A Future of Healthy Living as You Age
What does it mean to be healthy? To be considered healthy a person should manage his or her stress levels, take preventative measures to remain in good health, abstain from unhealthy habits like drinking in excess, smoking, and illicit drug use, maintain a healthy weight through nutritious foods and regular exercise, and appropriately manage any medical conditions (Hales, 2013, p. 7). A healthy person understands the importance of maintaining and balancing their physical, emotional, and social health. I believe being in a healthy condition is important because it influences the chance of my being healthy later in life. I am currently at risk for high cholesterol and I suffer from Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. Ehlers Danlos Syndrome is a group of inherited disorders that affects a person’s skin, joints, and blood vessels. These two conditions could greatly impact my quality of life as I age; therefore, it is important that I balance my physical, emotional, and social health now so as to allow me to have a higher quality of life as I age.
The dietary choices people now make affect their health and quality of life in the future. The food that people eat is composed of many different nutrients; these nutrients give human bodies instructions on how to function (Denton, n.d.). Food can be perceived as a source of information for the human body because it influences the way that the body functions (Denton, n.d.). The types of food a person eats influences the body’s strength, agility, coordination, endurance, and level of performance (Tomm, n.d.). Certain foods can be added or removed from a person’s diet to help improve their health condition. For instance, in order to lower my risk of high cholesterol, I could remove products with a large amount of saturated and trans fats from my diet while adding foods that are high in fiber to reduce my low-density lipoprotein (LDL), known as the bad cholesterol. I could also eat a daily serving of nuts as nuts have been shown to reduce blood cholesterol. Unlike high cholesterol there is no way to cure or reduce Ehlers Danlos Syndrome through dietary choices; however, there are diet changes that I could make to help treat the symptoms that stem from Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. For instance, maintaining a healthy diet of whole foods and avoiding sugar can alleviate a good portion of the pain associated with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (Earth Clinic , 2015).
Exercise can reduce a person’s risk of major illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and cancer by up to 50% and lower a person’s risk of early death by up to 30% (Benefits of exercise, n.d.). Regular exercise can improve a person’s physical, emotional, and social health by improving the person’s physical condition, acting as a mood lifter, and through increasing the person’s potential to interact with other people. I currently exercise in two 20 minute intervals every day; during these intervals I walk my dog around my neighborhood at a brisk pace which raises my heart rate. I am already fighting off high cholesterol by having at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise every day. However, I could improve my exercise routine by finding several physical activities that I enjoy so as to vary my routine and exercise more than one set of muscles (Davis, n.d.). One of the main benefits of exercise in warding off high cholesterol is that it would keep me from becoming overweight; obese people have higher cholesterol than people who maintain a healthy weight (Davis, n.d.). While my current level of exercise is acceptable for managing my cholesterol it could be vastly improved to assist in my management of my Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. In order to effectively manage the symptoms that stem from the Ehlers Danlos Syndrome I need to add yoga and other stretching activities to my daily exercise routine; stretching exercises like yoga tighten and realign the body’s structure which in turn helps to relieve some of the pain from Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (Earth Clinic , 2015).
Emotional health is a positive sense of wellbeing which enables an individual to be able to function in society and meet the demands of everyday life; a person with good emotional health has the ability to recover effectively from illness, change, or misfortune faster than those with poor emotional health (BeLonG To, n.d.). A person’s emotional health can impact their physical health by lowering their resistance to sickness. A person can improve their emotional health through practicing healthy stress management and ensuring they get a healthy amount of sleep. Emotional health does not mean that a person lives a stress free life, but rather that the person gets an adequate amount of sleep and is able to effectively manage his or her stress.
