Monday, April 4, 2011

Can we flee from disease?

We would like to think that we can.

But it is almost next to impossible as we age. And that is the sad truth.

I see a lot of people of all ages who are sick, very sick. Many ate right, exercised, had parents that lived long lives. They went for annual screenings and were not overweight, never smoked. But they still got a nasty cancer. It happens. It does.

But I also see a lot of healthy people as well. Maybe not healthy in the true sense of the word, that being without disease, but functioning well and feeling good. They may have a problem such as diabetes, high blood pressure, GI issues or chronic pain. But they are able to rise each morning, take their medications and move along their day.

Most do this by symptom management. They take meds. They see their MD regularly. They watch very closely what they eat. They rest when they are tired. They self-monitor. Interestingly, they did not do all of this before they got sick. Sickness gives us a whole new perspective. And sometimes saves our lives.

We all want to be healthy. But biology is against us. And we have to stay very vigilant if we want to be as healthy as we can be.

It seems like every week or so, sometimes even daily, we are hit with a news article about a new superfood or supplement that prevents cancer. Or helps us to age slower. Or one that will keep us "healthy." Everyone is looking for the magic bullet

There are so many ways to get sick. Volumes upon volumes of books written about disease. It is amazing we live at all. But there is a common denominator when we think about disease. And that is stress. Our bodies just don't like it. Everything works overtime; our hearts, our vessels, our hormones. It is like sitting in a car going no where, just constantly revving the motor.

Bad for cars.

And bad for us.

So, if we want a real shot at fleeing from bad disease, or keeping our current disease in check, or allowing treatments to work properly, we have to reduce our stress.

Stress, interestingly, causes many of us to do the unhealthy to bring down our stress levels, thus stressing our stressed bodies even further.

We may smoke, take drugs, drink more, drive unsafely, ruin important relationships. We stop taking good care of ourselves, either exercising too much or too little, eating things that we may enjoy but certainly don't need in excess, or we may get too little sleep staying up late watching mind-numbing TV.

So, why isn't there more talk about stress as a health risk?

Here is why. Because you don't need to purchase anything to reduce your stress. And it seems that if there is no money to be made, then why talk about it at all.

So, I would say that the best way to live a long, healthy life is to look at your own stress level. What is it right now. What are you stressed about? And what can you do to bring it down a notch or two.

The number one thing that everyone can do, and it is free, is to breath. Take deep breaths. Breath in to the count of 4, hold for the count of 4, breath out for the count of 4. Do it repeatedly. Let your shoulder's slump. Think of something pleasant.

It won't make the thing that is stressing you go away. But it can help to allow your body to deal with it in a better way. And that, in effect, keeps us healthier.

So, as ridiculous as it may seem, to stay as healthy as possible, breath. Pay attention to tense areas in your body and stretch. Go for a short walk. Drink some water. Smell something pretty. Listen to music. Look at nature more, even pictures help.

And let go of things that you don't need that are toxic to your lives.

We are all going to age. Our bodies will wear out a bit. Stress makes it wear out faster. Just remember that. And no potion out there is going to stop biology. It simply can't.

You really can't flee from disease. So, instead of trying to arm yourself against disease with the latest new whatever, disarm it instead by reducing your stress. It is free and we all can do it every single day.

So, what are you waiting for?

Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths. ~Etty Hillesum

If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there'd be a shortage of fishing poles. ~Doug Larson

Releasing the pressure, it's good for the teapot and the water. Try it sometime. ~Jeb Dickerson

If your teeth are clenched and your fists are clenched, your lifespan is probably clenched. ~Terri Guillemets


  1. As always, I love your simple, elegant wisdom. Especially since my husband's illness and untimely death, I try to reduce stress, meditate, practice yoga, watch what I eat, enjoy some silence every day, and avoid relationships that don't make me feel good.

  2. I'm don't fish but I like what Doug Larson has to say.

    I also like what you had to say. It's true. As I sit here I realized stress is in my body. I took that deep breath and exhaled. It was a stressful, upsetting day that will hopefully wash away as the evening comes.

    People wonder why they feel so crappy yet they don't take care of themselves. They drink, do drugs, live tumultuous lives ... it's enough to make you want to shake them!