Photo: Family walking along the beach

by Alison Riggs

There is a quote attributed to Hippocrates that states “The greatest medicine of all is teaching people how not to need it”. Through healthy eating, regular exercise, plenty of sleep, and everyday happiness, many serious illnesses can be prevented.

We all know people (maybe ourselves!) who are struggling with managing their obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or another debilitating problem. Once faced with these health challenges, people realize how hard, expensive, time consuming, mentally challenging, and at times, very discouraging it is. Their quality of life, and that of their close family members and friends, is seriously impacted.

Prevention of these life-threatening conditions, in comparison, is easier, cheaper, and will actually lead to improved quality of life, although getting started can a big challenge. Changing eating and other lifestyle habits takes determination. But shouldn’t we all be determined to prevent serious, life-threatening illnesses in ourselves and our loved ones?

Plant-based diets with an emphasis on whole foods and fresh vegetables and fruits with few processed foods are best for overall health and disease-prevention. Research has shown that vegetarians are 50 percent less likely to develop heart disease, and they have a significantly lower cancer rate than that of meat-eaters. Additionally, meat-eaters are nine times more likely to be obese than are vegans.

A new study has shown the impressive benefits of moderate daily exercise. The study to, published in the  journal Hypertension, was done by researchers at the University of Western Australia in Perth. The study participants followed various regimens like sitting uninterrupted for eight hours, sitting for one hour before walking on a treadmill for 30 minutes, and an hour of sitting, 30 minutes on the treadmill, then 6½ hours of sitting that was interrupted every 30 minutes with three minutes of light walking. The study results showed that the participants that exercised had lower blood pressure, specifically systolic blood pressure which measures pressure in blood vessels and is a strong predictor of heart problems such as heart attacks. In fact, the reduction of systolic blood pressure following exercise and breaks in sitting approached what might be expected from taking anti-hypertensive medication. Becoming an ultra-marathon runner, professional big wave surfer, or power weight lifter is not necessary—just take breaks in your day to walk, jog, stretch or play a sport of your choice to prevent heart disease and obesity.

Enough sleep on a regular basis is crucial for good health, too. We know that not getting enough sleep makes you feel run down but did you know an inadequate amount of sleep has been associated with higher risks of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer? Routinely not getting enough sleep depletes your body's stores of natural killer cells, the white blood cells that can fight tumors. The amount of sleep that's sufficient for optimal health varies from person to person, but we know that even a single 4- or 5-hour night of sleep could lower your body's natural killer cell count by around 70%. Sleep deprivation is now being implicated in cases of colon cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer.

Finally, another key element to fighting disease is happiness. Having a joyful hobby, a loving relationship, and overall positive outlook on life not only makes your days brighter, but it can also protect against heart disease, reduce harmful stress levels, boost your immune system and even extend your life expectancy

Another interesting fact is that people who are happier are more likely to eat healthier foods, get more exercise, and sleep better! So, adopt a rescue dog or cat, make a new friend, take up a hobby, or find something else to look forward to that brings a smile to your face every day. The Down to Earth team wishes you happiness and wellness—stop by one of our stores if we can help you in your quest to prevent illness.