The amount of sleep a person needs depends mainly on their age and their health; adults need 7 to 9 hours, teenagers need 8.5 to 9.5 hours, and infants need 14 to 15 hours (Sleep Deprivation Effects and How Much Sleep We Need: Babies, Teens, and Adults, 2014). Sleep can be interrupted by physical disturbances like pain, medical issues like asthma, psychiatric conditions like anxiety disorders, and environmental issues like drugs or alcohol (Sleep Deprivation Effects and How Much Sleep We Need: Babies, Teens, and Adults, 2014). A lack of sleep can have many effects on physical and mental health over time such as: memory problems, depression, a weakening of the immune system, an increase in the likelihood of sickness, and an increase in pain perception (Sleep Deprivation Effects and How Much Sleep We Need: Babies, Teens, and Adults, 2014). When a person is not getting enough sleep, their emotional health suffers; a person who is not getting enough sleep could begin to experience irritability, moodiness, disinhibition, apathy, slowed speech, flattened emotional responses, impaired memory, and an inability to multitask (Dinges, 1991). I could reduce my risk of high cholesterol by ensuring that I get at least six hours of consistent uninterrupted sleep each night to prevent myself from accumulating high lipid levels (Moll, 2013). The amount of sleep I get greatly influences the level of pain that I experience from the Ehlers Danlos Syndrome; the better I sleep the more energy I have and the less pain I feel. In order to reduce my chances of getting high cholesterol and improve my pain levels from Ehlers Danlos Syndrome as I age I plan to get a better quality of sleep following a sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine, exercising regularly, avoiding heavy eating and drinking prior to bed, taking short power naps to make up for lost sleep, and engaging in relaxation techniques before going to sleep (Hales, 2013, p. 42).
Stress is a condition a person experiences when he or she perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources that he or she possesses (The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, 2015). Stress causes the human body to begin producing stress hormones which speeds up the heart rate, raises blood pressure, increases the alertness of the brain, slows down the digestive system, and depresses the immune system (Hales, 2013, p. 87). This in turn makes the body more susceptible to ulcers, cold sores, anxiety, headaches, depression, and respiratory infections (Hales, 2013, p. 87). Studies have shown that stress increases cholesterol in both the short term and in the long term (Every Day Health, n.d.). The way that a person manages their stress also influences their cholesterol levels; people who manage stress in unhealthy ways like hostility, social isolation, or self-blame tend to have lower levels of HDL (good) cholesterol (Every Day Health, n.d.). High levels of stress often act as triggers for Ehlers Danlos Syndrome flare ups especially when the stress is not managed in a healthy manner. When I completed the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, also known as the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS), I scored 118, and my score indicates that I have a moderate stress level with a low to moderate chance of becoming ill in the future (The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, 2015). In order to lower my cholesterol and cut down on my Ehlers Danlos Syndrome flare ups, I need to work on practicing healthy stress management techniques; some techniques that I plan to use to deal with my stress are progressive relaxation, mindfulness meditation, practicing self-compassion, and visualization.
Social health is a term generally used to refer to the health of a person in reference to his or her ability to interact with others and thrive in social settings (What is Social Health?, n.d.). Social health focuses on a person’s ability to interact with other people, as well as the consequences or benefits of the interactions in relation to the well-being of that person (What is Social Health?, n.d.). A person’s ability to relate to other people in order to socialize and form relationships can affect their physical and emotional health (What is Social Health?, n.d.). People with good social health tend to also have good emotional health which in turn can promote a person’s physical health. I have a introverted personality which makes social health my least healthy area. In order to improve my social health I would need to work on interacting more with my peers on a social level instead of just a work level. Improving my social health could also help me to form a support network for my Ehlers Danlos Syndrome.
My ability to balance my physical, emotional, and social health will influence the degree to which I suffer from Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and high cholesterol. Balancing my physical, emotional, and social health will allow me to have a higher quality of life as I age. If I make good dietary choices, alter my exercise routine, form a sleep schedule, practice healthy stress management techniques, and improve my social health now then I will have a better level of health as I age. I plan to take these steps so that when I get older my quality of life is not impaired by the decisions I made earlier in my life. It is my belief that these actions will help to reduce the pain I experience from Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and reduce my cholesterol so that I will never need to suffer from a high cholesterol level.
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