Taking Stock of Our Personal and Community Health

cover of UnDo ItOne of the strategic objectives at the library in its current five year plan has been the promotion of a safe, clean and healthy community, and with the arrival of a new year and a new decade, it’s a great time to take stock of our health both personally and as a community.

Sometimes taking stock of things means looking backwards, into both past mistakes and past triumphs, but when it comes to your health, the role of genetics seems to take many decisions out of your hands. In the new book, You are what your Grandparents ate:  What you need to know about Nutrition, Experience, Epigenetics & the Origins of Chronic Disease by Judith Finlayson, the author explores the new science of epigenetics, and how to use information about your genetic background in order to improve upon your healthy traits and to take steps to mitigate the risks of less healthy genetic markers.  Using both nature and nurture arguments, Finlayson demonstrates that positive lifestyle choices can result in better personal health, and lead to healthier offspring and generations to come.

For many of us, chronic disease has become part of our lives to a greater or lesser degree, frequently complicated by aging and/or poor lifestyle choices.  Renowned nutritionist Dr. Dean Ornish and his wife Anne use the latest in medical research to advocate the use of four key elements to manage and reverse everything from heart disease to slowing the aging process. In the new book, Undo it! : How Simple Lifestyle changes can reverse most chronic diseases, the four key elements that Ornish focuses on are: what you eat, how you manage stress, how much you move, and how much love and support you have. Ornish believes that achieving a balance of these four elements will prevent health problems from arising or reverse (or undo) the damage done thus far. While long term studies are needed to confirm his findings, The Ornish Diet tied with the Mediterranean diet as number 1 for heart health in the 2019 rankings by U.S. News and World Report. Ornish sums up his approach as ”eat well, move more, stress less and love more.”

As most of us live in various types of communities, be it families, neighbourhoods, workplaces, towns or cities, part of our health as social creatures stems from the health of the environment around us. Stress, especially workplace stress, is considered one of the major causes of disease in Western society. In their book, The Healing Self: A Revolutionary New Plan to supercharge your Immunity and stay well for life, authors Deepak Chopra and Rudolph E. Tanzi examine the causes and effects of stress and explore ways to relieve the pressure. One of the most interesting parts of their works show how if even a single member of a group learns how to deal with their stress in a healthy manner, there is a measurable reduction of stress on the other members. Studies have found supporting efforts to remove and reduce stressors leads to better personal and group health.

cover of Fit CitiesAuthor Karen K. Lee, in her new book Fit Cities: my quest to improve the world’s health and wellness- including yours, examines the relationship between healthy cities and healthy citizens. Lee, a Canadian, is considered a superstar in the world of public health, and was tapped in the early 2000’s to lead a group of ‘ health detectives’ for the US CDC on developing programs to deal with the rising mortality rates in the US.  Focusing on the environment of over-eating and under-exercising, Lee’s work lead to the mandatory display of calorie counts on menus and overhauling of the nutritional information on food labels. She has been actively working with civic leaders, city planners and architects as well as community organizations in developing buildings, neighbourhoods, and cities that address such health issues as heart disease and diabetes. While many of her ideas are at the macro level, Lee also has suggestions about creating a healthier personal environment, including several simple lifestyle fixes.

Wishing you a healthier and happier you, wherever the year may take you.

Lori Kauzlarick- www.tbpl.ca. If you have a comment about today’s column, we would love to hear from you. Please comment below!

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