals in Coatbridge, Scotland and Buenos Aires, Argentina, such celebrations- some still embracing religious significance- have diverged from the aforementioned and originally expected to merriments more closely associated with parties, parades and festivals. Despite such commercialization and diversity in celebrating the patron saint of Ireland, there is still an embodiment of Irish culture, one titled the luckiest culture in the world (commercially speaking, anyway).

From t-shirts and banners to hats and pins, it is almost impossible to miss the green or white imprinted saying “luck of the Irish” at parades and festivals on St. Patrick’s Day. Although this saying infiltrates the commercial marketplace on this particular day, we all hope for a little luck throughout the year to aid us in attaining our professional and personal ambitions (or getting that parking spot in a bustling city!). Despite such commercialization of Irish blessings and good fortune, can luck really be our winning ticket to successful achievement and optimal health?

Although we would hope for an abundance of three-leaf clovers and pots of gold throughout the year, we possess way more “luck” and fortune than those leprechauns standing at the end of the rainbow. Even though we are in a St. Patrick’s Day kind-of-mood, the luck in reference here has little to do with the symbolic three-leaf clover or pot of gold. Likewise, this luck contrasts greatly with an isolated day of good fortune or a rare lottery win. Rather, the luck I allude to provides us with enough richness and abundance to add quality years to our life and life to our years. Such prosperity and fruitfulness does not present a challenge in seeking nor does it hide in the darkness to be found. This luck has been, and will always be, present and up for the taking, void of a passcode or specific cultural identity. This luck is lifestyle medicine and, if used frequently enough, provides us with the only gold needed to make a lasting, positive impact on our lives, the lives of others and our environment.

The truth is, the quality of our health and associated chronic disease risk is not a luck of the draw. In other words, individuals who have a genetic susceptibility towards disease are no less fortunate than their genetically inclined counterparts (at least from a chronic disease perspective!). Fortunately, for each and every one us, we do not have to seek out a three-leaf clover to reap the well-researched and documented benefits of lifestyle medicine practices. We can all take advantage of this golden deck of cards we have been given at birth to reverse such genetic susceptibility to disease and maintain a life full of optimal health, happiness, and longevity.

The health-promoting and longevity-optimizing truth about lifestyle medicine is undeniable. Thank you to the tireless efforts of Dr. Dean Ornish and his team at the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, we are equipped with the potent scientific research supporting the beneficial impact lifestyle medicine has on our health, well-being and longevity. From reversing some of the most prevalent chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, type II diabetes, and early-stage prostate cancer to lengthening our telomeres and changing the expression of our genes, effective and life-saving medicine needs no prescription refill, surgical intervention, or pot of gold. As such, healthier and more frequent application of our feet, forks, fingers, and minds can positively change the course of our health future and expression of our genes. IT IS JUST THIS-APPLICATION. We must frequently apply our feet, forks, fingers and minds towards health-promoting behaviors, those that add quality years to life and life to years. This frequent application of lifestyle medicine solutions releases the potential power of knowledge we hold to be true about lifestyle medicine.

LIFESTYLE MEDICINE HEALS.

So how can we use this luck-this golden deck of cards- to our advantage? By using what we already know about positive lifestyle modifications, we, through self-care and preventative practices, open up a gateway to augmenting our health, happiness and longevity. Fortunately for us, there are pockets across the globe that provide us the blueprint to not only maximize, but healthfully optimize, the life in our years. These pockets across the globe embrace and exemplify the foundational keystone habits and behaviors for enhancing health and well-being, increasing happiness, and cultivating a life well lived. These pockets of the globe-known as Blue Zones-take us to Nicoya, Costa Rica, Okinawa, Japan, Loma Linda, California, Sardinia, Italy, and Icaria, Greece. These regions, connected not only by extraordinary health but also the highest population of centenarians, provide us this blueprint for extending our longevity which include such commonalities as natural movement, purposeful living, wholesome nourishment, and social networks.

