Healthy living has always been an important and often challenging fact of life. But it’s also a daunting, complex and complicated (sometimes confusing, conflicting and controversial) taken-for-granted goal.
Particularly in an unprecedented and difficult year, when the average person was pre-occupied with jarring health worries and health-crisis management, conventional health and healthy living factors were inadvertently upstaged and minimized. Issues ranging from heart disease, cancer and diabetes to obesity, inactivity, addictions, mental health, food-consciousness, fitness and even optimizing healthy workplace environments were relegated to the back burner.
While health experts and health care providers agree that the COVID crisis is likely to be followed by a period of adjustment to various new normals, the focus on healthy living will continue and probably be supercharged.
“As a practicing physician in emergency medicine, I found myself dealing with illness, not health,” says the personable and dynamic Dr. Rohan Bissoondath, one of the founders and medical director of Preventous Collaborative Health, the unique Calgary health centre that takes a fresh and enjoyable approach to healthy living. “This was very frustrating because I knew that many of the conditions I treated could have been prevented. With years of treating patients after they had fallen ill, I now focus on a proactive approach to health.”
He enthusiastically shares the professional opinion that that the general population, under the direction of politicians and health leaders, has been preoccupied with the masking and distancing of asymptomatic individuals. Dr. Bissoondath notes that “The most glaring omission from daily reports and conversations has been to stress the importance of an individual’s state of health. For me, the true job of a doctor is to work with patients continuously to foster the best health possible. Because being healthy isn’t a short-term proposition. It is a work in progress.”
He cautions that, particularly the past year of constant health bulletins, warnings and worries, people may be saturated and de-sensitized about the basics of long-term healthy living. “It’s very possible that some people are confused or burned out by ever-changing and inconsistent messaging, warnings and restrictive orders from our medical professionals and political leaders.”
In addition to the random clinical specifics of prevalent health issues like cancers, cardiovascular and kidney disease, glaucoma, and macular degeneration, the medical community and the public also deal with chronic conditions and long-term health matters such as arthritis, asthma, diabetes and the surging tragedies of addiction and mental illness.
With health attention focused on high profile curses like COVID, heart disease, cancer and others, other aspects of healthy living – like eye care – get overlooked. For example, according to the Alberta Association of Optometrists, dry eye is a chronic, but treatable disease. Although there is no cure, Doctors of Optometry offer treatment to manage the conditions and improve comfort. If left untreated, dry eye can be health risk, damaging and even scarring the eye.
The proactive, positive approach to healthy living emphasizes: regulating blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, a well-balanced diet, physical activity, maintaining blood glucose levels and a healthy body weight.
When it comes to healthy living, the jury’s in and the verdict includes the collaboration of conventional doctors and specialists, optometrists, naturopathic doctors, chiropractors, exercise kinesiologists, dietitians, pharmacists, psychologists, massage therapists as well as long-term attention to vital healthy living basics such as: maintaining appropriate blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood glucose are proven factors related directly to genetics, diet and physical activity.
The experts agree. Aiming for good health – without medications or surgical interventions – is the ultimate goal of healthy living.
A subtle but significant aspect of contemporary healthy living are innocuous habits and behaviors at work. Even though one of the most pandemic-disrupted of all routines has been the way people work.
Particularly this past year, a lot of people were unexpectedly locked into working by remote, in a spontaneous home office (dining room table, basement, den, etc.) and necessity has likely created problems. “Most common mistakes people make when they had to work remotely, from home,” says Louis Stack, president and founder of Calgary-based Fitter International, supplying premium professional and personal products that help people recover from and prevent injury, maintain balance and fitness.
“They settle for what is in front of them. The couch, the table, the recliner or whatever was comfortable. Suddenly those few special spots had to serve them 15 hour a day for both work and home life. It’s where the problem comes in. There is no separation.” He admits that it sounds vague and airy-fairy but, he cautions that people need a place that is different to break-away to.
“For many of us,” Stack says, “our home is now also our office, our school, our gym and maybe even our rehab clinic for one or more of our family generations. There has never been a more important time to understand how to maintain the health benefits of working at home.” As a respected and in-demand consultant, Stack points out that he has learned a few things while helping employees and employers realize the benefits of staying healthy by activating office environments.
“The first rule: Decide to change your workspace from a health liability into a healthy asset!
- Be Proactive! Make an effort toward real long-term health gains rather than making changes to just reduce injury and illness. Prehab instead of Rehab!
- Elbow to Eyeballs. This is the distance from your elbows to your eyes when you are standing or sitting with good heads up, relaxed posture. It’s the space you need between your keyboard and your monitor. Anything less, is a health liability!
- Every 30 minutes stand for one minute with excellent posture, to recalibrate your body with gravity. When you feel you need to shift or move, stand up!”
He emphasizes that physical habits are also vital components of healthy living. “Just like you have good habits of daily oral hygiene and wearing a seatbelt in a car, make frequent movement around excellent posture a daily habit too! Balance is the essence of movement, and movement is the essence of life!”
One contemporary health factor is inevitable and can’t be easily altered: age.
From Millennials to Gen Xrs and boomers, aging – at any age – is often stereotyped and misunderstood. Dr. Bissoondath emphasizes that a vital key to achieving healthy living being “metabolically optimized.” Simply put, as we age our metabolism declines, both in effectiveness and efficiency. The bad news for now, is that the decline is inevitable. The good news is that the rate of the decline is very much within our control. Sometimes our rate of metabolic and functional decline is referred to as our biologic age as opposed to our chronologic age.
“An everyday example of this occurs meeting someone who looks 35 and then it’s discovered they are 45. The opposite happens as well. The 45-year-old who looks 55. Many people shrug that it’s a result of genes – either good or bad! Nothing could be further from the truth. That we age (chronologically) is a matter for the physicists. How we age (biologically) is up to us.”
Ultimately, healthy living is a basic of long-term planning. “Noah knew a flood was coming, so he built an ark,” Dr. Bissoondath says with a broad smile. “There will be more pandemics in our future. What’s the best way to plan for it? Better masks? Isolation? If we follow the trends of the past year, that might seem like the only reasonable course of action. But your pandemic ark must be optimal metabolic health. This means not simply the absence of illness, but the optimal functioning of your various organ systems.”