This blueprint, known as the Power 9 in Dan Buettner’s book Blue Zones, is as follows:

  • Move naturally: utilizing the environment around you for natural, purposeful movement (no gym included)
  • Purpose: understanding what you are meant to do on this earth
  • Down shift: implementing routines that minimize stress and optimize health
  • 80% rule: mindful of the quantity of food being consumed while halting consumption when feeling 80% full
  • Plant Slant: mindful of the quality of food being consumed while filling your plate with primarily plant-based options such as legumes and whole grains
  • Wine at 5: centenarians in these pockets of the globe consume moderate amounts of wine per day to improve longevity and heart health
  • Belong: participation and involvement in a faith-based group and services 4x/month showed increases in longevity
  • Loved Ones First: maintaining a strong focus on family first, with an emphasis on caring for elders and supporting children
  • Right Tribe: surrounding oneself with a strong social network that support and live out healthy behaviors

Lifestyle medicine is built on the constructs of optimizing the life in our years and years in our life with solutions that please the palate, provide purpose for our movement, create open space for our thoughts and conversations, and enjoyment in our days. Lifestyle medicine can be applied by everyone, not just the luckiest of the bunch. As such, we need not waste time in seeking what has already been found: a cost-effective, low technological solution for better, healthier and optimal quality living. As Hippocrates once said, “Let food be your medicine and medicine your food.” May your golden deck of cards continue to supply you with a lifetime of royal flushes. Here’s to the best in your health and well-being journey. Cheers!

Best in health and happiness,

Colleen M. Faltus, MS, CWWS, CPT

 

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

  1. Buettner, D. (2008 ). Lessons From The World’s Longest Lived People. Retrieved from Blue Zones: https://www.bluezones.com/live-longer/
  2. Koertge JWeidner GElliott-Eller MScherwitz LMerritt-Worden TAMarlin RLipsenthal LGuarneri MFinkel RSaunders Jr DEMcCormac PScheer JMCollins REOrnish D. Improvement in medical risk factors and quality of life in women and men with coronary artery disease in the Multicenter Lifestyle Demonstration Project. American Journal of Cardiology. 2003; 91 (11): 1316-1322.3)
  3. Ornish D, Scherwitz LW, Billings JH, Gould KL, Merritt TA, Sparler S, Armstrong WT, Ports TA, Kirkeeide RL, Hogeboom C, Brand RJ. Intensive Lifestyle Changes for Reversal of Coronary Heart Disease.1998;280(23):2001-2007.
  4. Pischke CR1Weidner GElliott-Eller MScherwitz LMerritt-Worden TAMarlin RLipsenthal LFinkel RSaunders DMcCormac PScheer JMCollins REGuarneri EMOrnish D. Comparison of coronary risk factors and quality of life in coronary artery disease patients with versus without diabetes mellitus. American Journal of Cardiology. 2006; 97(9):1267-1273.
  5. Silberman A1Banthia REstay ISKemp CStudley JHareras DOrnish D. The effectiveness and efficacy of an intensive cardiac rehabilitation program in 24 sites. American Journal of Health Promotion. 2010; 24(4):260-266.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Colleen M. Faltus

I earned my BS degree in Applied Exercise Science from Springfield College (2008) and MS degree in Nutrition and Health Promotion at Simmons College (2015). I currently hold certifications through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and National Wellness Institute (NWI) as a certified personal trainer and worksite wellness specialist. Additionally, I am a member of the Worksite Wellness Council of MA as well as an active committee member for their annual conference.

Colleen has experience writing and speaking about lifestyle medicine at both the individual and population health level. My expertise also lies in the design and implementation of people-centric health and well-being programs, with previous experience in both the commercial sector at Sports Club LA and Equinox as well as corporate sector at Google and State Street Corporation. My knowledge and expertise in the development and implementation of individual and population-based health and well-being programs embodies the significance of lifestyle medicine solutions for sustainable, positive health outcomes.

Specialties: organizational health and well-being program planning and implementation, lifestyle medicine practices and solutions, disease and stress-management, individual and population-based exercise prescriptions